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Chapter 5 The Second Chapter 4: Full Circle

 

The People versus Salvatore Vincent Maroni. 

In some ways, Harvey Dent had been waiting for those words all his life.  In all the cases he’d prosecuted, never had so much been at stake.  The grand jury testimony that preceded the public trial was secret, but one thing was clear: Maroni would not go down alone.  He’d spent his life battling Carmine Falcone.  He would not leave The Roman to take over the city unopposed.  If he went down, he would take his old rival with him.  With the two major crime families decapitated, Gotham would be free of an evil that was slowly choking the life out of it.

The People’s case had taken two full weeks to present.  Everything depended on it.  Everything depended on the prosecution being so powerful and decisive that Sal Maroni would have no choice but to take the stand in his own defense.  If there was any alternative—if his ‘Dream Team’ cast doubt on the prosecution’s experts, if there were grounds for an appeal should the verdict go against him, or if the jury seemed confused by the complicated interrelationships of the Falcone, Maroni, Viti, and Gazzo families and the rat’s nest of buffers, code phrases, and laundering operations meant to separate the top men from the criminal acts they ordered—then Sal Maroni would never risk taking the stand and exposing himself to cross examination.

But Harvey Dent’s masterful presentation of the People’s case left him no such hope: Dent had foreseen every trap the defense might lay and prepped his experts to respond to each.  He had weighed each objection and every response to every pretrial motion, sidestepping every attempt by the defense to manufacture grounds for appeal.  And he played on his good looks and personal charisma to charge the driest and most convoluted evidence with a captivating air of intrigue. 

The technical procedures by which the garbled voices on an FBI wiretap were processed into audible instructions to murder “Capper Kevin” Kelly were a seduction, nothing less.  A crusading D.A. out of a movie thriller taking the jury by the hand and walking them step by step through a forbidden maze of underworld secrets, and the ingenious high-tech means by which modern law enforcement battled them.  The jurors were never bored or confused; they were riveted.  The intricacies of forensic accounting became a glamorous peek into the high-powered world of international finance.  Even the mob’s method of taping a gun barrel became a spell of enchantment.  When the prosecution rested, Sal Maroni knew he had no hope of acquittal without taking the stand. 

 

“I know all this,” Catwoman said softly.  “Not that you don’t tell it well.  But I was in Gotham at the time, if you remember.  And it’s not like it wasn’t all over the news.”

They were on the roof the Hudson University Medical Annex across from Gotham General Hospital.  Before them was a bank of windows on the west face of the building, behind one of which, Vernon Fields lay in a coma. 

“It helps to go over it all, out loud,” Batman replied, looking across the street and then down at a hand-held computer console the size of a Palm Pilot.  “It’s that one.  Eighth floor.  Twelfth from the left.”

He pointed to the row of windows, and then showed her a floor plan on the tiny palm screen.

“I told you I can’t get anything from that,” she said, waving it away.  “It’s too small.  I like seeing floor plans big.” 

“There’s a larger screen in the Batmobile if you want,” Batman offered, but she shook her head.

“No, I’d rather just go over and walk it myself.  Do you mind?”

He started to object, then realized it was a reflex and there was absolutely no reason to do so.  He grunted, and she left.

Alone again, Batman’s thoughts returned to the past, the details he hadn’t mentioned to Catwoman.  Details of his own culpability, details that haunted him every time he’d faced the monster Harvey Dent had become after the acid:

It was his strategy.  Not Harvey’s and not Gordon’s.  He was the one who analyzed the history between Sal and Carmine, a history of personal antagonism that went beyond ordinary mob rivalry.  They hated each other.  And he was the one who saw how that personal hatred could be used, how targeting one could bring down both if they played it just right.

He was the one who picked Maroni because Carmine Falcone was Roman.  Calling his family “The Roman Empire” was pure affectation, but that one detail was literally true.  He was not Sicilian or Napolitano.  He was an outsider and a maverick within the Italian mobs, and that small consideration might just tip the balance.  The Mafia’s code of silence was legendary, and even Maroni’s personal hatred for Falcone might not be enough to make him turn, but for that one detail.  “The Roman” wasn’t really one of them.  A technicality, certainly, but maybe enough for Sal Maroni to justify the betrayal in his own mind. 

It was Batman’s strategy.  And Harvey Dent had paid the price.  Of course they all knew the risk.  Cornering a dangerous animal makes it infinitely more dangerous.  You can try to predict where it will strike in response, but you can always be wrong.

 

Maroni’s direct testimony was exactly as expected.  His lawyer—his real lawyer, Joseph Candoloro, not one of the Dream Team hired guns—walked him point by point over the prosecution’s case, and he didn’t dispute much of it.  He merely claimed that it all pointed elsewhere.  Two of his former “associates,” Bianciotti and Scuro (rest their souls), were up to a lot of unsavory business on their own before their untimely passing.  If wrongdoing went on, it was those two.  Rotten to the core they were.  That’s where ambition like that leads…

On its own, the story was plausible if you wanted it to be.  Left unchallenged, it was a peg on which a juror could hang a “reasonable doubt” acquittal.  But Maroni’s fable would not go unchallenged.  The court adjourned for the day, and when it reconvened, Harvey Dent would begin the cross examination that would make Gotham history.  All he had to do was poke one hole, uncover one lie, present one inescapable inconsistency in Maroni’s story.  A perjury charge would be nice, but Harvey didn’t need that much.  All he needed was for Maroni to see that this trial was lost, then he would admit to everything he had to in order to bring down Carmine Falcone. 

Two mob empires ended at once.  It all came down to what happened when the People versus Salvatore Vincent Maroni reconvened.

 

When Catwoman returned, the sky was beginning to lighten. 

Batman didn’t want to leave, but with the mounting evidence that it was Harvey behind the “new” Two-Face, his investigation had to take a new tack: in daylight, as Bruce Wayne.

“I need you to stay here,” he told Catwoman.  “Go back into the hospital, keep an eye on Fields.  If it’s Harvey, then Two-Face will have two things on his mind.”

“It’s not Harvey,” she insisted, knowing there was nothing but wishful thinking behind her words.

“I hope not,” Batman said, recalling a painful discussion about hope when Harvey’s healing was first discovered.  “But if it is, then we have to be ready.  Once, when I’d rigged his coin, he committed a string of atrocities after he found out.  A dozen robberies in a row, sans coin toss, to make up for the times the fix was in.  Restoring the fifty-fifty ratio, in his mind.”

“So if it’s Harvey, then Two-Face has been out of operation for awhile now and he’ll want to make up for lost time?”

“Correct.  He’ll have to restore that balance as he sees it.  Like I said, if it’s Harvey, then Two-Face will have two things on his mind: a second attempt to kill me, and a second attempt to kill Vernon Fields.”

 

There was seldom a shortage of cameras outside the Gotham City Courthouse, and since his first days as the ambitious new ADA under Roger Garcetti, Harvey knew how to play to those cameras.

His arrival the morning of Sal Maroni’s cross examination was pure theatre.  You could almost hear the rousing swell of a movie soundtrack as he jogged up the courthouse stairs two at a time, and then, halfway up the stairs, when he stopped and turned back… the statue of Lady Justice was just coming into frame behind him.  If anyone had snapped a picture, they would have seen her scales seeming to balance right behind his head… that’s the spot where Harvey Dent turned and offered a wink and a wave to his favorite reporters.  No time for an interview now, he said with a boyish grin, there was work to be done—but he’d give them all the time they wanted after, just as soon as the court recessed for lunch…

It was a darker and quieter scene as Maroni was brought in through the basement.  The handoff from the armed escort from Blackgate to the armed escort at the courthouse was conducted in the grim silence usually reserved for death row inmates on the final walk.  The men were handpicked by Jim Gordon, and they were acutely aware of the honor.  Hence their silence.  They might have been mute.  And if Maroni had spoken a word, they would have been deaf as well. 

The GCPD wasn’t as universally corrupt as some pretended, but there were enough bad apples that honest cops like these were taking no chances.  Not when they were this close.  Jim Gordon searched Maroni personally. 

When he was found clean, Sal Maroni was handcuffed again—an unusual practice.  The jury is never allowed to see a defendant in handcuffs, “as it suggests they are criminals…” one of those ironies of the criminal justice system that makes most cops, even the bad ones, physically ill.  Given Maroni’s resources, however—“resources” being a universally understood euphemism for a phalanx of corrupt police and city officials on his payroll—a deal was struck between the defense attorneys and the officers of the court.  Maroni could be handcuffed while being moved through the building, so long as the cuffs were removed in the hall before he was brought into the courtroom itself.

As it happened, just as the cuffs were being unlocked, Vernon Fields stepped out of a little anteroom between courtrooms 7 and 8.  He seemed terribly embarrassed to have run into Sal Maroni, and he hurried off.  Neither of the guards heard much of what was said: the one’s attention was fully occupied watching their perimeter while the other unlocked the cuffs.  Both recalled that the bookish little twirp said something about the men’s room, and one remembered that he had a little plastic bag with him.

Later, the close circuit cameras would confirm the bag and a close-up identified it as being from Gotham Drugs.  Vernon Fields had thrown it away by then, but it was found in the trash outside Courtroom 7.  Fields readily admitted that the bag was his.  He had stopped on the way into work for eye drops, he said.  His eyes got very dry this time of year, he said.  He still had the bottle in his breast pocket.  He still had the receipt in his wallet.

He swore he was only using the men’s room.  It was a private one, shared by the judges on either side.  He knew he wasn’t supposed to be in there, but it was always an awkward business using the public one.  Earlier in the trial, he’d run into John Tortericci in the public men’s room.  There he was at the urinal, unzipped and no way to escape, having to listen to the whole story that everybody already knew: about his beautiful daughter Gina, and how he never thought the Sal Maronis of the world had anything to do with honest people like him, not until that night, and that’s why they had to get monsters like that off the street.

Vernon appealed to the officers questioning him, and later to Batman himself: what was he supposed to do?  He had been standing there with his dick in his hand, and this grieving father comes up DEMANDING to know if Harvey would cut a deal with Maroni to roll on Carmine Falcone.  What was he supposed to do?  What would any of them do?  He didn’t want to risk a second run-in with Tortericci, so he used a judge’s toilet.  He was sorry, and that’s all he had to say.

He had a plausible story.  He had a bottle of eye drops in his breast pocket.  He had a receipt in his wallet.

But somehow Sal Maroni had a bottle of “antacid” “for his ulcer” when he entered the witness box.

Somehow, between the pat down in the basement and confessing to the murder of the Gazzo brothers in the witness box, somehow in those twenty minutes in which he had no contact with anyone except Vernon Fields, Sal Maroni came into possession of a bottle of highly concentrated, hyper-corrosive acid. 

 

The rich, golden liquid splashed liberally into a tall wide-mouthed glass, and Bruce tried to disguise his discomfort in a guileless grin.

This was the double-edged sword investigating Harvey as opposed to Two-Face. The old Two-Face hideouts were just that: The Jekyll and Hyde Club, the Twin Pines Furniture factory, the Double-Bagger Cafe… But too many of Harvey Dent’s old haunts were also Bruce Wayne’s old haunts.  Randolph’s, the Hudson Bar, the Gotham Racquet Club, the Yacht Club, the Gentleman’s Pub in Gainly, and the one in Merchant Square. 

When Bruce planned his itinerary for the afternoon, he’d been struck by the echoes.  It was all too familiar, almost depressingly so.  Now that he’d spent the day talking to bartenders and maitre d’s, it had progressed from “almost depressing” to hauntingly ominous.  At the Harvard Club, at the Hudson, at the Knickerbocker, at the Endsbury Grille…  They all remembered him.  Half the time, before he could say his bit about looking for Harvey, they were pouring him a 29-year Dalwhinnie with a Speyside spring water to back it.  He had to act pleased.  But as the sharp, aromatic barbs of the prized single malt prickled his nostrils, the rest of the scene pricked his memory.  The Dentmeister and the Fop…

He learned a little about Harvey’s movements in the preceding weeks, but nothing about those critical last few days.  He left word wherever he could for the staff to get in touch if Harvey showed, or if they saw or heard anything of his whereabouts.  It wasn’t a service they would provide for just anyone; such establishments prided themselves on their discretion.  But Bruce Wayne was a very special customer.  Not only did he tip well, he even arranged subprime loans for the reconstruction that time a Riddler van crashed through the front windows at Spinelli’s, the time Firefly burned down Sushi Ichiban, and even the time Catman’s claws scarred up the priceless paneling at the Oak Bar.

Bruce talked to a few owners too, when they were handy.  Brian Weiss at the Gentleman’s Pub and Ryan Fitz at the Harvard Club… the one surprise came from Anthony Granton, the owner of Le Bistro SoHo.  It seemed that Bruce was the second person to come around asking if he’d seen Harvey.  That Poison Ivy character from the newspapers was looking for him too.  Yeah, Anthony said, she might have tried something with those pheromones she’s supposed to have to enslave men.  The whole place certainly stank like flowers by the time she left.  He just figured she was wearing too much Giorgio. 

Bruce changed the subject.  He knew Ivy’s pheromones had little effect on gay men, but he wasn’t sure if Anthony Granton was out, so it was best not to pursue that particular line of questioning.  It didn’t really matter, the story merely confirmed what he already suspected: Ivy was trying to find Harvey too.  Pretty aggressively, from the look of it.  As soon as she found out he was missing, she went to work.  She didn’t have Bruce Wayne’s extensive knowledge of his Dentmeister haunts, but she knew where he was living (hence the doorman), and she would know of a few bars and restaurants from the days when they dated as Pamela and Harvey.

Another dead end. 

Bruce fished out a business card and left it with Anthony Granton, repeating the usual appeal to give him a call on the off chance that Harvey got in touch.

 

Despite her vigorous protests that crimefighting wasn’t her kink, there was one small corner of the revolting activity where Selina had some rudimentary training.  She’d spent six weeks as Carlotta Cipriani, completing a training program to be a bodyguard with an exclusive private protection service in London.  It got her the assignment with a visiting American divorcee who happened to be having an affair with Lord Pembroke and was to be a houseguest at Pembroke Castle the weekend the Dowager Duchess Natalia visited with the famous Blue Diamond of Dobrinka in her possession.  How Batman got wind of her scheme, she never did find out.  The diamond eluded her, but she did retain a number of useful techniques for analyzing a public space, such as a hospital, for unmonitored points of entry, staff routines that could cover the smuggling in of weapons, and similar weaknesses a would-be assassin might exploit. 

For one with even that elementary training in the field, Gotham General Hospital was a nightmare. 

There were two full pharmacies on the ground floor where outpatients, those being discharged, or even the general public could have prescriptions filled.  In addition, there were any number of inter-departmental dispensaries throughout the hospital, and countless prescription pads in the various offices that could produce thousands of fraudulent scripts if they fell into the wrong hands.  The hospital’s entire security mechanism seemed to be built around access to those drugs and the means to obtain them.  If you weren’t after Trazodone, Naproxen or Percocet, there was absolutely nothing in your way.

It made access to the hall outside Vernon Fields’s room simple enough for Catwoman, she simply removed her gloves and cowl, and covered the catsuit with a raincoat.  She could blend in easily, have her whip at the ready if an instantaneous response was needed, and change into the full masked-and-clawed cat in seconds.  The problem, of course, was that the infiltration that was so easy for her wouldn’t be much harder for anyone else.  Even Two-Face, the real thing or a fake, would have no difficulty getting close to Vernon’s room.  The scarring that was so conspicuous elsewhere would blend in.  There were a dozen ways to hide it, from bandages to blood.  And if he didn’t bother hiding it, in the middle of a hospital, would anyone blink an eye? 

 

“I will never forget the sound of his screaming.”

That’s what Bruce told Alfred the night it happened. 

The writing was on the wall.  Dent’s cross had opened up six glaring inconsistencies in Maroni’s story.  He was looking at conviction on thirteen counts of murder, conspiracy to commit murder, loan sharking, racketeering, obstruction of justice, illegal gambling, and tax evasion—in addition to which, he’d now opened himself up to six counts of perjury. 

It started.  The turn that everyone expected finally began.

“Yeah, I hit Mickey Gazzo and his brother Frankie,” Sal said calmly, his mouth set in smug defiance.  “We tossed their bodies in the Gotham River.  Lotsa wiseguys you’re looking for are in the Gotham River.  Maybe that’s why I got an ulcer from drinking the water…”

In over two hundred hours of wiretaps, Sal Maroni had never mentioned an ulcer, but Harvey didn’t catch it.  Not that it would have mattered if he had.

“It’s been killing me,” Maroni went on.  “Maybe I got a guilty conscience, huh, Dent?”

Bruce had frozen that moment in his memory and analyzed it from a thousand angles.  If Harvey had caught the bit about the ulcer, what would have changed?  He wouldn’t have seen any danger in the words.  He wouldn’t have stepped further away from the witness box.  He probably wouldn’t even have bothered to pursue it, not then, not with the name Carmine Falcone practically hovering on Maroni’s lips.  No, he would have done exactly what he did do: his job.  He would have gone on with the one job he had that day.  The moment he had been waiting for his whole life:

“I ask you now, under oath.  Didn’t you commit all these murders and felonies under direct orders from Carmine ‘The Roman’ Falcone?”

Maroni’s coughing.  His reaching into his pocket and pulling out the bottle.  None of it would have registered in that moment.  Not for Harvey Dent.

“I’ll ask you again—”

He saw nothing but the mission.  Nothing else.  Bruce was sure of it.  Maroni’s coughing.  His reaching into his pocket, pulling out the bottle.  “*Kaff Kaff*… one sec… *kaff kaff*… I got something right…”  None of it had any substance for Harvey, not until—

“HERE!”

—the contents of that bottle were flung at him and an inferno of fluorosulfuric acid treated with antimony pentafluoride started burning away his face.

 

The second challenge at Gotham General Hospital was the ease of creating a diversion.  Already there had been two crash calls, and an incident at the 8th floor dispensary when an armed security guard was called to escort a teenage candystriper off the floor in handcuffs.  When it was going down, Selina had naturally kept her eye on the security man’s gun, and only later did she realize that if it had been a diversion, that’s exactly what she was meant to do.  While she was watching the guard and his gun, Two-Face could be in Vernon’s room smothering him with a pillow.

He wasn’t.  He hadn’t.  Vernon Fields still lay in his room, a duet of rhythmic beeps emanating from his heart and brain wave monitors.  In retrospect, the incident seemed to be exactly what it looked like, but Selina berated herself all the same.

She returned to her base position in the little waiting area at the end of the hall and picked up a Gotham Magazine.  It lived up to the reputation of magazines in hospital waiting rooms, being at least 3 years old.  She pretended to glance at the society photos snapped at various events—until she realized she was starring at a picture of herself, Bruce, Dick, Barbara and ZATANNA: Mistress of Magic, who was then appearing at a Wayne Foundation Gala to benefit the Thomas Wayne Memorial Clinic.  She fought down her nausea at the sight.  Bruce was right from the beginning.  Magic was not to be trusted…

And Harvey’s healing was magic.  If anything had happened to him, if he had somehow become Two-Face again, there was little doubt that magic was to blame.

Selina hated dwelling on such worst case scenarios and turned her thoughts back to the incident with the security guard.  What an idiot she had been to question it.  For one thing, the whole nursing staff knew the guard.  It wasn’t like a stranger had brought a gun onto the floor…

At that moment, the elevators pinged and an armed stranger—two, in fact—did walk out onto the 8th floor.  Two uniformed policemen… or what seemed to be uniformed policemen… approaching the nursing station.  Selina held her breath, and mapped an intercept between them… and every person on the floor… and Vernon Fields’s door.

 

I will never forget the sound of his screaming.

That’s the way Bruce described it. 

Maroni was yelling “Did you really think you had me?!” and people in the gallery called out for towels and a doctor.  Vernon Fields was the first out the door, saying he would “go get help.”  But in all that pandemonium, the sound that burned itself into Bruce’s memory was the screaming.  Harvey’s screaming.

That night, he thought the sound had blotted out all other memories of the man, but before long, other memories returned.  His laugh for one.  Harvey had a wonderful laugh, particularly when laughing at himself. 

Bruce remembered a particularly silly episode with a pair of debutantes who had run away from some dreary afterparty and showed up at a nightclub in Chelsea.  Bruce and “the Dentmeister” picked them up and began club hopping with them, in theory, but really leading them a few blocks at a time back uptown to their presumed Park Avenue apartments.  The girls caught on when they spotted fellow debs from the same party they’d originally left coming out of the Plaza.  After fits of giggling, in which Bruce and Harvey were declared “sneaky-weekys,” they decided to go swimming in the fountain.

Bruce knew this maneuver all too well.  Drunk debs always wanted to go swimming in the fountain, it was practically a rule of nature.  He declined to join them, but Harvey was all for it…  With the result that Harvey wound up just as wet as the girls, while Bruce had a warm, dry overcoat to strip off and offer the one, while the other got his dinner jacket.  Bruce escorted both girls home, leaving Harvey dripping as he tried to hail a cab—and laughing harder than anyone.

As much as he told himself that “Bruce Wayne” began and ended with the Mission, that his antics with Harvey were nothing but a useful way to boost the playboy image while positioning himself close to a law enforcement insider, the fact was that he did like Harvey personally.  He did consider him a friend and, as much as he had fun with anyone in those days, he had fun on those “Dentmeister” escapades.

Which always made it especially painful facing Two-Face.

It took a special kind of discipline to block out the memory of big-hearted, laughing, dripping Harvey when he had to fight Two-Face.

Ironically, the corollary didn’t apply.  The memories of all those Two-Face encounters had never once intruded after the healing when Bruce resumed friendly relations with Harvey.  Why?  He knew it was really Harvey committing all those atrocities as Two-Face.  He knew it was a part of Harvey’s mind, not just his body, trying to kill Batman all those times.  He knew that… He was a rational man of science, and he knew that Two-Face wasn’t a separate entity.  He was a part of Harvey Dent.  Yet he’d been completely accepting of the healed Harvey.  Much more so than Selina was, actually… 

 

Cops.  Cops were much worse than hospital security.  The nurses didn’t know them personally, for one thing.  If they were fakes or decoys, who would know?  And worst of all, if Two-Face had spotted her, if he recognized her—she refused to believe it was Harvey, but Selina Kyle was known to be Catwoman and whoever it was, they could have recognized her—wouldn’t cops be the perfect cover to put Catwoman on edge?

Casually drifting into Vernon’s room was automatically dangerous if these were the real police, especially before she learned what they were after.  So, simply because it was the only thing she could think of that wouldn’t arouse suspicion, she waited.

She crossed her legs, picked up the Gotham Magazine again, and then… seeing a picture of Bruce posing with Zatanna and Dinah Lance, she tossed away the magazine in disgust.  If the act drew unwanted attention, she didn’t even ca—

Uh oh.

It seemed that her flare-up did bring unwanted attention.  The nurse looked in her direction, pursing her lips, and then turned back to the two policemen.  She said something to them and then walked off, heading right for Selina’s chair…

 

Harvey’s laugh.  That’s why the corollary never applied, that’s why Bruce was able to reestablish the friendship with Harvey so easily without lingering resentment of Two-Face.

It was one thing to say, as an intellectual concept, that Two-Face was a part of Harvey Dent’s psyche, but it was another thing to believe it.  For all its psychological validity, Bruce had never felt Two-Face was a part of Harvey, because of that laugh.

There is no concealment in real laughter.  It is a naked and spontaneous expression of the soul underneath.  Harvey’s laugh was bright, buoyant, and full of life.  He was a man born with many natural gifts, whose life had been an easy one, and it infused his view of the world with a vivacious and optimistic intensity.

Two-Face’s laugh was cruel and jeering, full of hatred, bitterness, and malice.  The first time Batman heard it, he knew on a deep, gut level that Bruce’s friend was gone. 

And at that first luncheon after the healing, when he heard that laugh again, he knew Harvey—the real Harvey—was back. 

 

The nurse kept walking… past Selina, past the Gotham Magazine, and right into Vernon Fields’s room.  She emerged a moment later with a doctor by her side, a doctor who looked unbelievably pissed.  He walked up to the policemen and, unable to restrain curiosity, Selina went up to the nurse’s station herself.  She was able to glimpse the doctor’s ID badge and see the name Kevin Yarling, M.D.  Keeping her back to the cops as if the whole scene didn’t concern her, she leaned over and asked the nurse where the ladies’ room was.  As she did, she was able to hear the words “otham medical plate M-25145, a silver Lexus.”  She stopped at the water fountain and took a long drink, long enough to hear “broken into ” and “parking lot.”

It wasn’t necessary to invent an excuse to hear more.  Dr. Yarling swore so loudly that everyone in the hallway could hear.  There was no question of eavesdropping, the man was positively raving.  It would be futile to pretend she didn’t hear, and it would have been ludicrous to feign disinterest.

“AND THAT’S THE SECOND TIME THIS MONTH!  WITH WHAT WE PAY FOR THAT PARKING SPACE EVERY MONTH—DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW MUCH IT COSTS TO KEEP A CAR IN THIS CITY—AND THIS IS TWICE NOW!  TWICE!  AS IN TWO TIMES, TWO DIFFERENT TIMES THAT CAR, IN AN OPEN PARKING LOT IN FRONT OF A GODDAMN HOSPITAL FOR CHRIST SAKE—TWICE NOW, IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DAY—BROAD DAYLIGHT! TWO TIMES!”

Selina swallowed.  She’d heard a fair number of “two rants” over the years, particularly when Harvey had a few.

That was a two rant. 

Just like on Harvey’s wedding anniversary any year he wasn’t in Arkham, and again on July 16, the date his divorce was finalized.  There he’d be, bellying up to the Iceberg bar.  Started drinking at 7 as if a new prohibition was going into effect at midnight, and by 9:30, the ranting would begin.

She knew the doctor was upset about his car, but there was a difference—and those who hung out with Two-Face knew how to recognize that difference—between being pissed that whatever bad thing had happened, and being pissed that it happened TWICE.

 

“Alfred, it’s me.  I wanted to let you know I’ll be spending the night at the penthouse.  Scrap any—

“Yes, well I’ve been leaving word at a number of Harvey’s old haunts to get in touch if they see him.  The ones that already had my number had that one, and it just seemed logical to keep it consistent and give—

“Yes, I realize that, Alfred, I just—

“Yes… Yes… Yes, because they’re also my old haunts, sure.  And I was living at the penthouse at the time so there might be a little nostalgia.  Alfred, I get it.  But the fact is, I have been running around to these places all day, and the penthouse is in the center of town.  It’s more convenient to almost all the clubs and restaurants, and to the hospital where this Ver—

“Mhm…  Mhm… Alfred, can I just—

“Mhm…  Yes, yes, I do see.  But it’s still my house and my penthouse and my choice.  I’m spending the night at the penthouse, so you should scrap any dinner plans you had and—

“Well, sure, Selina is staying there too.  Why wouldn’t she?

“Uh huh, I see, so now you have no problem with it.  Fine.  Goodbye, Alfred, I’ll give you a call in the morni—

“No, we’ll get something to eat in town, don’t worry about it.  Goodbye, Alfred.” 

 

That did it.  Selina was certain, absolutely certain.  Two-Face wasn’t Harvey.  Harvey wasn’t Two-Face.  It was this Dr. Psycho-Lexus-two-hating-nutcase...  Somehow.  The guy didn’t have any kind of scarring.  There was no way someone with Batman’s experience could mistake him for Two-Face.  But he was Vernon Fields’s doctor, and he was a walking, talking, exposed nerve about things happening twice.

Satisfied that the cops were exactly what they appeared, Selina was free to indulge in a bat-vanish without arousing their suspicions.  She quickly changed into Catwoman while Dr. Yarling was occupied with the police, and watched from a convenient vent while he resumed his rounds… except he didn’t resume rounds.  She had to relocate twice to keep an eye on him and cursed obscenely when she saw where he was going:

Up three flights of stairs to the roof.  He was having a smoke.

She cursed again.  Of all the filthy habits.  Of all the dumb ass ways for a so-called health professional to calm himself down.  Smoking!  It was a pain in the ass trying to follow someone unobserved through a stairwell, and the idiot just wanted a smoke.

While he puffed through two cigarettes—his rabid hatred of the number two apparently did not extend to poisoning his lungs with carcinogens twice in one sitting—Selina imagined how Eddie would spend this time constructing anagrams for “emphysema” and she wondered how many he might come up with. 

All she had to do with the time was sharpen her claws, and sharpen them she did…

 

Full circle.  The investigation had come full circle.  Bruce had talked to everyone he could at those bars and restaurants which were open in the middle of the day.  By the time he’d finished, the nightclubs were opening their doors, or at least the staffs were starting to arrive.  When he finished talking to them, it was late enough to return to the lunchtime businesses that had a completely different night shift. 

He’d gone back to the Endsbury Grille, the Knickerbocker, the bar at the Hudson, and now… right back where he started at the Harvard Club.

And he felt like he knew nothing more than when he began.

 

Kevin Yarling was on the move.  Catwoman tailed him back down to the eighth floor.  He stopped in old woman’s room first… Hm…

Yarling had been in with Vernon Fields when the nurse interrupted him to talk to the police, but he didn’t go straight back there.  He went for a smoke, and now he was checking another patient.  The act wasn’t suspicious in and of itself, the old woman’s room was the first he’d come to exiting the stairwell from the roof. 

He went into a young Latino’s room next.  Then a middle aged black woman…  Catwoman had a hell of a time negotiating the vents to keep up with him.  She lost him temporarily when he stopped—at the dispensary!  SHIT! 

She left the safety of the vent even though it risked being seen.  She had to find out what he’d signed out.

There was no difficulty getting a look at the clipboard… she almost wished there had been when she saw he’d picked up a syringe.  That could mean any kind of injectable poison or even air bubbles.

She picked up his trail, he was now in the room of another patient—the room of another patient that was still in a straight line between where Yarling came down from the roof and Vernon Fields’s room.  Damn, if this guy was what she suspected, he was one cold blooded bastard.  Patient, patient, patient, dispensary, patient, patient…  Could anybody be that cool and methodical if they were going to kill a man three more doors down the hall?

Feeling she’d seen enough from this angle, Catwoman ducked into the nearest room.  Trailing the doctor had shown her all it needed to, it was time to go directly to Vernon’s bedside and take on all comers.  She had avoided that position up until now, because she’d assumed the hospital staff that had to come and go from the room were doing what they needed to in order to keep Vernon Fields alive.  But now that one of them was suspect, covert protection was no longer an option.  It was time for hiss-growl-snarl-whipcrack you only get to him through me.

She’d made a note of Yarling’s position and his obvious route before moving.  He had three rooms to go before he reached Vernon.  At his current rate that was 15 minutes minimum, probably 18, possibly 20.  Plenty of time to let him out of her sight, access Vernon’s room herself by a feline route, and get prepped before the good doctor’s entrance. 

She ducked out the window and made her way along an ample ledge to Vernon’s window.  She slid it open, and as she leaned in—WHAM!  Her neck wrenched at a double blow, as a huge hand clamped around her throat pulling her inside and an equally huge fist smashed into her face, slamming her backwards into the wall.

“Tsk, tsk, Kitty. This isn’t your litter box,” Two-Face said venomously.

Catwoman managed a moan while her eyes regained the ability to focus.  Her assailant seemed all too happy to stand there while his blurry image clarified.

“Harvey?” Selina gasped.

He offered a gracious quarter-nod, like an actor acknowledging applause without taking a formal bow.

“You’re still the only one we allow to call us that in the field,” he said amiably.  “At least, you are the only one from whom we do not regard it as a sickeningly transparent attempt to appeal to our ‘better half.’  Indeed, we rather like the sound of our name on your lips, Selina.  We like to imagine it cried out in mindless ecstasies of unbridled passion.”

To be continued...

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