Issue One: The End of an Era
There is good and there is evil, and evil must be punished. Even in the face of Armageddon I shall not compromise in this.
- Rorschach, Watchmen
“It’s over. It’s the end of an era. Gillian Loeb, Gotham’s commissioner was murdered in cold blood.” Lieutenant Jim Gordon sighed, half with relief, half with uncertainty. “I wonder if the next era will be for the better?” He shook his head as he noticed the sign that gave him a ‘warm’ welcome to Gotham City.
“I can’t believe a teenage girl managed to uncover the corruption in Loeb’s administration.” He smirked and allowed himself to take a quick drag from his cigarette. “I wonder how Harvey reacted to that when he heard it for the first time. He went nuts when his key witness for the conspiracy charges he had filed against Loeb simply disappeared from the face of Earth.”
“Something on your mind, lieutenant?” said the woman sitting next to him, he gave her a quick glance, as if he barely remembered her being there before.
Gordon shook his head. “Nothing you wouldn’t expect from the current situation, Detective Essen.”
The woman stared at him for a long moment. “Do you think the Morgendorffer girl knows more than she is telling us?”
“No, I spoke with her aunt, she’s not lying. But the girl is feeling guilty for what happened,” Jim killed his cigarete and put it in the car’s ashtray, which could probably use some cleaning.
Essen smiled slightly, “I don’t understand why. If you ask me, Loeb was a pain in the ass.”
“That he was, but he was also our boss. A cop.” he said that word like it meant anything in Gotham, like it was a symbol of good. “But I bet Flass and Branden are probably the two people that liked the least Loeb’s demise.”
She quirked an eyebrow. “They were dirty too?”
He gave her a look, one that told her that he was going to trust her with something important. “I don’t have any material evidence, if that’s what you’re asking. But I know a dirty cop when I see one.” He took another cigarette from his pocket and quickly started smoking it. “I remember when I was introduced to Loeb, he had this . . . Jabba the Hut thing going on with him, like he thought of himself as some kind of Caesar, a lord. And he made it pretty clear that he wanted me looking the other way. I disliked him from the start.”
“That’s what you say now, but I know you didn’t like him because he wouldn’t allow you to smoke when he was in the same room.” Essen smirked and then blinked as the car stopped, she didn’t miss that they were parked in front of her flat. “Something wrong?” she asked.
Gordon rested his head on the steering wheel. “Go to sleep, detective, I won’t be needing backup for my next stop.”
Essen shook her head and seemed to be about to complain, but then she yawned and opened the door. “Sir, if you need anything . . .” She trailed off, her face completely serious.
His eyes sparkled, “If I do need your help, will give you a call, but don’t worry, I’m just going to visit a friend.”
“As you wish, sir.” She closed the passenger’s door behind her and headed to her place.
Gordon didn’t bother to wait for her to enter, he just drove off. His mind set. “Flass and Branden are going to be a problem. Flass is probably having illusions of grandeur right now, trying to cut a deal with the people that were paying off Loeb. And Branden... he and his lunatic gestapo probably think they can do whatever they want. Things will get worse than last month’s riot in Robinson Park. Then, they didn’t even leave the statues standing. A massacre. Now . . . they will probably blow up buildings for fun.”
“Can one man make a difference? There are some days when I believe, but most when I have lost all faith.” Gordon shook his head and killed the engine. “Sometimes . . . sometimes I wish to be able to act outside the law, take justice in my own hands.” He smiled at that like it was a private joke. He respected the law too much to be in the vigilante business.
He got out of the car and silently walked a couple of blocks, down to Washington Street. He looked up at a grim and hostile-looking building and shook his head. The only man he trusted in the whole city.
Harvey Dent, assistant DA. “One of the few men that actually gives me some hope about Gotham’s future. A man that makes me think that my unborn child will not grow up in a living hell.”
It took him a couple of minutes to get to the assistant DA’s office. Dent received him with a friendly handshake. “It’s good to see you, Jim.”
“You too, Harvey,” said the lieutenant. “Anything new?”
“Here and there,” said the man leaning his head to the side, “I take it the Morgendorffer girl didn’t know much of anything.”
“She didn’t know who ordered the hit, in fact, she barely knew more than what she published. But it’s obvious that whoever had Loeb killed, knows how to cover his tracks.” Jim sat in a nearby chair and accepted a glass of water from Harvey. “While I was coming here, I was thinking how this is probably the end of an era.”
“Probably, yes,” agreed Dent.
Jim put the glass down, not having taken a single sip from it. Instead, he put a cigarette in his mouth. “I’m not sure it’s going to be for the better.”
“It’s going to be a war-zone, yes. But I have a feeling it will work out in the end, for both of us,” said the assistant DA grinning like a cat that had eaten the canary.
“A war-zone,” Gordon said the word, tasting it. He didn’t like it. “This city, I have seen its true face. And it’s not a pretty face, I can tell you that. It’s like the streets are extended gutters and the gutters are full of blood.” Gordon sighed. “Sometimes I just wonder to myself if its any use to fight back.”
“I believe in Gotham City,” said Dent leaning on his desk. “Besides, All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”
“Hopefully then, when the drains finally scab over, all the vermin will drown.” Gordon wasn’t smiling, not even a little, “But you are right, doubting is for the weak, and I don’t intend to leave this city to another Loeb.” He stood up, “And to do that, first, I have to find the shooter. What do you got?”
Harvey looked puzzled at Gordon. “I don’t get it, Jim, the man would’ve liked nothing better than to remove you from service. If it wasn’t for the fact that you have the press on your side, he would have, long ago.”
Jim took a long drag from his cigarette and turned to leave. “I don’t care how dirty Loeb was, he was a cop, and part of a much bigger thing, and I will catch whoever murdered him.”
“You know, people say you’re the most honest cop in Gotham.” Harvey started to say with half a smile on his face.
“They do?” Said Gordon, not entirely interested.
Harvey patted the lieutenant on the back and said. “I think you’re the only honest cop in town, actually.”
“That isn’t a happy thought, Harvey.”
The assistant DA’s face turned grim. “No, no, it isn’t.” He took a folder from his desk and handed it to Gordon. “Here, it’s all I got from my sources, it all kinda points to the Roman.”
Gordon read a couple of lines from the folder, frowned and closed it. “The Roman. You’ve been after him for years, actually came close to indicting him, once or twice.”
Harvey winced. “Oh, yes.”
“I understand he’s used his muscle to keep you an assistant district attorney. That must be frustrating.”
Harvey lowered his face. “Not only frustrating, dangerous too. But the Roman and his associates aren’t the only threats to us right now. Watch your back Jim, especially from Flass and Branden. Now that Loeb is out of the game, they are bound to try to take control of the police.”
Gordon turned to leave again, and said, “Over my dead body.” He closed the door behind him.
Harvey closed his eyes and shook his head. “That’s what I fear, friend.”
The moment Gordon left the building, he got the feeling that he was being watched. He held the folder tightly and walked as fast as he could to his car. He wasn’t surprised when at least six men carrying baseball bats were waiting for him.
“Working late, lieutenant?” asked one of them, he was at least five inches taller than Gordon.
Jim wrinkled his nose. “This guy smells awful. Like bad food. Like a corpse left in a garbage dumpster in the middle of summer, he stinks so bad I want to throw up.”
The stinking man smirked. “Going to be late, may have to skip the whole night.”
Gordon furrowed his brow. “Old trick -talking to distract me- guarantees an attack from behind.” He turned around and gave a seventh man a swift punch, crushing his larynx. He didn’t stop for a beat, quickly grabbing the man’s bat before the others realized what was going on.
“They should’ve checked my military record,” he thought as he turned and hit another one as hard as he could.
He used the handle to hit a third man on the ribs and moved fast enough to block an incoming strike from another. “I was taught to handle worse than this, but then again,” finally, the stinking man managed to hit Gordon on the back of his head, “It’s been a while. And there’re too many.” He fell on the ground, losing the grip on the bat. Other thugs start kicking and hitting him with their bats.
He felt an incredible amount of pain. And then... nothing.
Just . . . nothing.
“It’s odd,” Gordon thought several moments later, “They left me alive. Why?” He sat on the dirty Gotham street and groaned, trying to remember what the men had said in the middle of the beating. “That was just a warning, think of your family.” He glared at the pavement and helped himself up. “They did just enough to keep me out of the hospital, good, that means I’m not out of the case just yet.”
He grinned as he noticed the folder was missing. He took his cellphone and dialed a number. “They took the bait, the bug is in place,” he said and he started limping back to the assistant DA’s office, “you were right, they were Flass’ men.”
“Not surprising,” said the voice from the other end of the line, “we did expect something like this, after all.”
“Yes,” agreed Gordon, “you have their location?”
“They’re at . . . Falcone’s estate.”
Gordon’s right eye widened. “That’s an interesting development. You think Flass is already the new guy inside?”
“I’d say he’s the new number one guy inside, there are too many guys inside to declare anyone as the ‘new’ guy,” said Dent. He snapped his phone closed and returned it to his pocket as the men met on the steps of the building. “You look like crap,” he said, looking the lieutentant over.
“I’ve seen better days, but I’ve also seen worse.” Jim tried to smile. He failed.
“Come on, I will give you a hand,” Harvey said and put Jim’s arm over his shoulder to help him walk. “Are you sure you’re up for this? You have a wife and a child.”
“Unborn child,” Gordon corrected.
“I don’t see how that is any better.”
“It isn’t. But you said it yourself, All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” He bit his lower lip. “We’re good men, right?”
“Damn right, we are.” Dent guided Gordon to his car and helped him get in the passenger’s seat. “We just need evidence, a witness, something to connect who was behind the hit to strip this city’s evil right from the root.”
Gordon rested a moment and said, “We need the hitman, and from the looks of the crime scene, I’d say it wasn’t someone that really knew what they were doing, if we don’t hurry the hitman may become the new target.”
“Great, just what we needed.” Harvey said as he opened a notebook that had been resting in the car and connected a USB device to it. A program immediately loaded and they could hear some voices. “Wait, they’re talking.”
Gordon rolled his eyes. “Turn up the volume.” He took a pair of headphones and put them on.
“I’m telling you boss, he’s out of the picture. He has a pregnant wife, he won’t risk her just to see what’s going on in our business,” said a voice Gordon recognized as Flass’.
“Our business?” A man laughed cruelly. “You are a middle man, nothing more, remember your place.”
“That’s Falcone,” Harvey said, frowning.
“That’s good, then. We have him, just . . .” Gordon paused as the conversation resumed.
“So, you roughed up that hero cop. But that’s the least of my concerns right now,” Carmine ‘The Roman’ Falcone said. “Have you dealt with the Ianuzzi kid? He just won’t shut up, he’s a loose end.”
“Ianuzzi, was it?” Harvey asked as he started typing in his computer.
“That’s what he said. And I think my prediction is going to become a reality.”
“Branden is taking care of him as we speak, don’t worry, sir.”
“Don’t tell me to not worry, Flass, I will do whatever the hell I please.
Harvey punched the air in a sign of victory. “Nailed him, Todd Ianuzzi, he’s got an order of arrest back in Texas, he came to Gotham last week.”
“The timing is about right, do you think we got the killer?” Gordon took a cigarette and frowned. “Branden is going to murder the only link to the mob.”
“I’m sorry boss I could . . .”
“Nothing, you did a fine work with Gordon, so I want you helping Branden. That kid stops breathing tonight. Is that clear?”
“Right away, sir.”
Dent looked at Gordon and smiled just a tiny bit. “Talk about catching a break, we can track Flass and he will lead us to Branden and the killer.”
The lieutenant took a long drag from his cigarette. “I’m not sure if it’s really a break, Harvey, there are only two of us, Flass and Branden probably have at least ten men with them.”
Harvey handed the other man his computer and started the engine. “I wouldn’t want it any other way, you know that.”
“Yea,” Gordon smirked, “I do.” But his face quickly turned sour. “I keep telling myself it’s either this or pumping gas, but I know I’m doing it for Barbara and my family to be.”
He watched as Harvey drove the sedan like a madman across the streets of Gotham. For a moment he considered stating this fact, but then he remembered. They were really working against the clock. One second too late, and the new era would most definitely be a lot worse place to live than the old one.
Jim’s thoughts turned to his unborn child, James, at least he liked to think they would be having a boy. “I pray he’s going to be very strong, and smart enough to stay alive.” Even when they were a step away from success, he could see Gotham as it was, rotten.
He shook his head and massaged his eyes. “How did I let this happen? How did I screw up so badly, to bring an innocent child to life in a city with no hope?”
Harvey looked at his friend for a moment. “There’s always hope, Jim, your kid’s going to be fine. Don’t worry.”
Gordon nodded. “Somehow, hearing him say that, only makes me worry more than before. Funny, that.”
Suddenly, Harvey stopped the car. “We’re here.” He said, pointing straight ahead, where Flass’ car was parked. The man was heading toward an old and battered place, better than few, worse than most.
Gordon’s hopes raised for a moment. “Branden’s not here yet?” He looked around, there was no sign of any of Branden’s brute men. That was odd, considering that he had supposedly been told to handle the Ianuzzi kid before Flass.
“I told you, we caught a break.”
“Yeah, a break,” Gordon mused as he took his gun out. Branden or no Branden, it was going to be dangerous. “I go after Flass, you take the kid.”
“Glad to hear that.”
“I’ve dealt with Flass before. I know how he fights. He knows how to use his body, but he’s just a Green Beret.”
“You say it like it’s a piece of cake,” Harvey shrugged. “Anyway, let’s get to it.” The assistant DA took a smaller gun and left the car.
They crossed the street in a hurry, making sure that no one saw them. It wasn’t a difficult thing to do, considering how few people were outside in such a forgotten corner of Gotham. It wasn’t a big building by anyone’s standards, and it had been abandoned for years, from the looks of it.
The inside was dark as dark can be. “I don’t know why it surprises me, with a city like this, with people as rotten as this,” Gordon thought as he focused more on his ears than on his eyes.
He took a couple of steps and frowned as he heard someone running upstairs. “It’s them.” he whispered to Dent, who was two steps behind him, covering his back.
Suddenly, someone is running downstairs. “The kid,” Gordon thought, and pistol whipped the boy as he passed next to him. Dent punched Inauzzi and held him to the floor, the gun aiming at his shoulder.
“Don’t move,” the assistant DA said in a low voice.
“I’ve got rights! Let me go!”
Harvey growled. “I know you’ve got rights. Lots of rights. Sometimes I count them just to make myself feel crazy.” That was enough to shut up Todd.
“Branden, is that you?” asked Flass as he came downstairs.
“No, it isn’t Branden. Tough luck, eh?” said Gordon, stepping out of his hiding place and placing the gun against Flass’ left ear.
“Drop your weapon,” ordered the lieutenant.
“You won’t get away with this, Gordon, your wife will pay, you will pay. You can’t fight them, nobody can,” said Flass as Gordon handcuffed him.
Gordon punched Flass in the stomach. “Two minutes with the kid, and I will show you that fighting is an option, that somebody can. That good can prevail.”
“Maybe later,” said a new, very female, voice. And then there were two muffled bursts of a firearm.
Gordon turned and saw detective Essen, the woman he believed to be one of his closest assets in the field, pointing her gun at a bloody Harvey Dent. “You! I thought . . .”
The blonde smirked. “That I was on your side? Sorry, sir, but the pay is just too good to let it pass.” She pointed her gun at him. “Now, drop your weapon.”
Gordon sighed, and did as he was told. He looked down at Harvey and blinked. “He’s not dead, how is he not dead?” He furrowed his brow. “There’s a way out of this one, I know there is.”
Essen smiled playfully. “It is the prerogative of a fool to point out that the emperor has no clothes. But the fool is still a fool, and the emperor is still an emperor.” She took a couple of steps towards him. “The organization will continue to rule Gotham, there’s nothing you, or your petty friends, can do about it.”
“Bitch,” snarled the assistant DA as he surprised the detective by suddenly firing his gun at her within point blank range. She didn’t have time to scream as she died.
Gordon picked up his gun and ran to his friend’s side. “You okay?”
“Yes, just a scratch.” Harvey said, sounding very, very weak. He groaned. “The kid . . .” He rolled to the side, allowing Gordon to inspect Todd Ianuzzi closer.
“Dead.” They both lamented, now having only Flass, who was as useful to them as a fork for soup.
Gordon helped Dent up, they were both bruised and battered. But they would both live. “If we get out of here soon enough, I guess we were lucky that Branden never showed up. I wonder if there’s anything more to that.” He pointed his gun at Flass and ordered him to get outside, and then, to his car.
It was definetely not a win. But it wasn’t a total loss either. “But somehow,” he thought, “I get the feeling that a vigilante could’ve called it as a win. Why do I have this feeling? This is over.”
Days later, Gordon stood alone in the cemetery, standing in front of a tombstone of an imposing size.”Some people call me a hero,” he reflected, remembering a time when he stopped Branden’s men from making a terrible mistake and managed to rescue a group of kids that were being held hostage by a lunatic, “but a true hero’s legacy should be judged by the lives he’s saved. Mine will be judged by the ones I’ve lost.” He touched the tombstone and closed his eyes, “I always knew that there would be days that would test me, that this city would test me. But I see how hard it is, to fight back. And now I know that we’re going to face darker times, and I pray to god that along with that, hope comes to the rescue. True, blind, justice.”
He turned and left the grave and just then, the wind blows for a moment, revealing the names on the big tombstone. Jacob and Helen Morgendorffer.
From the distance, a trench coat-wearing man smiled at the scene. “Things are going to start changing around here, Jim Gordon, more than you think,” he said and casually put an Oreo in his mouth and started chewing it like it was the most delicious thing in the world.
Disclaimers: Stereo Hifi font is ©1997 by Cathy Davies. This story based on characters and situations created by Glenn Eichler and Susie Lewis. The Daria TV show is a trademark of MTV Networks, a division of Viacom International Inc. and is referenced here without permission, and without profit.
Gotham City, James Gordan, Harvey Dent, and other DC references © DC Comics and are used without permission, and without profit.