Floyd Lawton was dumped out of the helicopter after it landed. He caught himself before he fell on his face. The Australian summer sun glared down on his face as he took stock of the situation he was facing. Jail-time had not dulled the workings that had made him a match for the Batman as a crime-fighter who was secretly a criminal boss.
“Hell, Mr. Lawton,” said a bulldog of a man with a huge grin. “I’m glad we could meet. I suppose you would like to know why I brought you here?”
“It had crossed my mind,” Lawton said.
“I have information that something wonderful and potentially world-altering is buried a few yards away from this very spot. I need someone of your caliber to make sure this is true and investigate the site.”
“I don’t think so,” said Lawton. “Take me back to Gotham and my cell.”
McCabe smiled. “I thought you would need coaxing, so I have gone out of my way to provide a certain incentive.”
A woman was brought forward, hands cuffed behind her. Lawton looked surprised.
“One thing’s clear,” said Commissioner James W. Gordon. “Lawton didn’t fire the bullet that came through this window.”
“I agree,” said Batman, holding a rod in the air. “Look at this bullet track.”
“From across the street?” asked the policeman.
“A secondary crime scene, maybe.” Batman put the rod down and pulled his famous batarang and rope attachment. He drew the projectile to his ear and loosed it. The boomerang sailed across the street and wrapped around a flagpole. A swish of cloth and the detective was across the street, pulling himself into the suspected shooting area.
Batman examined every inch of the room. The shooter had picked a fine nest to shoot from. The detective counted at least ten windows that would be at close range. More than enough windows in Gotham City for a murder a day like the note promised.
The shooter had missed. It was only by two inches, but Harold Sims would live, thanks to the doctors at Gotham General. Deadshot would not have missed.
Batman had two choices. He could try to trace down the real Deadshot and find out what was going on, or he could try to trace the false Deadshot and stop any future shootings. There was no doubt what the hero would do. Floyd Lawton was on his own until the threat to the city had ceased.
Making a note of the crime scene, Batman finished his inspection, then swung back to the victim’s office. The crime lab boys would recheck for anything he had missed while he searched for the false Deadshot.
“Jessie?!” Floyd Lawton exclaimed. “What are you doing here?”
“She’s here at my request, Mr. Lawton,” said the bulldog man. He waved the woman off in the care of two of his henchmen. “Can we discuss my proposal, or do I have to prove my ruthlessness in a demonstrable way?”
“What do you want?” Lawton asked. His brain whirled in his skull at who he had seen. How had they found out about Jessie? How had they found her? Her parents had taken her away from him and hid her. Now this man had her as collateral.
Adam Blake and his two assistants had set up an observation post about a quarter mile from the dig. Hop Harrigan watched the whole area with a pair of binoculars. “Lawton doesn’t seem too happy to be here,” he remarked. “That woman seems to know him.”
“I would be surprised if she did not,” Blake said. “Insurance, I would say.”
“I’d guess it would be awful to drag someone halfway around the world just to have him escape because you don’t have a way to get any cooperation,” said Twitch.
“What’s the plan?” asked Hop.
Blake studied the tableau before him thoughtfully. “I need to take a closer look at things,” he finally said. “I want you two to get the number nine box from the plane and set up the contents right here, I should imagine.”
“Distraction?” asked Hop. He was also studying the site, except he was using his binoculars.
“Yes,” said Blake. “It will probably be unnecessary, but I would like to be prepared. Use your best judgment about when it should be used.”
“Right, chief,” said Twitch, but Blake was already gone like some desert ghost.
The guards around the dig never saw the stealthy Adam Blake. He was through their line and inside the prisoner tent before anyone so much as glanced his way.
He stood there, eyes adjusting quickly to the dimmer light. Immediately, he searched for his two assistants that had been here to discover the secrets of the past. He found them almost free of their bonds at the back of the huddled crowd. A quick flick of his wrists easily snapped the ropes holding Swan and Nichols.
“Report,” he said as he scanned the people still tied. He needed a way to move them out of the area without causing attention.
The familiar silhouette of a bat soared over the city. It swooped over a little known part of Gotham City. It then vanished silently into a shadowed alley.
Moments later, a man dressed in simple work clothes emerged. He adjusted his jacket and cap as he walked. His face held the look of someone short on his quota of brains. He wandered the industrial jungle seemingly without purpose.
Soon he had canvassed the whole area. One by one he eliminated his prospects efficiently. In the wee hours of the morning, there was only one place in the district he had not checked.
Adam Blake cut the back of the prisoners’ tent. He peered out, making sure the guards weren’t looking in his direction. He sent the first of the hostages to safety, a makeshift plan in mind. The first phase was to move the expedition out of the way so that he could operate without worry of danger to bystanders.
He watched the guards to make sure he could keep the line moving. Hopefully Twitch and Hop would be able to give the freed students and workers a hand without revealing their position. One by one he sent them slowly to freedom. He hoped Lawton could continue to provide the distraction he needed.
Batman wore his more familiar garb as he watched the house in front of him. A set of trace evidence had led him to this part of Gotham City. Careful questions had cut the locations available to one. If he was wrong, he would have to start over with traces from a new crime scene. He waited patiently. A mistake would have to be dealt with if he had made one. For now, all he could do was watch.
A familiar face went into his target house carrying a bag under his arm. The detective frowned. He knew the man and knew he was not a mastermind. After all, his last boss was the Joker.
His cape swirled around his body as he launched himself into the air. He swung across the street and through a window he had prepared earlier. Lefty Burkowitz pulled a .45 and blasted away at Batman as he retreated back to the front door. A handy couch provided cover as the rounds split the air. Then the world’s greatest detective moved as smoothly as a machine.
Adam Blake watched as the last of the diggers fled quietly in the desert. One more person to free, and he would have a free hand.
“They’re taking Lawton, mate,” said Alec Swan, standing by the front flap.
“We will worry about him later,” said Blake. “I doubt he will be killed where they are taking him. Let us talk to the unknown woman. Maybe that will answer some of our questions.”
“A woman?” asked Professor Carter Nichols. “How does this all tie in?”
“I have a suspicion,” said Blake. “I think we should talk to the unknown woman and fill out the rest of the puzzle.”
“Right,” said Swan. “The quicker we go about that, the happier I am.”
Blake slit the side of the tent closest to his goal. He slid out and dashed over in a blur. A simple cut opened the material in a flash, and he was inside. Swan heard a surprised shout and then a crunch, and then silence.
“Shall we, Professor?” he asked.
“Let’s — before someone sees that everyone else has vanished from the camp,” replied a sweating Nichols.
The two men ran over to the other tent and slid inside. Blake was standing by the flap, looking out. “What can you tell us about this situation?” he asked quietly.
“Nothing,” said Jessica Cooper. “As far as I can tell, they just grabbed me because of my past connection with Floyd. They did say that what they were looking for was away from here.”
“What are you to Lawton?” Blake asked.
“I am his ex-fiancée, I guess.”
Lefty Burkowitz reloaded quickly as he saw the dreaded Batman charge from the house. He blanched slightly but knew he had no choice now. It was him or the Dark Knight. Lefty was determined it was going to be Batman.
A batarang flew through the air at the henchman. He pulled the .45’s trigger, blowing it out of the air. He didn’t get a second shot as Batman’s other hand released a tiny capsule. A pop released an invisible gas into the air. The second Deadshot fell to the ground, fast asleep.
“Ex-fiancée?” said Alec Swan. “I’d have thought someone like Deadshot was out of your social circle.”
“We were young,” said Jessica. “My parents hated Floyd, but he treated me well. We were going to elope, but my parents sent me away and kept me away from him. I heard that he enlisted in the army, while I had an arranged marriage. I haven’t forgotten Floyd, but Heron and I have a little boy and a life now.”
“Lawton does not know, does he?” asked Blake.
“I didn’t have a chance to tell him before that troll put me under guard.”
“Right,” said Blake. “Time to leave.” He went to the cut exit flap. He held it open for the trio to leave. “Tell Harrigan to load the gray shells and use them,” said Blake.
Floyd Lawton rode in the passenger seat of the Jeep, pistol to the back of his head. The squat outlaw leader held the gun. Lawton thought maybe he could jerk his head out of alignment with the barrel but decided to wait.
Jessie had to be thought about while the nut had her at his mercy. There was so much he wanted to say to her about the years he had let slip by after losing her. He should have kept looking instead of joining the army. It didn’t matter that he had to give up in the face of overwhelming odds.
The Jeep rolled to a stop. “Out, Mr. Lawton,” said the bulldog. “Gently. I don’t want my finger to slip.”
McCabe pushed Lawton forward to a hole in the ground. Disrupted sand, dirt, and brush marks showed where the the top of the hole had been cleared.
“Now what?” asked Lawton, already guessing the answer.
“We tie a rope around you and lower you down until you reach the bottom,” said the squat gunman. “Then you look around for what we want to find. We pull you up. Everyone goes home happy.”
“What about my parole?” said Lawton.
“I’ll leave that for you to straighten out as best you can.”
“Let’s get this over with,” said Lawton. “The sooner I’m rid of you, the better.”
Commissioner Gordon and Batman met on the roof of Police Headquarters the night of Burkowitz’s arrest. “He’s still not talking,” Gordon said.
“I imagine not,” said the Caped Crusader. “It appears Blake was right about Lawton from the start. He left the country, headed for Australia.”
“So whatever purpose Lawton was taken for,” said Gordon, “it’s still going on?”
“Unless he has already served his purpose,” Batman said grimly.
“So we wait for developments?”
“No,” said Batman, before he disappeared in the darkness.