by Dave Barnowski
The Dapper Dan Daniels gang was playing bridge while sitting in a smoke-filled suite of the Ritz-Charlton Hotel, Gotham City’s priciest and swankiest hotel. There were four member of the gang, including the leader, Dapper Dan Daniels, a small, slightly built man in his early forties. Dapper Dan Daniels was a snappy dresser and today was wearing a pale blue pinstriped suit with a white shirt and red tie, black shoes, and matching pale blue hat.
Dapper Dan’s bridge partner was a huge giant of a man named Jo-Jo Nelson. His hands were so large they engulfed the cards so that they couldn’t be seen by the others at the table. He wore an ill-fitting gray suit and no hat. Jo-Jo was the gang’s main enforcer, not only because of his size, but also because he knew how to fight. And when he did fight, he fought dirty.
Dapper Dan and Jo-Jo were playing against the Caruthers brothers, Charlie and Chauncey, who were otherwise known as CNC. They were dressed in matching navy blue suits. The brothers were the gang break-in experts.
Extortion was a new racket for the gang. A Frenchman had approached Dapper Dan about two weeks ago with a plan to blackmail Philip Wayne, but the Frenchman didn’t speak any English and couldn’t go ahead with his plan. Dapper Dan Daniels was fluent in French and understood what the Frenchman had planned immediately. Still, it angered him to be taking orders from someone else, even if that man was paying for their fancy suite. Tonight was going to be their payoff.
CNC won the game, and Dapper Dan Daniels told Jo-Jo to come with him into another room in the suite. There the Frenchman was sitting down behind a desk. He was handsome man of thirty or so, dressed in a red turtleneck sweater and black slacks. The Frenchman look up from his desk and asked Dapper Dan in French if there was a problem.
In perfect French, Dapper Dan replied, “No, I just want to go over the plan one more time.”
The Frenchman smiled and began to go over the plan again, also in French. “Certainly, Mr. Daniels. You and your large companion will meet Mr. Wayne and take his money, and then you will get from him the names of other rich homosexual men whom we can also blackmail. You are to beat it out of him if necessary, but not to the point where he is permanently damaged. You are to give him a good trouncing, even if he gives you the names without a problem. And while you are interviewing Mr. Wayne, your other two gang members will break into his home and steal whatever they can. They are also to kill whatever servants are there. This way Mr. Wayne will know that he is completely in my power.”
“I like every part of that plan except where he’s under your thumb,” said Dapper Dan as he pulled out his gun and pointed it at the Frenchman. “Now you’re going to give me those photographs and negatives, Frenchie. Don’t try anything stupid, unless you want to eat some lead.”
The Frenchman laughed at the small man with the gun and stood up. “You don’t dare shoot me here, Mr. Daniels. The noise from the gun would bring the police here before you could get away.”
Dapper Dan smiled a very cruel smile and said in French, “You’re right, Frenchie, but now we’ll have to do this the hard way.” Switching to English, the little man said, “All right, Jo-Jo, the Frenchman wants to play. Go have some fun.”
Jo-Jo smiled and cracked his knuckles as he slowly approached the Frenchman. The Frenchman in turn also smiled as he moved away from the desk. Suddenly, the Frenchman kicked Jo-Jo in the head once, then twice with a quickness that was almost inhuman. He then kicked Jo-Jo in the groin and then once more in the head. The big man fell like a tree before a lumberjack.
Dapper Dan’s eyes grew big at the ease in which the Frenchman had taken down his enforcer. He called to CNC for help. The brothers came in with knives in hand. Dapper Dan pulled out a knife of his own, and the three men tried to surround the Frenchman. Dapper Dan reminded the other men not to kill the Frenchman, because they needed the photographs.
The Frenchman attacked the three men before they could surround him. Quickly, he first dispatched the pair known as CNC. He kicked Charlie in the knee and then the head as he fell to the ground. Chauncey was kicked in the solar plexus as he tried to come to his brother’s aid. The Frenchman followed up that kick with a foot to Chauncey’s head, and then the other C went down.
The Frenchman wasn’t even breathing hard when he kicked the knife out of Dapper Dan’s hand. “Enough of this, Mr. Daniels. You and your fellows did not know that I was a master of Savate,” the Frenchman said. “I do not wish to continue this fight. Do you accept my leadership?”
Dapper Dan Daniels held the sore hand the Frenchman kicked with his other hand and nodded yes with a wide-eyed wonderment.
Later that day, Bruce Wayne picked up Dick Grayson from school. On the drive back, Bruce told Dick that something had come up and that he was going out tonight as Batman, alone. Dick tried to press Bruce as to why he had to go out alone, but Bruce wouldn’t tell him. Although Batman and Robin had become the scourge to Gotham City’s underworld, there were some crimes — prostitution and other parts of society — that Bruce kept away from the young Dick Grayson.
As Bruce drove in to the city alone that afternoon, he thought about his Uncle Philip. Philip Wayne was his father’s older brother. Except for the years of the Great War, Philip had run the family’s financial empire since the death of their father. Bruce remembered that his father was always grateful to Philip for taking over the finances, because it allowed his father to pursue a medical career. During the war, Philip joined the French Foreign Legion and was a member of their famed Lafayette Escadrille squadron that was made up of American volunteers, and later the U.S. Army Air Corp. He had attained the rank of lieutenant colonel. After the war, he returned to the helm of the family business and saw it safely through the economic collapse of 1929 and the Great Depression that followed in the 1930s.
His uncle was a lifelong Republican and generally couldn’t stand FDR, but he was also was steadfastly against the isolationists that dominated the party. Philip used his influence in any way that could help the Allied cause. After today’s discussion, Bruce had a greater understanding of his uncle’s vehement stand against the Nazis.
Philip had been in Paris when Bruce’s parents were murdered, involved in negotiations with the French Government, and they were buried before Philip could return to Gotham City. Thomas Wayne’s will stated that Philip was the executor and also Bruce’s guardian. Philip had sent for young Bruce to come to Europe as soon as he could. The family butler, Jarvis Beagle, accompanied him in the transatlantic voyage. After a brief stopover in England with the Beagle family during Christmas, Bruce was reunited with his uncle.
Philip was uncomfortable around children, and he kept a distance from Bruce for the first two years. Bruce was depressed, but also angry. Although he never told Philip or anyone else, he was even then determined to fight criminals and their ilk. He had never told anyone of his pledge over his parent’s graves, but his serious demeanor worried his Uncle Philip. His uncle became just as determined to see Bruce become the happy child he once was. It was a cause he had never succeeded in, but it meant that the two became closer.
First Philip bought Bruce a horse named King of Scotland and taught him how to ride. Bruce loved that horse and was heartbroken two years later when he turned up lame and had to be put down. King of Scotland was one of the few joys Bruce had in his life after his parents were murdered. He never owned another horse.
Bruce fell into another bout of deep sadness that spring. Philip bought him another horse, but Bruce refused to ride him. Philip then came upon the idea of teaching Bruce how to fly. Philip not only taught the twelve-year-old how to fly, he also conveyed his own joy of flying. Although he never enjoyed it as much as his Uncle Philip, Bruce was truly happy when he flew. He still had a special joy when piloting a plane.
Like almost all of his social peers, Bruce spent most of his time away at private schools as he grew up, but his uncle and he became closer as he grew older and matured. He never knew his uncle’s secret until his junior year in college when he came home early and surprised his Uncle, who was in bed with another middle-aged man. Bruce fled his uncle’s house, and they didn’t communicate for almost a year. When they did, it was uncomfortable at first. Neither one ever mentioned the incident.
In ignoring the issue, they became close again. Philip was there when Bruce graduated college and was the first to notice the positive changes that his involvement with Julie Madison had brought and was positively enthusiastic when they told him of their engagement.
Like his father before him, Bruce had given Philip his power of attorney and let him handle most of his finances. This left Bruce free to become the Batman. Philip didn’t know Bruce’s identity at first, and Bruce knew that his uncle disapproved of his reopening the Wayne Manor and living there all alone.
Nor did Philip approve of his not taking up some kind of career and instead acting like an idle man of leisure. Philip told him that it didn’t make sense, especially since Philip knew that Bruce had aced all of his courses in school and took almost twice as many courses in college as he needed to graduate. Philip knew why now, though.
Philip also was his attorney in the proceedings that had allowed Dick Grayson to become his ward. Bruce knew that it was the Wayne name and influence that allowed it to happen, but Bruce was still learning how to use his power and influence — power Philip wielded with expertise of a master.
At five o’clock that afternoon, the Batman crept into Philip Wayne’s townhouse through an unlocked window on the second floor. Philip Wayne was sitting in a chair by the radio, listening to the local radio station giving the latest information about the Chicago Commodity Markets and didn’t hear his nephew come in.
“Good evening, Mr. Wayne,” said the Batman in a voice that was completely unlike Bruce Wayne’s.
Philip stood up like a bolt and drew a pistol. He breathed a sigh of relief when he saw his nephew standing there in front of him in his Batman costume. Philip was amazed at seeing Bruce dressed this way, because he hardly recognized him. Bruce’s stance and body language was completely different from the man he saw this morning. If he didn’t know for certain that Bruce Wayne was the Batman, he would swear that the man in front of him wasn’t his nephew. “Don’t do that, Bruce,” he chastised his nephew as he holstered his pistol and went to light a cigarette. “You scared me half to death.”
“Call me Batman when I’m in costume,” Bruce said, still speaking in his Batman voice.
Philip looked at the man standing in front of him and, seeing no vestiges of his nephew, said, “All right, but only if you promise not to do that to me again.”
“I promise,” the Batman said with a smile. “I know I’m an hour early, but I have to get ready for when the time comes. Is there anything else you remember about the note that you didn’t tell me this morning?”
“No, I’m afraid not. You’re alone, I hope. This isn’t a case that young Richard should be involved in.”
“You’re sure that these photos weren’t taken by the Nazis?” Batman asked.
“As certain as I can be. I mean, they’d be after me to use my influence to stop Pro-Allied legislation, like the Lend-Lease bill that the president’s going to sign on Monday from passing Congress, or plans for various weapons that our companies are designing. But the note said to bring money. Believe me, Bruce, if it was the Boche, I’d resign from every board I was on and become a hermit.”
“I believe you, Mr. Wayne.”
“The Nazis have to be stopped. It’s bad enough in this country where who and what I am is an anathema to society and I have to hide it every day. Psychiatrists claim homosexuality is a mental illness, for Christ’s sake. I am what I am, Batman. I’d change it if I could, but I can’t. In Germany and occupied Europe, the Nazis have even less tolerance. There I’d be a walking dead man, despite my wealth and influence, the moment I was uncovered. Here, I’d merely be a social outcast and possibly ruined financially.”
The room was silent for several moments as Batman fully absorbed the impact of what his Uncle Philip was saying. He could do nothing about society, but he could and would do something about those who were preying on his uncle. “They’re just common crooks, then, Mr. Wayne. I take care of the likes of them all the time.”
Together the two men waited until the phone was supposed to ring at six o’clock. While they waited, Philip watched his nephew go through another transformation. The Batman had brought his makeup kit and slowly changed into Philip Wayne. When Bruce had finished applying the disguise, Philip thought it was the same as looking in the mirror. He put on some of Philip’s clothes over his Batman costume as he folded the cape and cowl and put them in the briefcase that the money was supposed to be in.
The Batman spoke, and he sounded just like Philip. He walked around the room, and he had the exact same walk that Philip had, even the barely noticeable limp Philip had sustained, thanks to a bullet wound in the leg he received in the Great War.