It was a little after midnight when Helena Wayne stood looking out a window as a car sped out toward Wayne Manor’s front gate. She chuckled and turned away from the window, only to find someone standing right behind her.
“Whoops! Here, let me take that before you spill it,” said Greg Robertson, reaching to steady the mug of hot chocolate that she held in her hands. “I didn’t mean to startle you.”
“That’s OK,” said Helena, running a hand through her long dark hair as she relaxed her hands from the fists that had reflexively formed when she was startled. “I thought everyone was sleeping by now.”
“My fault. I didn’t drink the cocoa.” At her raised eyebrows, he smiled. “When I saw how your father was recommending it for everyone, I figured he had something up his sleeve.”
“Just a little herbal remedy our family butler kept around for nights when I couldn’t sleep,” said Helena, remembering the times Alfred had offered it for her mother when Batman and Robin were reported to be in dangerous situations. “I doubt some of the children could have slept without it.”
“Good idea. I’m more of a night owl, myself.” Greg tilted his head toward the window. “So, where’s your dad off to at this hour? Christmas shopping?”
“Actually, yes. Dad’s always been funny about Christmas. He’s meeting a couple friends to pick up some things for the kids here. He wants to make sure this is still a Merry Christmas for them.”
“So that’s why he pulled the Santa act!” Greg laughed. “I’d like to have the dough to pull stunts like that.”
“You don’t have to be wealthy to do things for people. But, yeah, he does do things on a bigger scale than most.”
“I’m not knocking it. I better not — I was one of the first to receive a scholarship through the Philip Wayne Foundation.”
“That’s why you looked familiar.”
“Yeah, and here I am getting bailed out by the Wayne family fortune again.” At Helena’s puzzled look, Greg added, “I had given up on getting into college before I won that scholarship. If it wasn’t for your family, I’d probably be a clerk at a fast food joint or something.”
Helena decided to change the subject. “Do you think you could help us get things set up when Dad gets back?”
Greg smiled again. “Sure. All I ask is a mug of cocoa without your butler’s remedy.”
Helena laughed and led the way to the kitchen. “I think I can manage that.”
Shortly after three in the morning, two cars pulled up in front of Wayne Manor. Bruce Wayne got out of one, and two middle-aged men stepped out of the other. As they opened the trunks of the cars, the front door opened, and they were joined by Helena and Greg. Charlie Wainwright and Ken Mercer, the owners of two of Gotham City’s largest department stores, were unloading bags of wrapped presents from one of the cars. “My wife came down to the store after I told her what we were doing and insisted on doing all the wrapping herself,” said Charlie.
Helena joined her father as he unloaded a trio of bicycles from his car. “Should have taken Alfred’s van, I guess,” said Bruce as he paused to stretch his back.
“What you should have done, Dad, is get some rest,” scolded Helena. “Here let me get that one out — you roll the others up to the house.
“Yes, dear,” replied Bruce with mock submissiveness.
“Come on, let’s get this stuff set up inside,” said Charlie. “I’d like to get some sleep before my grandchildren wake up at the house.”
“You didn’t say your family was visiting,” said Ken Mercer. “Why don’t you go on home? We can get it from here.”
“Not on your life, Kenny. I’m not so old yet that I can’t finish what I started!” Helena laughed; tales of the friendly rivalry between the two store owners were legend in Gotham City.
It took most of an hour, but when they were finished, the den of Wayne Manor was prepared for a morning onslaught by eager children. As they prepared to leave, Charlie and Ken each handed Bruce a bundle of envelopes. “Make sure each family gets these, one from each of us.”
Bruce gave them a puzzled look. “What are–?”
“Just you never mind, Bruce. Just make sure they get them, OK?” said Ken.
“And don’t forget what I told you about that one gift,” added Charlie.
“Oh, don’t worry, I won’t forget. And guys, thank you.”
It was shortly after seven in the morning when a sleek silver car pulled in through the gates of Wayne Manor and drove quickly around the to the back of the house. When it pulled to a stop near a back door, two men got out of the car.
“Follow me, Master Dick. I should be able to tell if Master Bruce is in the house and where he is at.” Alfred Beagle walked with a spry step belying his advanced years, pulling a key from his pocket and unlocking the door. The door opened into a modest living room. Alfred walked over to a panel with several numbered lights on it. He flipped a switch, and more than a dozen of the bulbs lit up. “‘Pon my word, Master Dick. It appears Master Bruce has several visitors!”
“Funny — all these years, and I have never been in your quarters, Alfred,” said Richard Grayson. “What are these connected to? Microphones in each of the rooms?”
“Sensitive ones, sir, to pick up the sound of a person breathing. Naturally, the lights only tell me if there is someone in the room, and no words are transmitted.”
“So this is how you always knew where to find us in the house?”
“Precisely, sir. And I see the light for Master Bruce’s room is lit. I doubt that he would allow anyone else in there, so that is where we shall proceed posthaste in our endeavor to find out what is going on.”
“Good. And maybe he can explain this newspaper story!” said Richard, smacking a rolled-up copy of the Gotham Gazette in his open palm.
A flight of stairs and a dash down a hallway brought the pair to bedroom door. Alfred tapped lightly on it before entering, then waved a hand to signal Richard to follow.
“Ah, good morning! I’m glad to see you made home in time for Christmas!” Bruce Wayne sat at a small table by the French doors leading onto a balcony.
Alfred and Richard stopped in their tracks. “Bruce? You do know that you have a house full of people, right?”
“Of course, I do, Dick!” Bruce rose from his chair, a cup of coffee in his hand. “I expect they’ll start waking up any time now. We should get downstairs before the kids get down there.”
“Kids? What’s going on?”
“And what is the story behind Miss Vicki Vale’s story on the front page of the Gotham Gazette?” Alfred grabbed the paper from Richard’s hands and held it up. The headline, in three-inch letters, read Batman Returns over a photo of Batman handing a cat over to a young girl. “Was this you, Master Bruce?”
“It was, indeed, old friend. It’s a long story, but it will keep till tonight. Now, let me see that paper before we go down and see what kind of lies Vicki dreamed up.”
December 25, 1978
by Vicki Vale
In the midst of tragedy, Gotham City received a Christmas gift last night. More than two years after he announced his retirement from public life, the caped crusader known as Batman appeared to save several families from a burning apartment building.
According to Battalion Chief Larry Gilbert, a leaking gas line in the basement of the building at the Brooklawn Apartments ignited shortly after seven o’clock, setting the first two floors of the building ablaze. Responding fire companies were able to evacuate the second floor, and the occupant of one of the first floor apartments got out of the building just as the firefighters arrived. That is when Batman and the Huntress arrived on the scene, launching themselves to the top of the building and rescuing the residents of the upper floors, bringing some of the residents down from the building themselves. (see picture, page A-4) After that, the Batman re-entered the burning building to rescue the trapped first-floor residents.
All appeared lost when the back wall of the building collapsed, but Batman proved that he has not lost any of his time-tested skills as he managed to not only rescue the Swanson family, but finished his night off by presenting Trista Swanson with her cat, whom she had believed lost in the fire.
Thanks to the timely intervention of the caped crusader and the Huntress, the fire resulted in no deaths and only minor injuries to one of the residents and two firefighters. Neither of the costumed heroes had any comments for the press, but this reporter hopes that they are spending their Christmas Day with loved ones and enjoying a much-deserved rest.
“Leave it to Vicki to step out of her role as objective reporter for this one,” said Bruce with a chuckle as he laid the paper on the table, the inside photo of himself and his daughter swinging out of the building with the young children facing upward. “I’ll have to see about getting a copy of that picture for the Batcave, though.”
“I think I hear someone in the hall,” remarked Richard.
“Let’s get downstairs, then,” said Bruce.
Moments later, the den of Wayne Manor was overrun by eight shouting, screaming children as they saw the gifts stacked under the Christmas tree and realized that the gifts were for them. Each child was handed packages to take to their parents and the other adults before opening their own presents, though. As Helena Wayne read off the names on the tags, one child remained standing by himself. When all of the gifts appeared to have been given out, Helena called twelve-year-old Martin Evans over. “This,” she said, handing him an envelope, “is for you.”
He stepped back and opened the envelope. Inside was a second envelope and a folded sheet of paper. He unfolded the sheet and read it. “Martin, the gift you asked is not something that can be easily given. Your request for a job for your father in place of any presents for yourself is unusual and shows great maturity for one of your age. What I can offer for your father is an opportunity. In the envelope are names and addresses of people for him to contact. I believe he will find a job with one of them. Take the envelope to your father, then look behind the couch. S.C.”
Martin did as the letter instructed him to, and after handing the envelope to his father, found a modest stack of wrapped gifts waiting for him behind the couch. As he unwrapped them, he watched his father.
Ted Evans opened the envelope given to him by his son and read the contents. He then walked over to where Bruce Wayne stood with a middle-aged man with graying temples and an older man watching the festivities. “Mr. Wayne?”
“Please, call me Bruce.”
“Bruce, then. I — I don’t know what to say. I’ve applied with both Wainwright’s and Mercer’s, and they didn’t have any openings in their accounting departments.”
“Try them again. I have it on very good authority that they are looking for smart accountants who are flexible enough to help their companies adjust to new ways of doing business.” Bruce reached into a pocket of his smoking jacket. “Oh and these are for you and the other families — would you mind passing them around?”
Ted opened the two envelopes with his name on them. “They’re gift certificates. One thousand dollars each, one from Wainwright’s and one from Mercer’s department stores.”
“I thought it would be something like that. To help replace what you’ve lost.”
Richard Grayson and Alfred Beagle looked over the tumult in the den, then looked at each other. “If I know Master Bruce, he has probably not considered breakfast for his guests,” remarked Alfred.
“Yeah, breakfast never was our most regular meal around here. You want help whipping something up?” asked Richard.
“I think that would be most prudent, given the number of mouths to be fed.” Alfred led the way through the dining room to the kitchen, expecting to find a mess left from the previous night. Instead, he found two men and two women bustling about the room, preparing trays of scrambled eggs, ham, and fried potatoes.
“Oh! You must be Mr. Wayne’s butler; he said you might be arriving,” said an older, dark-skinned woman. “Seeing as we don’t have any kids, we offered to take care of feeding the troops.” To punctuate her sentence, she slapped a stack of ham slices on a platter.
“So it seems, Miss–?”
“Mrs. Sarah Dillon, but if you try to call me Mrs. Dillon, don’t expect an answer,” she said with a smile. “I got to hand it to you, this is the finest kitchen I’ve worked in since the old Ritz closed down. Made it real easy for us to pull this together.”
“Don’t let her kid you, gents. She pulled it together; we’re just here to stir pots and carry trays,” replied the younger of the two men, who appeared to be only a few years older than Richard. He offered a flour-coated hand to the newcomers. “Steve Johnson, and that’s my wife Nora. Sarah’s husband over there flipping home fries is Paul.”
“I’m Dick Grayson, and this is Alfred Beagle. So how can we help out?”
It was mid-afternoon when a pair of hotel shuttle buses pulled up in front of Wayne Manor. Christmas gifts and bundles of clothing were loaded up, and the former residents of the Brooklawn Apartments said their goodbyes to their hosts.
“I think we all appreciate the offer, Bruce, but we need to get started with getting on with the rest of our lives. And my company was nice enough to let us use the block of rooms they keep for clients at the Crown Hotel for a few days.” Steve Johnson turned to look over the group. “They’re also going to help us find new homes.”
“That’s great, but don’t hesitate to call me if you run into any problems.” Bruce handed him a business card, then walked down the steps to say goodbye to each family in turn. The last was the Swanson family. Ed still had the bandage on his head from his injury in the fire, and Kevin stayed by his side. Trista, though, was off talking with one of the other girls.
“I’m sure I’m going to catch it from Trista when she realizes we left before she could see the horses,” said Ed.
“Call me when the weather gets warmer. I’m sure Helena would love to introduce her to the stable.” Bruce turned as Trista came running up to them and jumped up into his arms. “Well! I haven’t gotten a hug like that since Helena was a little girl.”
The tiny blonde laughed. “Hugs are great! Like a Christmas present you can give any time.”
“Are you ready to go?” asked her father.
“Almost.” She leaned forward so she could whisper in Bruce’s ear. “Remember when I told Santa I had a secret?”
“Yes,” murmured Bruce, just loud enough for her to hear.
“Well this is it. Merry Christmas, Mr. Batman!” Before Bruce could react, the five-year-old squirmed out of his arms and dashed for the bus. “Bye!”