by Dave Barnowski
Wayne Manor smelled of turkey dinner with all the trimmings. It was the first real Thanksgiving dinner held at the Manor since the house’s former mistress, Selena Kyle Wayne, had died. The manor itself was fully restored from the havoc waged upon it when a mob in the employ of two enemies of Dick Grayson ransacked the house. In doing so, they had also attacked the occupants a week before Dick and Karen Starr — whose real name was Kara Zor-L, alias the super-heroine Power Girl — were married. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Batman Family: The Wedding March, which takes place in Spring, 1988.]
Sitting around the dinner table was Dick Grayson, who along with his new bride Kara were the principal residents of Wayne Manor. Sitting next to Dick on his right was his recently discovered grown-up daughter, Rachel Levine. Kara sat on his left, while his teenage ward Jason Todd sat next to Kara.
At the opposite end of the table sat the rightful owner of the manor, Helena Wayne. With her was her newly adopted thirteen-year-old daughter Sonia Wayne on her right and her current beau, Bartholomew “Bat” Lash, on her left.
Between the two families sat a man who was part of both families — the Wayne family butler Alfred Beagle. The former master of the house, Bruce Wayne, had insisted that on holidays Alfred sit at the dining room table with the family, even back in the old days when the family was only Bruce and Dick. The tradition continued into the present, forty-five years since Alfred began serving the family.
Alfred hadn’t even been allowed to cook dinner, since this was another tradition that had started thirty-three years ago when Selina Kyle Wayne became the manor’s mistress. Today’s meal had been cooked by Dick Grayson with able assistance from his new bride Kara, as well as Dick’s ward Jason Todd. The teenager had especially enjoyed mashing the potatoes and turnips, as it was great way to take out some personal frustration. Kara had a great deal of trepidation at cooking the feast, because she never had learned how to cook. Then she saw how recipes for cooking were akin to following a chemical formula. The scientifically trained Kryptonian used the similarity to ease her nervousness, and Dick kept reassuring her that everything would turn out fine as they cooked throughout the morning. Alfred enjoyed sleeping in this morning.
Helena arrived with Bat and Sonia about noon, and Jason answered the door instead of Alfred, who was able to take a rest from his duties on this day. Bat Lash was a gambler and a bit of a rogue who traveled quite a bit and who usually slept on a couch at Helena’s apartment whenever he was in town. Their relationship was complicated, as Helena was also now a young single mother, attorney, and the heroine known as the Huntress. She was also the heir to Wayne family fortune and power. The Waynes were from old money, and they were the preeminent family in Gotham City. Consequently, she had great power and influence in the city. Dick Grayson, who was the ward of the late Bruce Wayne, had a great deal of influence as well, although he didn’t have the Wayne name.
Helena, the rightful owner of the Wayne Manor, would perhaps someday return to her childhood home, but for now she preferred to live in her large apartment in the city. It was better for Dick and Kara to live here in the manor, she told herself. She had no doubt that they, along with Jason, were becoming a family of their own. Helena now had a family of her own since she adopted Sonia, but she still wanted to stay in the city, even though Dick had offered to let her take up residence at any time she wished. Wayne Manor was certainly large enough to house everyone.
After saying their hellos, Sonia and Jason went off to play Pac-Man. Alfred enjoyed the experience of playing host, as the Graysons were still busy with the finishing touches of today’s feast. If Alfred didn’t approve of Bat Lash, he didn’t show it, as the old man made it a point to make sure the younger man felt welcomed. Helena only hoped Kara and Dick didn’t give Bat any attitude. Helena excused herself and went into the kitchen to see if there was anything she could do to help. Dinner was, however, ready to be served. The dinner itself was pleasant and the conversation light as Dick and Kara kept any feelings they might have about Bat Lash to themselves.
After dinner, they all retired to the study. Dick remarked how this had been Bruce’s favorite room. Like most of the manor, it had been repaired from the damaged caused by the mob of thugs who ransacked the manor a week before Kara’s and Dick’s nuptials.
As they entered the room, Bat Lash spotted a great bay window that had a great view of the city. On the other three walls were portraits. Two were of couples, while the third was that of a single man whom Bat thought he recognized. One of the couples he immediately recognized from photographs in Helena’s apartment as her parents, Bruce and Selina Wayne. On the opposite wall was another couple, younger and dressed in fashions from the roaring ’20s. Helena explained that this was a portrait of her grandparents, Thomas and Martha Wayne. Bat looked at the couple in the portrait and saw a couple full of love and hope as he reflected on how their murder led to the creation of the Batman, and how his legacy was reflected in each of the other people in this room. He felt small for a moment, but only for a moment. He quickly suppressed any notion of trying to measure up the standard of the Waynes. The Lashes were of different stock, for better or for worse, and he wasn’t about to pass any judgments; despite his bravado, he feared he might not measure up.
Instead of continuing the unpleasant self-appraisal, he went over to the portrait of a handsome man who was probably in his thirties when it was first drawn. Bat thought he recognized the man from photos he had seen at the casino in Valonia, where Dick and Kara had held their wedding, but he wasn’t sure until he asked who the man in the picture was.
Helena told him that it was her great-uncle Philip, to which Bat Lash gave out a low, long whistle. Rachel Levine gave Bat a quizzical look as she asked how she knew about him; she didn’t figure that a man like Bat would know much about one of the twentieth century’s great captains of industry and said so.
Bat look at the others and replied, “This man is also one of the greatest gamblers of the twentieth century.”
Laughter followed Bat’s comment, and Helena said, “Bat, I think you have him confused with someone else. My great-uncle Philip was a very conservative man — very sweet, but very conservative.”
Rachel, who years ago had taken several college courses in business while studying dance, also spoke up, saying, “I don’t know how a man who could break strikes with an iron hand and fought the unionization with such zeal could be called sweet. He was a ruthless businessman. He certainly wasn’t a gambling man, either.”
Dick Grayson had a mirthful smile on his face at the exchange, because he knew of Philip’s yearly jaunts to Valonia and found Helena’s and the others’ reactions funny. Until he heard the vehemence of contempt from his newfound daughter about Philip’s reputation. He pursed his lips when he realized that Philip’s other side wasn’t known. That had been the way Philip wanted it when he was alive, but now that he had been gone for almost twenty years, it was perhaps time for the truth to come out.
Sonia and Jason rolled their eyes, because the last thing they wanted to hear about was a history lesson about some dead guy. Kara, who didn’t know Philip Wayne from Adam, was surprised to hear there was a member of the Wayne family with such an unsavory reputation, at least one who would have his portrait hanging in the same room as a portrait of Bruce and Selina. That Helena didn’t know about the man’s reputation as a gambler also intrigued the buxom blond.
Alfred shook his head sadly as he said, “Mistress Rachel, please believe me that Master Philip was a much better man than the one you’ve read about in college.”
“Yeah, I’ll bet,” she said. “My professor singled him out as one of the worst capitalists in the twentieth century. Given the reputation that Bruce Wayne has, I’m surprised his portrait is even here. I’m sorry, Helena, but everything I’ve ever read about your sweet uncle Philip says he was a bastard.”
Helena had become increasingly angry at Rachel’s pronouncements about her uncle, a man she remembered fondly as a sweet man who would often visit the manor while she was growing up and who doted on her. Philip Wayne was the closest thing she ever had to having a grandparent, and she loved the man very much.
Dick Grayson was once the United States ambassador to the Republic of South Africa and had been instrumental in helping that country end Apartheid through behind-the-scenes diplomacy between the white minority government and the black African National Congress. Using his diplomatic instincts, he could see a conflict about to explode between his daughter and the woman who was more like a baby sister to him than anything. He winced as he briefly thought over how he was going to settle this matter between these two women he loved. He looked over to his bride and saw that Kara was also nervous. Dick winked at her.
Smiling, he said, “Actually, Helena, Bat’s right — Philip was one of the greatest gamblers of the twentieth century. He only gambled one weekend a year, though, at the Valonia Casino Million-Pound Invitational Poker Tournament held every year since 1919. Except for the war years, Philip played every year and won a record twelve times. He never did any worse than break even. I know, because I was there a couple of times as his personal lawyer, and back in 1949, Bruce and I stopped an attempted robbery of the casino while the tournament was going on. He played under the alias of Wayne Phillips.”
Dick turned to his daughter and said, “As for what he did with those winnings, he always gave everything he won to charity, anonymously. That was Philip Wayne’s style, Rachel. He was secretly one of the world’s leading philanthropists, but he insisted that it all be done anonymously. Even when he was breaking the backs of those unions, he made sure that the families of the striking men had food on their plates and roofs over their heads. He did that with money out of his own pocket and always anonymously.”
Rachel frowned at Dick’s pronouncement and said, “That doesn’t make any sense. Why would he do those things? Why keep it anonymous?”
Alfred then spoke. “Because, my dear, Philip Wayne liked to maintain the image of an utterly ruthless businessman. He wasn’t, though. He was a dear, dear man. I remember how he and Master Bruce used to argue because Master Bruce wanted his uncle to receive the credit he deserved. But Philip Wayne said that it was a greater good when you did something helpful to someone and nobody knew about it.”
“I’m afraid that still doesn’t explain why he let himself have such a horrible reputation,” said Rachel.
“No, it doesn’t,” said Helena. “I remember asking my father about Uncle Philip’s reputation years after he died. I was in college, probably taking some of the same courses you took, Rachel. Daddy told me that Philip purposefully cultivated the reputation he had because he didn’t want anyone to see him as weak.”
“But why would he worry about being seen as weak?” asked Bat Lash. “Anybody who ever saw him at a card table would have known otherwise.”
“Same with his business decisions,” said Rachel.
Alfred and Dick both looked at Helena, who briefly nodded in the affirmative to Dick. It was a time for family secrets to be aired out into the open. “Philip Wayne died in 1970,” said Dick, “and he lived in a very different time than today. He had a secret that he took to the grave with him — that was the reason he never wanted to be perceived as weak. It was an obsession with him. I don’t think anyone who knew him ever knew the secret except for Bruce and the rest of us in the family. Philip Wayne was gay, and he would have been ruined socially and probably also in business if that had become known during his lifetime.”
Jason Todd had spent the majority of his life on the streets, where trash-talking was the norm, especially amongst teenage boys. He was only now learning about such things as tolerance, but his reaction to the revelation that the late Philip Wayne had been gay was evidence that his education still had a long ways to go. He looked up at the portrait and began, “You mean this guy in the picture was a fag?”
“Jason!” yelled a disapproving Dick Grayson, to which Jason quickly muttered an apology.
Bat Lash was grateful that Jason said something before he had managed to put his foot in his mouth, as he gauged both Dick’s and — more importantly to him — Helena’s reaction to the teenager’s comment. Helena was obviously shocked and hurt by it.
After an uncomfortable silence, Rachel spoke up. “I researched Philip Wayne’s history for an essay in college, and I never saw any mention that he was gay. The things I read seemed to indicate that he was even more of a playboy than his nephew Bruce was supposed to have been. That begs the question — who was Philip Wayne?”
“Well, why don’t we all have a seat, Miss Rachel. And Master Dick, Miss Helena, and I will try to answer that question, as I believe it will open your eyes and those of young master Jason and Miss Sonia,” said Alfred in a most diplomatic manner as he bade them all to sit and started passing out cups and saucers filled with either tea or coffee.
“Good idea, Alfred. I’ll start,” said Dick. “Philip Wayne was the older brother of Thomas Wayne, born in 1893. He was a lawyer who specialized in international business law. Except for a brief time during the First World War, he spent most of his adult life running the various businesses and corporations that are now called Wayne Industries. In fact, he built up that corporation into what it is today.
“Philip was a veteran of the Great War, later called World War One, as he volunteered and joined the famed French Lafayette Escadrille in 1916, a full two years before America joined the Allies against the Central Powers. He became an air ace and had a recorded eighteen kills in dogfights across the Western European Front. He dueled Manfred von Richthoven, better known as the Red Baron, and Hans von Hammer, the famed enemy ace nicknamed the Hammer from Hell. He lost both of those duels but escaped from the latter only with a leg wound that left him with a slight limp the rest of his life.
“After the war, he ran the day-to-day operations of what was to become Wayne Industries until 1963, when he came down with lung cancer. For most of his life, Philip smoked up to three packs of cigarettes a day. He survived the cancer until it returned in late 1969, and he died in the spring of 1970 in Paris.
Helena smiled sadly as she added, “That’s right, Dick. I just remembered that the last day I ever saw the dear man was on Thanksgiving Day in 1969, almost twenty years ago.”
Dick smiled at the memory and then continued. “Philip Wayne had a hard edge to him because he didn’t want anyone to know his secret. He also had a hard time relating to Bruce after Bruce’s parents were murdered and he became the boy’s guardian.”
All present at Wayne Manor knew the reason Bruce Wayne became the Batman, but only Dick, Alfred, and Helena had known that Philip Wayne was the man who raised him after his parents were murdered.
“I always found my father’s description of Philip to be inconsistent with the man I knew as a child,” said Helena Wayne.
“That’s because you knew him when he was an old man. Philip mellowed with age. There was also the fact that back in the ’20s and ’30s Philip thought it was paramount to keep that gruff, ruthless businessman reputation he was cultivating to hide his homosexuality,” replied Dick. “There’s no question that he loved you, Bruce, and your mother, but his ability to demonstrate that love only came only after a time.”
“What do you mean, Dick?” asked his new bride, Kara.
“Bruce was a genius, as is evident when you consider that he designed and built most of the gadgets he used as Batman all by himself. Well, with a little bit of help from me later on,” conceded the former Boy Wonder.
Helena, who thought of Dick as a big brother, knew that he was also highly intelligent. She had inherited a modicum of her father’s intelligence as well as her mother’s and was thus no slouch in the brains department, either. Truth be told, if anyone was going to be a super-hero without any super-powers, they had to be highly intelligent as well as an exceptionally gifted athlete. “Daddy was privately schooled at home until his parents were murdered but Uncle Philip sent him off to private schools.”
“And Master Bruce excelled as a student,” chimed in Alfred. “But as I understand from letters Master Philip would write my father Jarvis — who was the Wayne family butler at the time — he was a sad, lonely boy with a fierce anger just underneath the surface. Philip wrote my father because he was concerned. He knew that my father had known Master Bruce much better than he did. And he believed my father knew more about children since he was a father himself.”
“I don’t understand,” said Rachel. “The class differences between your father and Philip Wayne should have precluded him from confiding in Jarvis Beagle during that era.”
“And they would have if Philip Wayne was an ordinary man of his class, but he was not,” said Alfred.
“True, very true,” said Dick. “Philip had Bruce see a leading psychiatrist and a former colleague and friend to Bruce’s father, Dr. Lesley Tompkins, but the man wasn’t able to get Bruce out of his dominate melancholy demeanor. He did suggest that Philip take a more active role in the boy’s life, however.”
“Uncle Philip tried, but back then he was just too stiff,” said a smiling Helena Wayne. “He did buy daddy a horse named the King of Scotland. My father grew to love that horse. He often said that, after his parents died, riding and taking care of the King of Scotland was the one thing that gave him some moments of joy for the two years he had the horse. Dad had to have the horse be put down because he broke his leg.” Helena covered her mouth, smiling as she remembered the day, many years later, when Uncle Philip arrived with another horse when she was eight years old — her own, dearly loved horse named the Queen of Wales.
Dick continued, “Unfortunately, Bruce was inconsolable when the horse died, and both Philip and Dr. Tompkins were at loss as to what to do for the boy for several months until Philip decided to teach Bruce how to fly. In doing this, Philip was able to share his own love of flying with his young nephew. Bruce never had the same degree of joy when flying that Philip had, but the shared elation they had when they flew gave them a common bond and helped them to become close. It would also lead to Philip discovering that Bruce had become the Batman years later and healed a rift that grew between them after Bruce graduated from college.”