Batman Family: Thanksgiving, Chapter 3: The Secret of Batman’s Butler

by Dave Barnowski

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Rachel Levine looked at her newfound father and was amazed that he had such an interesting life. “So you became Bruce Wayne’s ward only because Philip Wayne decided that it was best for you?”

“No, Rachel,” said Dick Grayson, “because Philip Wayne decided it was best for Bruce.”

Jason Todd looked at his mentor and asked, “How did the Batman ever figure out that Philip knew his secret identity?”

“It was the same year that I became Bruce’s ward and just a few weeks after I had my debut as Robin,” said Dick.

“Actually, Dick, Daddy never discovered that Uncle Philip knew; Philip told him because he was being blackmailed,” said Helena Wayne with a smile. “I read Daddy’s old case file diaries, too.” (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See Batman: Times Past, 1941: Secrets.]

Dick smiled. “That’s true. I didn’t know that Philip knew until Bruce told me himself around Christmas that year. I didn’t know about that actual case until Bruce showed me his diary about it and several other cases that he thought I was too young to know about until I was eighteen.”

“You’re kidding, right?” said Jason.

“No, Jason, I’m not. Different times, remember. Bruce protected me from a lot of Gotham City’s underworld, especially when he was involved in vice crimes. Understand that in 1940, performing homosexual acts were illegal in this state, and Philip could have gone to jail if anyone knew about some of his activities. He would have most certainly been disgraced and disbarred, and most if not all of his power and influence would have disappeared if it was publicly known that he was gay.”

Jason let out a whistle at that piece of information. “So who was blackmailing him?”

“An American of French descent who had found out about Philip’s homosexuality through a former lover of Philip’s,” explained Dick. “He blackmailed the poor fellow. When the despicable rogue realized that he had just about drained the poor fellow dry, he beat the man to a pulp until he gave up the name of another rich homosexual man. He gave up Philip’s name.”

“But the man wasn’t able to get any incriminating photographs of Uncle Philip until he made his yearly jaunt to Valonia and Paris,” added Helena.

Bat Lash then said, “Yep. He was at every annual tournament in Valonia except for the war years. But you say he went to Paris every year, too?”

“That’s right, Bat. I later found out that it was only in Paris that Uncle Philip allowed himself to be himself.”

Kara Zor-L then said, “Dick, you said Philip was in Paris involved in delicate negotiations with the French government when Thomas and Martha Wayne were murdered, and now you’re saying he went to France every year to let his hair down, so to speak.”

At Kara’s statement, Helena and Dick looked uncomfortably at each other. The room was silent until Dick said, “There’s no evidence in Philip’s business papers that there was any business negotiations going on at that time, Kara, but that’s what Philip always claimed. Personally, I think that he said it so much that he actually came to believe it himself.”

Rachel Levine changed the subject by asking, “When was Philip in France that year, because if I remember my history correctly, France fell to the Germans in 1940.”

“Yes, it did, and that’s how the blackmailer was able to get the incriminating photographs against Philip,” said Dick.

“That doesn’t make any sense,” said Kara.

“Actually, it does, Kara,” said Rachel. “You see, the Nazis hated gays as much as they hate the Jews. There must have been a panic in the gay community in Paris, just like there was in the Jewish community.”

Kara just shook her head, as she had heard about the horrors the Nazis had perpetrated on the Jews from her fellow JSAers but hadn’t heard that they also did the same to the gays.

“Right, Rachel,” said her biological father. “Philip spent millions getting hundreds of gay men and women out of France before the fall. He also tried to help as many Jewish and Gypsy families as he could. He was a wealthy and important American businessman with lots of political connections and therefore was in a position to help. So he did, but that also put him in a vulnerable position. Bruce never saw the incriminating evidence, but Philip had a lover in Paris. That man was dead within several months of the German takeover because he refused to leave. Bruce surmised that the photos were of the two of them.”

Rachel had been to the Holocaust Museum in Israel and said, “I don’t remember Philip’s name among the names of Gentiles who helped the Jews at the Holocaust Museum in Israel, Dick.”

“You wouldn’t, Miss Rachel,” said Alfred. “It was Philip Wayne’s way. He did all his good works anonymously.”

“That’s not right, Alfred. All these good things you three have said about a man who today is remembered only as an incredibly ruthless businessman — he deserves a better legacy. I researched everything I could on the man for a college paper, and these things aren’t known at all.”

“I’m afraid my hands are tied, Rachel,” said Dick. “I was Philip’s lawyer, and I have to honor his wishes.” He then turned to Helena as he said, “However, if his heir wants the world to know about the other side of Philip Wayne and publish his personal private papers, I’d have no choice but to present them to the public.”

Helena smiled at Dick as she said, “Let’s talk about how to do that next week, Dick.”

Sonia Wayne, Helena’s adopted daughter, asked, “Whatever happened to the blackmailer?”

“He and his gang died accidentally when they fought Bruce.”

“All of them?” questioned Jason.

“That’s not quite true, Dick,” said Helena. “Uncle Philip killed two of them when they broke into his house. He was a dead shot with a pistol, as he practiced almost every single day after his brother’s murder. And just for the record, the others did die, but accidentally. The mastermind slipped off a balcony in a fight with Bruce. One gang member was shot by another and then was hit by a car as he fled from the Batman.”

“How convenient,” said a dubious Bat Lash.

Dick said heatedly, “Look, I’ll admit to anyone that the Batman killed criminals on a few separate occasions while fighting them back in his earliest days under the cape and cowl. But by the time Bruce took me in, we were making a concerted effort not to engage in lethal combat. Believe me, Bat, we succeeded for the most part. Regrettably, every once in a while we’ve failed, but that was rare.”

“Actually, Bat, Daddy told Uncle Philip that he didn’t kill anymore before he took the case. Uncle Philip didn’t want anyone killed; he only wanted the photos, as he believed that he had built a sturdy enough reputation that any blackmailer wouldn’t have been believed without proof.”

Bat nodded as he said, “I didn’t mean anything by what I said. I apologize.”

“Apology accepted,” said Dick.

“So was Philip a major part of your life after that, Dick?” asked his new bride.

“Yes and no, Kara. I mean he was always around, but he left Bruce and I alone except when he brought Alfred to America serendipitously.”

What?!” said more than half the people in the room as they all turned on the Wayne family’s loyal retainer.

“How — how long have you known, Master Dick?” asked Alfred Beagle, shocked.

“Bruce knew within a week of your coming to work for us, old friend. Your story didn’t ring true, even though it had a grain of truth to it.”

Alfred smiled as he thought of Bruce Wayne and added, “And when you’re the world’s greatest detective and there is something doesn’t sound right — you investigate until you have found the truth.”

Dick silently nodded at his old friend.

“Come on, guys, tell us this big secret!” said Jason, who was thoroughly enjoying the story of this man, whose portrait he had seen on the wall of this room many times but had never known anything about before today.

“Yes, Alfred, please do tell us,” said Helena, who didn’t know this part of the story, either.

“Well, Master Dick has already touched on it when he told you all how Master Philip suggested that Master Bruce hire some domestic help, and Master Bruce rebuffed the idea. Evidently, Master Philip broached the subject again during his awful blackmailing ordeal. Master Bruce again said no, but as you have no doubt realized by now, Philip Wayne was not a man to be denied.

“As has been said, Master Philip was gay and therefore sensitive to that type of scandal, and he knew that sooner or later people would start to talk about Master Bruce living in this big house alone with a young lad, without even any servants around. Master Philip also knew that we servants of the rich gossip about our masters as much as they gossip about themselves. He knew that if an absolutely trustworthy gentleman’s gentleman was in Master Bruce’s employ, said butler would squash any rumor by telling the domestics of Master Bruce’s peers of his honorable relationship with Master Dick, and they in turn would pass the word to their own employers.

“The problem was that Master Bruce did have a secret that he didn’t want anyone to know. He had only shared the fact that he was the Batman with Master Dick. Master Philip found out despite Master Bruce’s best efforts to keep the knowledge from him.”

“Alf, you haven’t told us anything we don’t already know,” complained Jason.

“Well, young Master Jason, Master Philip wrote to my father Jarvis and explained the problem, minus the part about Master Bruce being the Batman. Master Philip actually asked my father — who was quite an old man by then — to come back to America and become Master Bruce’s butler, because Master Philip knew that Master Bruce would not refuse my father. My father refused Master Philip’s request, however, because he was not in the best of health. And there was the matter of the war. My father was very active in the home guard, and country came first.”

“And…?” said Jason.

“I was in the Battle of France as a member of the BEF.”

“BEF?” questioned Jason.

“British Expeditionary Force. I was wounded at Dunkirk and was cashiered after a year-long convalescence.”

“I didn’t know that you were a veteran of the war, Alfred,” said Helena.

“Yes, well, I — I did my part, Miss,” said a blushing Alfred, as he hoped that Master Dick wouldn’t mention the Victoria’s Cross medal he earned in France on the day he was wounded. Seeing the older man’s discomfort at discussing his war record, Dick kept quiet, much to Alfred’s relief.

“Unfortunately, that convalescence took well over a year, and I gained a considerable amount of weight that I would not be able to shed for a few years. My wound also cashiered me out of the Royal Army, because I was unfit for duty. That’s when my father approached me about coming to America. There was, however, the matter of the war. British civilians were not allowed to cross the Atlantic without governmental approval, and Philip Wayne managed to streamline the process. I went to him first, and he told me about the vicious rumors that were starting about his beloved nephew. He asked me to come here and take up the duties of butler. He knew Master Bruce would keep me on because of who my father was. Master Bruce and I had met years earlier on the first Christmas after his father and mother had died, when the wound was still fresh.”

“Because of the difficulties involving Transatlantic voyages during the war, your story didn’t ring totally true to Bruce,” said Dick. “Alfred told us that he had been nothing more than a music hall actor before traveling here to the States, but Bruce didn’t fully believe your story, Alfred, because he didn’t think a mere actor would have had the influence necessary to make such a trip at that time just for employment as a butler. (*) We also thought, based on your bravery, that you would have stayed in England and fought for your mother country in her time of need at least until the war was over. And that led to his discovery of the truth — that you had fought and been injured for your country.”

[(*) Editor’s note: See “Here Comes Alfred,” from Batman #16 (April-May, 1943).]

“Did Bruce ever confront Philip Wayne about these manipulations?” asked Rachel. “And why didn’t he fire Alfred once he discovered the truth?”

“I don’t know if the two ever talked about how Alfred came into our employ, but as to why we kept him…” Dick walked over to the man who had been the Wayne family’s only servant for over forty-five years and put his arm around the older man’s shoulders. “Alfred became like a member of the family within a week of his arrival,” he said. “Both Bruce and I came to love this dear old chap very, very quickly. And the fact that he was able to act with discretion in accordance with Philip’s wishes was a good quality for Batman’s butler to have.”

Alfred blushed at Dick’s show of affection and quietly said, “Thank you, Master Dick.”

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