He had been gone for nearly fifty years, and his home had changed. There were new places and new faces, while a good deal of the old ones were gone. He would miss them, but he’d move on. For a start, he decided to try one of the new eateries that had opened while he was gone, a Moroccan place that served some very fine food.
He was just finishing his meal when something happened, something that was all too common in the Cauldron: a robbery.
That was the thing about the Cauldron. The police couldn’t care less about those who lived there. To be completely honest, the police that frequented the Cauldron were just as bad as the gangs. For some reason, the Cauldron never could support real gangs, which was probably due to everyone knowing everybody else to some degree. When Bruce Wayne was police commissioner, he tried to change things, and he did in the short time before his death. The police didn’t hassle the citizens anymore. But they still couldn’t care less.
The three men that entered the restaurant, wearing green ski masks, gloves, and sunglasses, were immediately recognized as outsiders. They were college age, for one thing, while the gangs that the Cauldron grew were usually just school gangs, usually no older than sixteen. More outsiders taking advantage of the civil neglect.
“Awright, mister, listen up! Unless you want some bad things to be happening, I suggest that you empty the register into my bag. Got that?” The speaker was obviously the leader. He had a green bag and a Beretta M9.
That was enough for the man. He hadn’t come back for the first time in ages just so his dinner could be interrupted by a robbery. He took out a cigar and his lighter, put the cigar in his mouth, and stood up.
“If I were you, boy, I’d leave the money and get out of here,” the man said, forming his words around the cigar. The leader of this group, a man named Marshall, turned and faced the bold man.
“Oh? And what’re you gonna do about it?” Marshall asked.
The man opened up his jacket. There was a belt around his waist, which held fifty bullets. The belt had a holster. In that was a Colt Peacemaker.
“I think I can do plenty.”
“You think you’re going to scare me with some prop?” said Marshall. “I should shoot ya for being such a moron.”
The man’s only reply was to bring his lighter up to his cigar and light it.
“In fact, I will.” Marshall started to bring up his gun, and the man’s eyes narrowed.
What happened next was completely unexpected. The bold man who challenged the gangster dropped his lighter.
The lighter had barely started to fall when the Peacemaker had found itself in the old man’s hand. The bullet hit Marshall right between the eyes, shattering his sunglasses and killing him. To finish it off, the man then caught the lighter at chest level by slapping it into his left palm using his right thumb, the Peacemaker already resting once more in its holster. The old man then turned to the other two.
“Leave, if you do not wish to join him.” The other two did, as if the Devil himself was grabbing at their heels. With that, the man left the building and seemed to disappear into the Cauldron.
And in the shocked crowd, there was one single thought that one singular man was thinking: Manko’s back.
“This was what was so important that you had to drag me from New York? Sometimes, Pop, I dunno.”
The complainer was a woman of mixed African and Irish descent. She wore combat fatigues, combat boots, and a black T-shirt, though the shirt was hidden by the trenchcoat she had wrapped around herself. A pair of dark John Lennon-style sunglasses rested on her face, and a cigarette hung from the corner of her mouth. She was staring almost balefully from her perch on the air-conditioning unit at her companion, an old man dressed in a sharp suit, a fedora on his head, smoked glasses on his face, and the stub of a cigar in his mouth. His own trenchcoat flapped in the light wind.
“You know, your brothers never complain as much as you,” the man replied.
“Yeah, well, they didn’t have our special gifts, did they? Besides, you never took them up to the roof of the Grand Marquis Imperial Hotel to deface a spotlight. Speaking of which, the paint is starting to cook off,” the woman said, coming down from her perch. She wasn’t a very happy camper.
“We needed the spotlight to make a signal. And hopefully it won’t take much longer.” The man looked up, getting an eyeful of the rather badly painted R that was being projected onto the clouds from one of the hotel spotlights.
“Still don’t see why I have to be up here freezing my gorgeous butt off with you,” the woman mumbled.
“Why, you ask? Because I needed someone to back me up. That I could trust. And if a man can’t trust his own kid, who can he trust?” As he talked, a smirk formed on the man’s lips.
“I agree wholeheartedly.” At that moment, the individual these two had been waiting for stepped out of his hiding spot.
“Holy–! How long were you there?,” the woman said, shocked by the sudden appearance of Red Robin. “You almost gave me a heart attack.”
“Long enough. Now, who are you, and what do you two want?” Red Robin replied.
The man walked up to the woman and put his hand on her shoulder. “My name is Tommy Monaghan,” he replied, another trademark grin forming on his lips. “This charming tart is my daughter Tammy. And as for what we want? To warn you. Something bad just came into Gotham, and I thought that you needed to be told.”
“Tommy Monaghan? The Hitman? I thought you were dead,” Red Robin replied.
“Well, the reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated. Now, back to the point–”
“You’ve killed a good number of people over the years — a very good number,” Red Robin interrupted.
“Awww… cripes. OK, you’re the good guy, I’m the bad guy. But right now, there’s an even worse guy. And I really don’t wanna get physical,” Tommy said, almost mumbling. And at this point, things started to get bad. If Tommy’d had any foresight, he would’ve left Tammy home, since she now happened to draw her gun — a Luger P08 pistol, to be precise. She liked German firearms, just like her mother.
“Uh, sorry, but no.” This voice was from behind the two hit persons and was a bit younger. Batwing took a few cautious steps into the light, a batarang ready to fly. But he ended up peering down the barrel of Tommy’s Colt M1911 revolver, which caused Red Robin to ready his own batarang.
“Well, I guess this is the part that we kill each other, then, eh? But where would that get us?” Tommy said, his words forming around the stub of his cigar. “Nah… I’m gonna be the bigger man and end this before it gets outta hand,” Tommy added, bringing down his pistol. Red Robin didn’t move. Neither did Tammy or Batwing.
“C’mon, I’m sure you can be the other mature adult… Dick.” Tommy smirked as he said this, and Red Robin did lower his batarang.
“I’m listening,” Red Robin said after a few moments of silence.
Tommy shook his head. “Not here. I’m an old man. I know a place where we can talk at that’s both warm and private. Just keep up.”
“Rotzberg’s Delicatessen?” Red Robin said, eyeing the location that Tommy had chosen to discuss their business.
“Yeah. Open twenty-four hours, six days a week. And they have the best sauerkraut in the city,” Tommy said, entering the shop. Cautiously, Red Robin and Batwing followed, with Tammy bringing up the rear.
It was a nice shop, old and rustic — and empty, save for the staff and a drunk asleep at his booth, a half-eaten sandwich by his head.
“OK, kids, go find us a nice secluded table. And… Jay, is it? You keep your hands off my daughter, or I’ll remove them from both her and you,” Tommy said. He looked to Red Robin and motioned to the counter.
“How do you know that?” Red Robin asked. Tommy looked at him cockeyed.
“Your names?” Tommy replied. “That’s easy; I can read minds, on a limited basis. Just skimmed the top of yours and his to pick up your names. Any deeper, and my head hurts.”
“Hey, Tommy! Whatcha doin’ here at a time like this? Don’ you have curfew?” This voice was old and came from the counter. The speaker was Mr. Rotzberg, the second-generation owner of the delicantessen.
“Felt like a bite to eat, Rotzy,” said Tommy, using the affectionate nickname that all the regulars called him. “Had some friends, too. Where’s the ol’ battle axe?” He was almost juvenile in the way he talked.
“Ah, she’s not here. She don’ like workin’ the late hours, so I let her stay home.” said Rotzy with a shrug.
“Well, you send her my love, you hear?” Tommy smirked as he spoke, obviously longtime friends with the man.
“Will do. So, you gonna have a regular order? Or you feelin’ for change?” Rotzy asked, bringing out an order pad.
“The regular will do. One open-faced Reuben on marbled rye with extra ‘kraut, corned beef, and cheese. One hot pastrami sandwich on a Kaiser roll with red flannel hash. And two San Antonios,” Tommy ordered. He then turned to Red Robin. “You want anything?” Tommy asked. “I’m buying.” After several moments of silence, he turned back to Rotzy.
“Four dachshunds, with everything. And two glasses of water,” Tommy finished, then paid for the order. With that, he headed to the table that Batwing and Tammy Monaghan were sitting at. The two were scowling at each other. When the two adults had sat down, Red Robin spoke up.
“This had better be important, Mr. Monaghan. I don’t like to waste my time.”
“The only people that call me Mr. Monaghan are Father McAllister and Sister Merriam. So, please, call me Tommy. And wasting your time I am not. Trust me, you’ll want to hear this — but after I eat. Don’t like to tell stories on an empty stomach.”
After a few minutes, the order came, delivered by a greasy-looking adolescent. He sat the tray on the table and looked at both Red Robin and Batwing. “Before I go, let me say that your costumes are so righteous. Rock on!” the waiter said, crossing his arms in front of his chest, his hands forming a symbol of rocker endearment. After the boy had left, both Tammy and Tommy started to dig in. Red Robin didn’t acknowledge the food.
As for Batwing, he was looking the two hot dogs that were his. They smelled heavenly and looked just as good. He could feel his mouth watering. Come to think of it, he was pretty hungry.
“Go ahead,” Red Robin said with a sigh, having a good idea what Batwing wanted. Grinning, Batwing dived right in. Soon, the three people were done, and the table was cleared.
“Now that you have eaten, perhaps you can get to what you needed to tell me,” Red Robin said.
Tommy nodded and started to chomp on another stubby cigar. “Well, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was a dark and stormy night…”