I was workin’ on a job when it happened. There I was, a much younger Tommy Monaghan, standing on a rooftop in Gotham City in 1939, with one foot on the ledge and watching, just waiting near a warehouse till the wee hours in the morning. One of the old mob bosses was gonna meet with one that was up and coming. A third party hired me to whack ’em both. ‘Course, it didn’t go as smooth as it should.
As two limousines pulled up, I mumbled, “Time to get to work.” See, I was to make this personal, in the meaning of up close and… The guards weren’t that much of a problem. And there weren’t any in the building; the two bosses wanted this to be something of trust. Whatever. Makes my job easier.
“Hey, gents. Nice night out, ain’t it?” I said as I stepped out of my hiding place, both guns pointed at the bosses. The two didn’t make a move, which was smart of them, since they were dealing with the underworld assassin called the Hitman. I was the one who coined that term, y’know, though it didn’t really catch on as a generic term ’til the ’70s.
I had everything right there; witty banter will be the death of me, you know? Anyway, I decided that I was going to chat and watch the fellows sweat for a bit. I was young and stupid then. So sue me. That’s when the trouble showed up.
A black shadow appeared from the rooftop windows. Seconds later, a figure dropped through them. It landed on the floor on the opposite side of the table.
It was the Bat-Man.
I gotta say, it floored me. Back then, there had only been a few sightings of the Bat, and there was no general consensus in Gotham about whether this Bat-Man was real or just another urban myth that had popped up in the couple of months. I was as surprised as anybody would have been if they’d just learned that Dracula or Santa Claus were real. “Well… he does exist,” I said jovially. “Heh. You learn something new every day.”
The Bat-Man just sneered. “Drop the weapons, and you won’t get hurt,” he said in a low growl. Apparently, he wanted to keep physical confrontation to a minimum.
“No way, Bat-guy,” I replied. “I’m gettin’ ten grand to do these two schmucks in. Ain’t no one gonna stop me.”
Before anything else was done, one of the mob bosses spoke up. “Perhaps I can offer something to the table?” the dapper man said. This was Manko Manicini, the fastest gun in the world.
BADAM! He drops the other boss, who falls down dead with a stupid look on his face, completely unaware that he’d just been killed. The dapper man, meanwhile, was casually putting away a Colt Peacemaker. No lie — he was that fast. Never saw anything like it in my life. I knew right then and there, I was most likely gonna die. So I started saying every prayer I could remember and asked every saint I knew to help with ’em. And it got worse.
A bunch of goons for the man who shot the other burst through the door. “We heard the shot, Manko!” one of them exclaims.
“Kill the Bat, and kill the assassin!” this Manko screamed, and his goons open fire with B.A.R.s and tommy-guns. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: Browning Automatic Rifle.]
But… something happened. Well, something had to, or I wouldn’t be telling you this story. I learned that the Bat-guy wasn’t a rat fink.
The Bat-Man leaped over the table toward me, and much to my surprise, he grabbed me and ducked behind some crates.
“You… you just saved my hide from being plugged. I, sir, am forever your servant,” I said solemnly.
The Bat-Man just gave me a glare. “Save it. This is not the time, nor the place.”
“OK. Looks like we gotta work together to get outta this pickle,” I says, which in retrospect was a bit obvious.
“Hmmm… can you handle the boys with guns?” the Bat-Man asked me.
“Yeah… sure,” I answered, startled.
“Good. But no killing. This Manko is mine.”
“Well, then you’ll need this.” And I handed the Bat-Man a .357 Magnum revolver.
“I don’t do guns,” he said.
“You saw what that guy did. This won’t even the playing field, but it’ll give you a chance.” With some hesitation, the Bat-Man took the gun.
As we prepared to face the ravenous jaws of sudden death, I said one last prayer, a Hail Mary, crossed myself, and a saint’s preserve us for good measure. Then we charged.
With a cry, I leaped from behind the crates, doing my best to dodge bullets and shoot the guns out of the hands of the goons. Silently, the Bat-Man sprinted from the cover, dodging the goons and trying to draw the fire of Manko.
I started reciting the Lord’s prayer, since I figured, by that point, it couldn’t hurt to do so. “Our Father, who art in Heaven…” And all around me, guns clattered to the ground as bullets met hands.
Suddenly, I felt something barely graze my forehead, and all went black.
The last hurrah… in vain, it seemed. When I came to, I was tied to a support column. The Bat-guy and Manko, his goons having bugged out for whatever reason, were facing each other, ten paces apart. And the Bat-guy was wearing a holster.
“It’s good you should see this, Mr. Monaghan. A nearly authentic shootout. Pity you shall die afterwards,” Manko said, and sighed.
“One!” Manko yelled, signalling the start of the shootout. But there was no reaction from the Bat-Man.
“Quiet, hmmm? No matter. Gunfighters superior to you couldn’t defeat me.” Manko counted the next number. “Two!”
“Let me try…” was the Bat-Man’s reply.
“You’ll go out with honor, then? It shall be an honor, killing you. You… are a most honorable opponent. Three!” At this point, I shut my eyes on reflex, since I knew what was coming next.
There were two shots so close together that they sounded like an echoing shot in a small room. And there was a scream. I opened my eyes again.
To this day, I still don’t believe it. And I’ve been kicking myself in the pants ever since. I missed seeing that shot. It had to be worth nearly a million dollars in gold.
“I don’t believe it,” I started to say as I strained against my bonds. “There is no way in burning Hell you could have made that shot. But hot damn, was it a good one!”
Manko was on the ground, clutching his hand, a good portion of it blown away, while the rest had shrapnel from his gun in it. He made his getaway, holding his ruined appendage.
The Bat-Man let Manko get away, instead coming over to me and cutting away the ropes that held me.
“We make a pretty good team, if I do say so myself,” I told him as I got up and dusted myself off. But without even looking, I could feel the glare that I was getting. “Or not. Be seeing you, I guess.” I then made my way to the exit.
And then the Bat-Man spoke. “Monaghan… tonight we were allies. When we meet next, we won’t.” With that being said, the Bat made his getaway.
“And that’s my story. Good, huh?” Tommy Monaghan said, having finished his tale. The reaction he received from Red Robin was familiar.
“What does this have to do with me?” the hero asked.
“Everything,” Tommy replied. “Manko Manicini’s back. Saw him a couple days ago. Got his hand fixed somehow, and now he probably wants revenge. Since the Bat-guy’s dead, you’ll most likely do.”
“I’ll take it into account. Now, why are you telling me this? What’s in it for you?”
“First, I’m not doin’ this for you. I’m doin’ it for the Bat-guy,” Tommy said sternly. “I owe him from that night. I figure, with warnin’ you, I’m all square for when it’s my time. Second, don’t ask for my help — you won’t get it. This ain’t my problem. It’s yours.” He then got up and motioned to Tammy.
“C’mon, we’re goin’ home. I did what I had to do.” Knowing that there was no sense in trying to object, she and her father left the deli. Shortly after that, Red Robin and Batwing also left. The night was still young.
When the dynamic duo made it back to the Batcave, Jason Todd finally brought up the nerve to talk about what had happened in the deli.
“You believe him?” the teenager asked. It was an incredulous story, and almost seemed too good to be true.
“His story might have some merit,” Dick Grayson replied. “I do know that Bruce carried a gun with him on a few occasions in his first year as Batman, when he was still called the Bat or the Bat-Man. But the gun he used wasn’t a .357 Magnum; it was a Colt M1911 like the one Monaghan carries, which he seized from a gunman hired by Doctor Death. (*) He later used this gun to kill the Monk with silver bullets, and he used it when he fought the Scarlet Horde shortly after, though only to destroy a machine in that instance. (*) And he also used it once to alert the police during his first encounter with Hugo Strange.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Batman Meets Doctor Death,” Detective Comics #29 (July, 1939), Batman, Detective Comics #32 (October, 1939), “The Batman Wars Against the Dirigible of Doom,” Detective Comics #33 (November, 1939), and Batman, Detective Comics #36 (February, 1940).]
“I remember seeing a newspaper photo of Batman holding a smoking gun in an old casebook,” said Jason. “The newspaper report made it out like Batman used a gun all the time back in the old days.”
“That’s not true,” explained Dick. “An unscrupulous reporter snapped that photo to make it seem like Batman was a murderous, gun-crazy outlaw, when it couldn’t be further from the truth. (*) In fact, in all cases he only used a gun to kill twice, the first to kill the undead vampire known as the Monk, and the second to kill a deformed mental patient that Professor Strange had turned into a giant monster, which was a mercy killing, if anything. In that instance he had mounted a machine-gun on the first model of the Batplane. (*) Still, after that night, Batman never used a gun again. I joined his war on crime shortly after.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See the splash page of The Batman, Detective Comics #35 (January, 1940) and 3rd story, Batman #1 (Spring, 1940).]
Dick frowned and continued. “So if the Hitman’s story is true, it would have predated Batman’s use of the one gun he took from Doctor Death’s henchman. This story might explain why Bruce compromised his number one rule about never using guns, until he later decided that enough was enough and never used one again after killing Professor Strange’s man-monster. But I won’t blindly trust the word of an assassin, retired though he may be.”
“I dunno… what if this Manko guy is really after you?” Jason said. He was really concerned. The way Tommy had told the story made this Manko Manicini seem like bad news.
“I have no doubt that Manko is after me. I do, however, doubt the feats that this man supposedly performed. Not if the only witness is a seventy-year-old glorified gunman,” Dick said in a calm demeanor. He wasn’t about to be scared from some story told by an old man trying relive his glory days.
And that was that… or it would have been.
“Huh. I never noticed that before,” Jason said sometime later, looking into one of the many shadows in the cave. Dick turned to see what Jason had discovered. It was a pedestal, all black. On it rested a burgundy box.
Feeling curious, Dick approached and opened the box. Inside were two things: an old and worn leather holster, and an old gun — a .357 Magnum. Five of the six chambers were loaded, while the sixth had an empty brass.
Also, there was a single word, a name, engraved on the grip: Monaghan.
Jason Todd sank into the comfortable couch in the family room of stately Wayne Manor. He’d had the roughest day, and the tons of homework that he had didn’t help, either. He was just going to sit down and watch some Captain Carrot and be done with it. The opening credits had just started when he was joined by Dick Grayson’s fiancée Karen Starr, the Kryptonian known as Kara Zor-L, alias Power Girl. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: This story takes place a few months before Batman Family: The Wedding March.]
“Hey, Karen. Just catchin’ todays episode of CCAHAZC. Wanna join me?” Jason asked when the blonde entered.
“You finish all your homework?” asked Karen. “And where’s Dick?”
“In the cave. And yes, I did,” Jason replied. The show started where yesterday’s left off, with Alley-Kat-Abra and Yankee Poodle in one heck of a fix, what with Fastback and Rubberduck being incapacitated. Then the screen went black.
“What?! Aw, come on. This is a new episode, too!” Jason yelled. Then the screen came back to life. But it showed a very old man is a very stylish suit sitting at a desk.
“Am I on?” the man asked. There was an offscreen reply of yes.
“Good. Citizens of Gotham, I am Manko Manicini, the fastest gun in the world. Several decades ago, I was defeated by the mysterious Batman of your city. He is dead. But his heir still breathes. I challenge you, heir to the cowl. Meet me at warehouse fifty-two, the same location where I was defeated, and face me. You have six hours. If you do not show up, a wave of violence the likes of which this city has never known nor ever will for years to come will well up and drown it. We will see who will live and who will burn…” With that, the screen cut off again. Seconds later, it was back on, showing the program already in progress.
“This… isn’t good. I’ll… I’ll be right back.” Jason said, heading to the Batcave’s in-home entrance. When he reached the main level, he was surprised to see Dick already getting suited up.
“Get dressed, Jason. We have work to do,” Dick Grayson said. Jason noticed the addition of the aged leather holster that was once attached to the Batman’s original utility belt, as well as the old .357 Magnum.
“I guess you got the message. And what’s with the gun?” Jason asked. Dick drew it out and stared at it.
“If Bruce could use one in a manner that doesn’t cause death, then so can I. I’m also hoping that it’ll give me a psychological edge,” Dick said, reholstering the weapon. Jason nodded and did as he was told. A few minutes later, the sleek Red Racer left, headed to the industrial district and toward a destiny that neither occupant knew.