Secret Files: Batman
Times Past, 1924
It is Bruce Wayne’s first Christmas since the death of his parents earlier that year, and he feels utterly lost. Jarvis Beagle, the Wayne family butler, takes him to visit England in the hopes that a different environment might help cheer up the boy. But will it be the butler’s son, an actor named Alfred, who leaves the future Batman with this year’s best Christmas memories?
December 23rd, 1924:
A biting evening wind carried the icy spray of the North Atlantic over the railing of the S.S. Metropolitan and into the face of a small boy. Pulling a hand sheathed in a black lambskin glove from his pocket, he wiped the stinging salt from his tear-filled eyes. He never noticed the approach of his English traveling companion.
“Have you seen their faces among the waves, Master Bruce?”
Bruce Wayne wiped more tears from his red-rimmed eyes and nodded. “The dark waves look like her hair, and the small chunks of ice make me think of the pearls she was wearing that night.”
The Englishman, a portly gentleman who had served as faithful butler to the Wayne family since shortly after the end of the Big One, put his arm around the boy’s shoulder. Bruce leaned against him and began to cry.
“I miss them, Jarvis.” Bruce’s little body shook as much with anguish as it did with cold. “I really, really do.”
Jarvis Beagle knelt down and pulled his young master into his arms. He held the child close and let him cry as he had so often since that fateful June evening. As he cried, Jarvis picked him up and carried him back to their stateroom.
December 24th, 1924:
Steel-gray clouds filled the late afternoon Liverpool skies as the passengers of the S.S. Metropolitan disembarked.
Bruce held tight to Jarvis’ hand as they walked down the gangplank toward the throng of people waiting for family and friends. They were only a few yards into the crowd when a young man in his mid-twenties caught Jarvis’ attention.
“Master Bruce,” Jarvis said with a smile, “allow me to introduce Alfred Beagle, my son.”
Alfred, who for all the world looked to be a younger version of his father, smiled at the boy and bowed at the waist. “Young Master Wayne.”
“H’lo,” Bruce said sheepishly.
The younger Beagle turned his attention back to his father. “Your luggage has been collected and placed in the motorcar.”
Jarvis raised his eyebrow and smiled at his son. “A motorcar?”
“You will love it, Father,” Alfred said as he led them through the crowd. “It’s a 1922 Austin 7 Box Tourer.”
By the sound of his son’s voice, Jarvis knew that his son had worked hard to get the money to purchase the motorcar. Having long ago decided not to become a butler like his father and his father’s father before him, Alfred had been plying his trade as an actor in the music halls for only a few years now, and most stage actors did not make much money. Jarvis didn’t try to hide his pride.
Bruce noticed the widening smile on the man’s face; it was the first time he had seen that smile since before the death of his parents.
Twenty minutes later, Alfred was pulling away from the docks and heading toward home.
December 25th, 1924:
Dawn was still a few hours away when Alfred was awakened by an unfamiliar sound. It only took a few seconds for him to realize the source of the sound. Without using the lamp by his bed, he pulled on his robe and stepped over to his brother Wilfred’s bed, now being used by Bruce.
The little boy was softly crying in his sleep.
When his father had written home with the terrible news of the Wayne murders, the Beagle family was both shocked and outraged at what had happened. Their hearts went out to the poor child left parentless.
Alfred sat down on the edge of the bed and began to lightly rub the child’s back. Bruce’s eyes flickered open, and he looked up at the young man.
“It’s OK, young Master Wayne,” Alfred whispered, “tears are God’s way of helping you wash away the pain.”
“I still miss them,” Bruce said softly.
“And I’m sure that they miss you.” Alfred used the sleeve of his robe to wipe away the little boy’s tears.
Bruce slid closer to Alfred and snuggled up against him. The young man pulled the covers up around the boy’s shoulders and gave him a sad smile.
“Try to get some sleep,” Alfred said. “If you need me, I’ll be right here.”
Bruce closed his eyes and was soon asleep. When he awoke a few hours later, Alfred was still by his side.
As the few presents that surrounded the Christmas tree were passed out, Bruce sat silently in the bedroom. At the sound of the door opening, he looked up and saw Alfred standing there.
“What are you doing in here?” the young man asked.
“You are missing the presents. Father Christmas even left a few for you,” Alfred said as he sat on the edge of the bed.
“Presents for me?” Bruce asked.
“Of course,” Alfred said, smiling. “You didn’t think that the old man would forget about you, did you?”
Truthfully, Bruce was positive that Santa Claus had forgot him. He remembered his father telling him about the children in the orphanages that didn’t get anything for Christmas, and he had assumed that, since he was now an orphan, he wouldn’t be getting anything, either.
Alfred held out his hand. “Come on. Let’s go see what he brought you.”
Bruce took the young man’s hand, and they went into the living room.
“There you are,” Jarvis said as he set a small stack of presents in front of an empty chair.
“Are all of those mine?” Bruce asked.
“They sure are,” Alfred said.
For a few hours, Bruce forgot his grief and was the wide-eyed, happy child that Jarvis remembered. As he tore the plain brown butcher paper from the gifts, he made sure that Alfred got to see each and every one.
“There’s one more present,” Alfred said as he reached into the pocket of his shirt. “Father Christmas wanted to make sure this one didn’t get lost, so he asked me to give it to you personally.”
Bruce couldn’t figure out what was so special that Santa would take such care to be sure he received it.
Alfred handed Bruce a small gift that was just the right size for his little hand. Bruce looked at Alfred, then back at the gift. Slowly, he began to unwrap what he soon discovered to be a small box.
When he removed the lid from the box, Bruce’s eyes grew wide with surprise. Carefully, he removed a locket and held it up by the chain.
“Open it,” Alfred told him.
Bruce did. Inside, he found it contained two small pictures: one of his mother, and one of his father. Tears began to fill his eyes.
Alfred gave the child a hug. “Father Christmas told me to tell you that now you can carry a bit of your parents with you wherever you go. He also said that whenever you look at their pictures, you’ll remember that they’re thinking of you.”
Bruce wiped his eyes with his sleeves. He still missed his parents, but as he looked up at Alfred, he knew somehow that he wasn’t alone.