“I must say what an honor it is to be visited on the set by the famous Bruce Wayne!” Morris Gold said. He sat in his dressing room, facing Wayne, who sat in another chair. “Truly an honor, truly!”
“Well, I was in Metropolis on business,” Wayne said. “I knew you film your program here, so I wanted to drop in and tell you what a big fan I am. We never miss your show.”
“Oh, you’re too kind, too kind,” Gold said. He was a short man, thin of frame, and balding. He was dressed in the uniform of a Navy seaman; he portrayed one on his television program, and he was on break now. A knock came at his dressing room door; Gold called for the knocker to enter.
“Your snack, Mr. Gold,” a young stagehand said, entering with a small tray. Bruce noted that a Hershey’s chocolate bar rested on the tray, as well as a knife and fork. The stagehand set the tray down and left.
“You don’t mind if I eat while we talk, do you?” Gold asked, picking up the candy bar and unwrapping it. “I have a little snack between takes every day; helps me to relax.”
“Not at all. Go right ahead,” Bruce said, smiling. He watched Gold tear half the wrapping off the bar, hold it by the wrapped end, and move the unwrapped end to his mouth.
“My wife is in town with me,” Bruce said. “She’s a big fan, too. She couldn’t make it today, unfortunately, but would you mind…?”
“Not at all, not at all,” Gold said enthusiastically. “I’ve got some right here!” He set the candy bar down on the tray, opened a drawer in his desk, and took out an eight-by-ten-inch photograph of himself. “What’s Mrs. Wayne’s name?” he asked, picking up a marking pen.
“Selina,” Bruce said.
“Selina,” Gold repeated. “A lovely name, a lovely name! Is that with an S or a C?”
“Follow-up, Mr. Kent?” the white-haired old zookeeper asked. “I’m not sure what you mean.”
“Well, I did some final proofing on the article we’re running about you in our Sunday supplement,” Clark Kent said to Irwin Stevenson. “I just wanted to make sure we got our facts right.”
“And the editor himself came down?” a young man in similar uniform to Stevenson’s asked, a little suspiciously. He was a small man, with a wiry frame and a shock of blond hair. “I’d have thought you’d send a reporter. Maybe one you wanted to punish for something.”
“Please forgive Alex,” Stevenson said. “He’s a bit suspicious of people. Always related better to the animals, ain’t you, Alex?”
“Guess so,” Alex said noncommittally, and moved off to a stack of paperwork on his desk.
“Alex is my assistant,” Stevenson said. “Going to have my job when I retire in another eighteen days.”
“Yes, that was in the article,” Clark acknowledged. “And how long has Alex been with you?”
“Six years,” Stevenson said. “Best assistant I ever had. Not so great with people, you understand, but a real prodigy with the animals.”
“Came with good credentials, I suppose.”
“Well, as a matter of fact, no,” Stevenson said. “Funniest darn thing. Says he went to a tiny college down south; Florida, I think. Said it got destroyed in a hurricane, all his school records lost.”
“And that didn’t give you any qualms about hiring him?” Clark asked.
“Mr. Kent,” Stevenson said, “Alex can calm a frightened orangutan quicker than a momma can a cryin’ baby! And for the last ten years, ever’ time I’ve had to give ol’ Leatherhead any medical attention–”
“Leatherhead?” Clark asked.
“Our biggest crocodile,” Stevenson explained. “Anyway, Leatherhead fought me ever’ step of the way! I can show you scars from it. But Alex, he lets do whatever he wants to ‘im! Next to that, I don’t ask for no diplomas. You know what I mean?”
“I think I do,” Clark said, eyeing Alex suspiciously.
“Learn anything?” Batman asked. He stood on the roof of the Siegel Arms Hotel, blending into the night sky. Superman hovered in the air before him.
“There’s a character I’m suspicious of,” Superman said. “Name is Alex Rigger; he’s going to inherit Stevenson’s job. But he seems like he’s hiding something. How about you?”
“I get the same kind of vibe from Gold,” Batman said. “I suggest we bait a trap.”
“How?” Superman asked.
“Put an item on the TV news about the attempted arson,” Batman suggested, “but stress the fact that Superman saved the press in time for the magazine to be printed. The trucks go out with the Sunday edition Saturday night, don’t they?”
“Yes, that’s tomorrow,” Superman acknowledged.
“Fine. We’ll be waiting when they do, to see who shows up.”
“Good idea. In the meantime, why don’t you see what you can dig up on Rigger and Gold?”
A tiny smile creased Batman’s jaw. “No more division of labor?”
“You’re the world’s greatest detective,” Superman said, spreading his hands. “I’m a reporter; I know how to dig for facts, but you could get results faster.”
“Point taken. Very well, I’ll see you tomorrow night at the Star Building.”
Without another word, Batman turned on his heel and stalked off. Superman hovered for a moment, watching him go.
“Bruce, dear, why don’t you come sit down?” Selina Wayne said, patting the couch beside her. Bruce was pacing in their hotel suite, and it was worrying her.
“I’m sorry, darling,” he said. “I’m just waiting for the results of that fingerprint sample I sent Dick.”
“You taught Dick everything you know,” Selina said. “He’ll turn something up, I’m sure.”
“I know, but the waiting–” Just then, the telephone rang. Bruce sprinted to it and picked up the receiver. “Hello?”
“Were you pacing the room, waiting for my call?” Dick Grayson asked on the other end of the line.
“What did you learn?” Bruce asked.
“I ran the check on that fingerprint of Rigger’s that you sent. This new computer technology is something else! It compared dozens of fingerprint samples in–“
“Dick, I know it’s fascinating, but please, what did you find out?”
“Coming to it, old pal,” Dick said. Bruce had not told him of Clark’s suspicions of Selina. “Your hunch about Alex Rigger was right on the money. Wait until you hear this!”
Bruce listened attentively. “I see. Thank you very much, Dick.”
“Do you guys need some help out there?” Dick asked. “I can be in Metropolis in–“
“No, thanks,” Bruce said. “I think we can take it from here. You study for that bar exam.”
“OK, I will. Good luck!”
“Thank you,” Bruce said, and hung up.
“It’s quiet,” a voice whispered in Batman’s ear. Superman was nowhere near him as Batman crouched in the shadows of the Star’s loading dock, but he used super-ventriloquism to keep in touch.
“Quiet enough,” Batman whispered back, knowing Superman could hear him. He watched the men loading bundles of newspapers onto the truck, hearing them complaining about the size of the Sunday edition. A bit of movement caught his eye.
“Do you see that?” Batman whispered. “Across the street, in front of that drug store.”
“The car, you mean?” Superman said. “It’s empty, isn’t it? No, wait, it isn’t; I can tell now, with my telescopic vision. Someone’s inside it, and they — Great Scott!”
Superman had seen what Batman’s keen eyes had spotted an instant before. Batman leaped from his perch and darted across the loading area, his hand reaching for a batarang and hurling it with deadly accuracy. He was too late to stop the assailant in the car from firing his grenade launcher, and the deadly missile streaked across the street toward the trucks. Halfway across, however, a blue blur from above whipped down in front of it, and the missile exploded against the familiar figure in blue. As it did, Batman’s batarang struck the side of the grenade launcher, knocking it hard against the head of the man who fired it. Before the assailant could recover from this blow, Batman jerked the car door open and hauled him out hard by the collar of his jacket.
“You OK?” Batman asked Superman, who was rising to his feet in the middle of the street.
“For the most part,” Superman said, slapping the side of his head. “Soon as my ears stop ringing, I will be. Did you catch the–? Wait, silly question.”
“Indeed,” Batman said, thrusting the scowling figure of Morris Gold forward for Superman’s inspection.
“Gold!” Superman exclaimed. “But why?” When Gold didn’t answer, Superman looked at Batman.
“You’re not surprised, are you?” he asked. “You knew.”
“Bruce Wayne tipped me off,” Batman said. At that, Gold looked up in surprise.
“Wayne? He was your spy?”
“We do each other favors now and again,” Batman said. “He told me how you ate your candy bar with your fingers, even though the stagehand brought you a knife and fork.”
“Candy bar?” Superman asked, uncomprehending.
“Lana Lang’s article mentioned that you ate a candy bar with a knife and fork while she interviewed you,” Batman said. “When you wouldn’t do it in front of Wayne, we knew that was what you were hiding.”
“I never should have eaten it while she was interviewing me,” Gold said, angrily. “I never expected her to write it down!”
“You were willing to kill those workers to hide the fact that you eat candy bars with a knife and fork?” Superman asked. “Great Krypton, man, why?”
“I used to eat them that way on the base, when I was in the army,” Gold explained. “In the early days of the War. The other fellows used to tease me about it. This was before I changed my name from Morgan Golociewicz… and before I deserted.”
“Oh, so that’s it,” Batman said. “You were afraid one of your old buddies would see the article, and make the connection.”
“I had plastic surgery,” Gold said. “None of them would recognize my face on TV. But the damn candy bar thing! If it ever got out that I was a war deserter, my career would be ruined!”
“Candy bars! Well, I — Great Scott. Candy bars,” Superman said, shaking his head.
As Superman and Batman watched the police take Gold away, Superman turned to his friend. “Did you find that out when you investigated Gold?” he asked.
“I never got around to that,” Batman admitted. “I spent all my time digging around about Rigger. I did find out something very interesting there.”
“Oh? What’s that?”
“It seems Morris Gold wasn’t the only one using a false name,” Batman said. “Your Mr. Alex Rigger was born Alan Ryder.”
“Ryder? Why does that sound fam — wait a minute! Harrison Ryder, owner of Ryder Steel? Didn’t his son disappear about five years ago?”
“Six,” Batman corrected. “Turned his back on his father’s millions and walked. He never wanted to take over the steel business. He loved animals, and wanted to work with them.”
“So that’s why he seemed so secretive,” Superman said. “So closed off. Especially around a reporter.”
“He didn’t want to go back to his old life,” Batman said. “Nothing criminal about it.”
Superman put a hand on Batman’s shoulder. “Bruce — I’m sorry. Believe me, I really am.”
“I believe you,” Batman said evenly. “But it still hurts, Clark. We’ve come to expect the worst from other people, but not those who’re supposed to be our friends.”
“Look, I admit I was wrong,” Superman said. “We’re OK, aren’t we?”
Batman was silent a long time before answering. “We will be,” he finally said. “But not just yet.”
The Dark Knight turned and walked off into the shadows that swallowed him like quicksand. The Man of Tomorrow stood and watched him go, until he could see him no longer.