End of Summer
story and art by Jon Karl Haynes

Chapter Two: Knowledge is Power

Three weeks had passed since Senator Alex Pendleton had been attacked by the Joker. On that rain spattered night, Alex and a female "companion" had been saved from certain death. The savior had come in the form of Gotham City's protector, also known as the Batman. His blood had flown in the service of life that night, and the Senator would've certainly died had he not intervened. Alex Pendleton owed Batman a debt that could never be repaid.

This night was similar to that fateful night. Rain swirled about Gotham, accompanied by jarring bolts of lightning. In a soggy alley, a limousine turned off its headlights and rolled quietly to a stop. For several minutes, the black vehicle sat there, barely idling.

A moment later, a figure stepped into the alley, slowly walking toward the car as he held his umbrella tightly. The figure was a stocky figure with fogged up glasses and a bad haircut. His breath was visible in the dank surroundings, surroundings which seemed to chill him to the bone. He tapped on the back window of the car, nervously shaking as the window began to lower.

Alex Pendleton sat in the back of the limo, dressed in a black business suit. A gloved hand rose to the window and extended as he spoke. "Dr. Cooper. It's a pleasure to see you. I trust the information you are about to give me is known only to the two of us?"

Dr. Cooper shivered as he handed Alex an envelope. "Yes. I told no one. Alex, do you realize what we can do with the information in that envelope? We can use it for any number of purposes, my friend! Blackmail! Torture! We can even sell it to the highest bidder! The possibilities are endless!"

Alex quietly opened the envelope and glanced at the contents. "Of course," he exclaimed. "It makes perfect sense!"

Dr. Cooper smiled as he saw how happy his friend was becoming. "Contact me on the details, Alex. I think we can be pretty good partners on this endeavor. All I ask for is forty percent."

Alex pocketed the envelope and chuckled. He then grabbed the handgun in his breast pocket and pulled it, aiming it directly at Dr. Cooper's head. "I'm terribly sorry, Dr. Cooper. I'm handling this deal alone."

Dr. Cooper turned and tried to run, but Alex was faster. One bullet flew from the gun, speeding directly into the side of Dr. Cooper's head. Blood spattered the drenched wall of the alley, and was quickly washed away. A moment later, the limo pulled into regular traffic.

Five minutes later, the limo pulled into an abandoned gas station. Alex Pendleton's gloved hand reached from the window as the car rolled to a stop beside a pay phone. Alex picked up the phone and dialed, patiently waiting as it rang.

Two long rings later, a man answered. His voice was smooth and delicate, and he had an accent that could only be considered high class British. "Wayne residence. Alfred Pennyworth speaking."

Alex smiled as he spoke to Bruce Wayne's servant. "Hello, Alfred. This is Senator Alex Pendleton. I believe I met you at the Luthor museum opening last year in Metropolis. How are you doing this evening?"

"Quite well, sir. And you?"

"I'm doing just fine, Alfred. Better than fine, actually. Is Bruce around?"

"I'm sorry, Senator. Master Bruce hasn't returned home from the Kennedy charity auction. Shall I tell him you called, or shall I try to reach him?"

"No thanks, Alfred. I have a feeling I know what he's up to tonight. Just tell him I called."

"Of course, Senator. Anything else, Senator?"

Alex paused for a moment. He had information about Bruce Wayne that no one else possessed, and he had to resist the temptation to blurt it out, even to a simple butler. It was just hard to believe that Alfred was working for Bruce Wayne, the perfect DNA match of the Batman.

The truth was hard to comprehend, but it was indeed the whole truth. He wondered if Alfred knew of Bruce Wayne's alter-ego, or if he was as shallow as he sounded on the telephone. Either way, Alex felt like a child with an unkeepable secret. He would use that secret to gain power, but not tonight. He thanked Alfred quietly and hung up the phone. What a simpleton. British butlers were not only cliché, but were just damn goofy. Alex smirked as the limo drove away.

Ten miles away, Alfred Pennyworth stood in the midst of a large cavern. The Bat-cave, as it was called, was located under the foundation of Wayne Manor itself. Friends of the Batman would even say the cave WAS the foundation of Wayne Manor. Alfred hung up the phone and glanced at one of the computer screens in front of him. His eyebrow raised as he noticed a peculiarity. It was nothing illegal by any means, but it was strange enough to warrant his notice. As the servant of the Batman, Alfred was a great detective in his own right.

Alfred casually put on a pair of headphones and spoke into the small microphone attached to them. "How are you doing tonight, sir?"

The voice of the Batman answered. "I'm fine. The Ventriloquist is back in Arkham again. Get the bandages ready. I should be back in under an hour. I'm just going to make one more sweep."

Alfred sat in one of the leather chairs in front of the Cray computers, leaning back as he acknowledged the Batman. "Be careful, sir. I'll have everything ready upon your return. One other thing, sir. Senator Pendleton called a few moments ago. He had nothing of importance to say, but it seemed odd that he called at this late of an hour, and the auto-trace program had him calling from a pay phone at the old Texxon petrol station. Perhaps you could swing by there on your way home, just to make sure his limousine wasn't scuffed by the dirt of that part of Gotham."

"I get the point your trying to make," Batman replied. "It does seem kind of strange for him to be in that section of town. I'll drive by there. Batman out."

Alfred removed the headphones and placed them on the nearby desk. He then glanced at the next monitor, which was flashing with a new message. Typing in the correct code, Alfred easily hacked into the Gotham City Police Department's system.

"Hmm," Alfred mumbled aloud. "This is interesting."

The information was coming in before Alfred. Dr. Jonas Cooper had been murdered in an alley not far from the Texxon station. A black limo had been seen quietly driving away from the site of the killing at the same time of death. Alfred scratched his head, parting his thinning hair, and began working on the computer. He was on to something.

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