A Day of InfamyAn Elseworlds tale
by Syl Francis
Friday, Dec. 5, 1941: Infamy Minus Two
"Mister Wayne?" Maggie's voice came over the intercom.
"Yes, Maggie?" Bruce answered.
"Sir, President Roosevelt is on line three."
Bruce smiled slightly. It was obvious that Maggie was desperately trying to sound casual over the announcement. She almost pulled it off.
"Thank you, Maggie. I'll take it." Bruce looked at the row of black phones on his desk and picked up the third one.
"Yes, Mister President," he said.
"Bruce, my boy!" The broad Yankee accent sounded clear over the long-distance wires. In his mind's eye, Bruce could picture the world leader with his jaunty grin and cigarette on a long, thin holder.
"How may I help you, sir?" Bruce asked.
"Bruce, your country needs you," the President said. Bruce sat up, instantly alert. "I understand that Wayne Enterprises is very close to developing a new generation of miniaturization in the electronics industry."
"Yes, Mister President. Some of the hurdles we've managed to surmount, such as minimizing the need for vacuum tubes, will revolutionize communications."
"It's exactly that sort of independent research and development going on in our country that I wish to speak you to you about. Will you come to the White House tomorrow?"
"Of course, Mister President! I'll catch the Gotham Express this afternoon!"
"Thank you, Bruce. I knew I count on you," the President said gratefully. "Oh, by the way, I heard that you adopted a boy recently. How's he adjusting to the rich, indolent life?" This last was added with a light bantering tone.
"Dick? He's a good boy. Keeps me on my toes with all of his questions, though."
The President laughed out loud. "Welcome to the world of parenthood, Bruce. By the way, Eleanor looks forward to seeing you at supper."
"Please, give her my best," Bruce said.
"Of course! See you tomorrow, my boy." With that, the President hung up the phone.
Bruce sat still for a moment, and then reached over and buzzed his secretary. "Maggie! I'd like to see you, please."
Bruce looked up from the late evening paper. Dick was running up the crowded train dining room, weaving through the dozens of occupied tables. Several people turned and smiled, a few grimaced in annoyance. One glared at the boy through narrowed, hate-filled eyes.
Dick's enthusiasm since the Gotham Express had pulled out of the depot that afternoon hadn't abated. He arrived at their table, promptly pulled out a chair by the window and sat down.
"Master Dick!" Alfred called in long-suffering protest. He trailed after his ten-year-old charge carrying a boy-sized blazer and tie, a match for the ones Bruce was wearing. "You're improperly dressed for dinner, young sir."
"Aw, gee, Alfred," Dick said. "Do I hafta wear a tie the whole trip? Do I, Bruce?" He turned beseeching eyes to his guardian.
Bruce calmly puffed on his pipe and smiled inwardly. Putting on his best 'stern parent' face, he held his young ward's eyes steadily.
"You know the rules, chum," he said simply. Dick sighed resignedly.
"Okay, okay. But I bet that Hopalong Cassidy never had an ol' nanny." He stood up, and right there in the dining room, allowed Alfred to 'properly dress' him. After he was appropriately attired, Dick sat down without enthusiasm and placed his chin on his fist.
Alfred excused himself. "I must go to the kitchen to check on the preparation of your dinner, sir."
"I don't see why I have to wear a dumb ol' tie anyhow," Dick grumbled once Alfred was out of earshot. He pulled on the unyielding tie, looking as uncomfortable as he felt.
Eyes smiling, Bruce took a long puff from his pipe. Understanding how his young ward felt, Bruce looked around carefully to ensure that no one was within hearing distance and then leaned in closely.
"Between you'n me, chum," he said, pulling on his own tie, "I'm not all that crazy about them, either."
"You're not ?" Dick asked surprised. Bruce shook his head, 'no.' "Then, how come?" Dick's face showed his obvious confusion.
"Because it makes Alfred happy," Bruce answered. "It's his job to take care of us, and, well, you know that we don't make it all that easy for him. Right?"
Bruce gave his ward a meaningful look. After a moment, Dick nodded in understanding.
"Yes, sir. I guess you're right," he said reluctantly. "But, golly I sure wish that I didn't hafta look presentable for every meal!"
Bruce have him a warm smile, and impulsively reached over and ruffled the boy's dark head. "I'll see what I can do, Dick," he offered.
Dick's natural buoyancy immediately won him over. "Oh, boy! Bruce, you're the best!"
Alfred arrived at that moment with their dinners
"G'night, Bruce Alfred." It had been a long day, and Dick was completely worn out. He felt a warm pressure on his shoulder as he drifted off
Dick was suddenly awake. He lay on his bunk, staring up momentarily confused. Where was he? All at once he remembered. They were on their way to Washington, D.C.
The President had personally called Bruce and asked for his help. Bruce had decided to take Dick along, because even though school was in session, he felt that meeting the President of the United States would be a worthwhile educational experience for the boy.
Dick thought back to the past year: His parents' murder. Bruce Wayne's adopting him. And the surprising revelation that his new guardian was the mysterious hunter of the night, the Batman.
Dick begged Bruce to train him and make him the Batman's partner. Because of the boy's own expertise as a circus acrobat, Batman grudgingly agreed. Soon, Robin, the Boy Wonder made his debut and brought Boss Zucco, his parents' murderer, to justice.
As these thoughts flashed through his mind, a feeling of being watched came over him. In the next instant, he knew that he wasn't alone in the sleeper compartment.
"Alfred?" he called. Before he could do anything, Dick was grabbed and pulled roughly off the bunk. "Mmmff?" A huge hand covered his mouth, pressing against it with brutal force, cutting off his oxygen supply. He struggled wildly, but there were more than one, and they had his arms pinned back.
The men talked in sharp tones. Dick didn't understand them, however. They spoke in a foreign language. German, he thought.
"~Hold him still!~"
"~I'm trying!~" the other said, with difficulty. "~For one so small, he is incredibly strong! Hurry!~"
Dick felt a sharp, stinging pain on his arm: a needle! In a panic, he redoubled his efforts to escape. However, as the liquid contents of the hypodermic went into his bloodstream, Dick's struggles became weaker until he blacked out.
"~Do you have the package?~"
"~Yes. We're ready to make the delivery." The hard eyes glanced over at the small, blanket-wrapped form lying curled-up on the baggage floor. A white scar outlined his face from his left temple to his chin.
"~Our men are in place. Make the drop as per instructions.~"
"~Understood.~" He cut the transmission.
Saturday, Dec. 6, 1941: Infamy Minus One
The Gotham Express pulled into Camden Yards Station, Baltimore at 3:30 a.m. It was the only stop before Union Station, Washington, D.C. As the train hissed to a stop, three shadows jumped off and moved stealthily in the predawn gloom.
They climbed into a waiting sedan and quickly drove off
"Master Bruce! Master Bruce!" Alfred's voice was insistent from the other side of the door.
Instantly awake, Bruce jumped out of the bunk and opened the door. "What is it, Alfred?"
"It's Master Dick, sir! He's not in his compartment. His door was ajar this morning when I went to wake him. And his room is in a state of upheaval. Sir, I fear the young master has met with foul play!"
"Get the conductor, Alfred. I want this train searched from top to bottom!"
"Right away, sir!"
"We've searched the entire train, Mister Pennyworth," the conductor reported. His nametag read, 'Jurgens'. "Young Grayson is not onboard. We've already sent a cablegram to the Baltimore Police. I don't know how this could have happened. I'm very sorry, sir."
"It's not your fault, Mister Jurgens," Alfred reassured him. "I'm afraid that Mister Wayne and I must insist on being let off immediately."
"Mister Pennyworth, the G.E. won't stop again until we arrive at Union Station. But that's only thirty minutes away, sir."
Alfred wanted to protest. The last thing he wished was to lose another thirty minutes in searching for Master Dick. But common sense won out. Instead, he nodded reluctantly.
"Very well," he said.
"Where's Mister Wayne?"
"He, um, said something about conducting his own search. If you'll excuse me. I must pack."
Bruce knelt on the floor of the baggage compartment. He held a magnifying glass to a specific spot on the floor. Taking out a pair of tweezers, he carefully picked up a small square of blue cloth.
Holding it up to the flashlight he'd set on top of a crate, Bruce studied the piece of cloth carefully.
"Wool," he murmured. The bunks on the Gotham Express ' sleeper compartments were covered with blue woolen blankets. He continued his search. Eventually, he found it--a portable wireless. It was one of the smallest radios Bruce had ever seen. He checked it carefully.
"Hmmmm. Not quite as small as the ones Wayne Enterprises' R & D department is currently developing. And it still makes use of a number of vacuum tubes."
The radio had been sabotaged, several of the mini-vacuum tubes shattered, wires torn out and dials broken. Removing his blazer, Bruce quickly covered the radio, and placing it under his arm, he hurried to meet Alfred.
"And you say it's of German make?" Alfred asked.
"Yes see this?" Bruce used his tweezers to hold up one of the wires to the magnifying glass. "Look carefully," Bruce instructed. "What do you see?"
Alfred studied the wire carefully. It was red and Alfred could see copper and steel wires peeking from one frayed end. However, Alfred couldn't see anything particularly unique about the wire.
Alfred shook his head. "I'm sorry, sir, but I'm afraid that I don't see anything."
Bruce nodded. Using a fountain pen as a pointer, he indicated some faint lettering stamped on the wire. It said 'Schwabishe Funknetz'.
"German," Bruce explained succinctly. "It's a factory in the Bavarian Alps that manufactures radio circuitry." At Alfred's look, Bruce added, "And look at this!" He held up the small square of blue cloth, first to the light and then to the matching blue blanket on his own bunk. "I checked Dick's sleeper compartment. His blanket's missing."
Alfred's eyes widened even further. Bruce had just confirmed his worst suspicions.
"Sir, young Master Dick has been taken by--?"
"--By German foreign agents. For what purpose we can only guess at at the moment. However, Wayne Enterprises has recently been awarded several defense contracts to develop more efficient machinery parts for our Armed Forces. And, of course, we lead the communications and electronics industry in R and D."
"Yes, sir and this visit to the White House. Could the President's request to see you have anything to do with Master Dick's kidnapping?"
"That Alfred is the million dollar question." Both men exchanged dark, worried looks.
As Alfred emerged from the train, he was accosted by reporters shouting questions. Blinking from the dozens of flashbulbs going off in his eyes, Alfred fought to make his way through the throng of people.
"Mister Pennyworth, how do you and Bruce Wayne feel about the disappearance of his ward?"
Alfred kept walking, ignoring the insistent voices. Dawn was still an hour away. How had the news broken so quickly, he wondered?
Entering the cavernous train depot, Alfred was struck by its monumental grandeur. Gold-leafed arched ceilings, dozens of shops, and people in a hurry to get places greeted him. Before leaving Gotham City, Alfred and Dick had looked up points of interest to visit while in the nation's capital.
They'd found out that Union Station had served as the transportation hub of the US Capital, playing host to Presidents, Congressmen, and world leaders since October 1907 when it first opened. It even boasted an on-site hotel with a Presidential Suite for visiting dignitaries.
As Alfred hurriedly crossed the station's marble floors, two official-looking men jostled their way through the crowd to him. One held up an identification badge.
"FBI! Are you Alfred Pennyworth?" At Alfred's nod, the FBI agent added, "I'm Inspector Quinn and this is Special Agent Rory. We'd like you to come with us please."
"Yes yes, of course," Alfred said.
"Where's Mister Wayne? We'd like him to come with us, too," Rory said.
"I'm afraid that you gentlemen might have missed him already. He was most concerned over Master Dick's disappearance. As soon as the train pulled into the station he hurried off to rent a motorcar. He might be halfway to Baltimore by now."
"Rory, go see if he's still here," Quinn ordered. "We might get lucky." Rory nodded and headed in the direction of the automobile rental kiosks.
"Mister Pennyworth! Mister Pennyworth! Do you have anything to say about this apparent kidnapping?"
"No comment!" Quinn growled, and then added, "Blood suckers!"
The baggage handlers looked at the large trunk with dismay. "Man, it's gonna heavy, Bill!" one sighed.
"Yeah, Tommy," Bill agreed. "Well, it ain't gonna unload itself. Let's get started." Tommy nodded.
Expecting the trunk to weigh over a hundred pounds, both men pushed with all their strength. To their surprise, the trunk moved easily. Blinking at each other, both men shrugged and unloaded it without trouble.
Moving quickly amongst the dozens of parked locomotives, the caped and cowled figure rode the black motorcycle into the breaking dawn.
He grinned imagining the surprised baggage handlers' reactions to the empty trunk where he'd stored the Bat-cycle.
The phone rang. Alfred moved quickly to answer it, but Quinn stayed his hand. Donning headphones, Quinn turned on a device, which looked like a household record player, but was actually a voice recorder, placed the vinyl disk on the turntable, and giving Alfred a nod, carefully placed the needle-tipped arm on the disk.
Alfred picked up the phone. It was Bruce.
"Master Bruce! I'm so glad to hear from you, sir."
"Alfred, I talked to the Baltimore police, they weren't able to come up with anything. I'm going to--"
Alfred interrupted. He couldn't let Bruce say anything that might giveaway his secret identity. "Sir, the FBI is here. They wish to speak with you." He looked over at Quinn who nodded. Alfred handed the agent the phone.
"Mister Wayne, this is Inspector Quinn. I need you to report to the FBI office in Baltimore immediately. Your safety is a matter of national security. The President himself has requested that you place yourself under the Bureau's protective custody."
"Sorry, Inspector Quinn," Bruce replied. "But as long as my boy is missing, I'm afraid that the last place I'm going to be is locked up in some hotel room. Let me speak with Alfred."
"Mister Wayne, I must insist--!" Quinn protested.
"Sorry, Inspector, but national security or not, my boy comes first! I'm afraid that this is good-bye, Inspector. Give my best to the President and First Lady."
With that, the line went dead. "Wayne! Wayne!" Quinn shouted. He clicked the phone's handle. "Operator! Operator!"
"Operator," a calm, female voice answered.
"This is Inspector Quinn of the FBI, can you tell me where this call came from?" he asked.
"Please wait " A few moments later, a regretful voice came over the earpiece. "I'm sorry, sir, but the call did not last long enough for our technicians to trace it. The closest I can say is that it came from somewhere in Metropolis."
"Metropolis!? But that's impossible--" Quinn stopped. "Never mind, Operator. Thank you." He hung up the phone with a thoughtful expression.
Dick woke up to the sounds of low rumbling. A single red bulb provided the only light, making it difficult to see. However, his eyes quickly adjusted. Dick looked around, getting his bearings. He was in a small room, lying on a bunk. As he looked around he noted that the walls, floor, and ceiling were made of metal.
Climbing out of the bunk, he placed his bare feet carefully on the cold metal floor. He instantly felt a continuous vibration underneath. Dick swallowed. He must be on a ship or even submarine!
He was still dressed only in his flannel pajamas. The chill of the floor quickly began to work its way through his bare feet to the rest of his body. Shivering, he stood up and began looking for a means of escape.
Within moments he saw the metal grate: the air vent!
Bruce removed the headphones and pulled the plug, ending the call. Taking one final look around the telephone central switching and routing center of the Baltimore Sun , he grinned and stepped out. If the FBI tried to trace the call, they'd be in for a little surprise. He'd patched the call through to the Sun's offices in Metropolis.
Walking into a Men's room, he removed the telephone worker's coveralls and discarded them in the nearest rubbish bin. Emerging again, in his well-cut navy blue pinstriped suit and gray fedora, Bruce was the epitome of a young executive.
He walked out of the building and hurriedly caught the bus to the municipal docks. Bruce didn't have time to be 'protected'. Dick was in the hands of enemy agents, and it was up to him to get his boy back in one piece. Of course, Bruce knew something that the federal agents didn't. At ten years old, Dick was a master escape artist, as well as the junior superhero renowned as Robin, the Boy Wonder.
Bruce knew that as soon as Dick was able to, he'd try to find a means of escape.
"And he'll be depending on Batman to be there to help him out," Bruce added to himself. Stepping off the bus, Bruce looked around the busy Baltimore waterfront. Spotting a faded sign that boasted of 'Sports fishing! Crabbing! Harbor Tours! and Boat Rentals!' he began walking towards it.
Passing an outdoor eatery, he heard something that immediately caught his attention.
"I tell you, Malcolm I saw it with my own eyes!"
"Oh, get on with you, Dymitr," Malcolm scoffed. "A submarine ! Next thing you know, you'll be seeing the Loch Ness monster!" He took a long draught from his beer.
"You don't believe, Malcolm, because you don't understand," Dymitr insisted. "But I do! I saw them when they invaded my village in Poland. Nothing stopped them. The Nazis want to rule the world, and like it or not, America will have to enter the war sooner or later."
"Shhhh! Quiet, man!" Malcolm said. "You want to start trouble? Lotta dockworkers here are of German descent. They don't like us to talk about going to war against their home country."
"And you, Malcolm? What do you think? Great Britain is in it up to her neck. She's all that stands between the Axis Powers and world uh How do you say it?" he asked searching for words.
"World domination," Malcolm provided.
"Yes by George! World 'domination' as you say! And don't forget about your family back in Scotland. What of them?"
Malcolm grimaced. "A couple of the cousins are currently serving in His Majesty's Navy up in the North Sea. A few are in North Africa fighting against Rommel's Desert Rats. I lost another cousin last year during the Battle of Britain." He looked sorrowfully at his Polish friend.
"If we don't enter the war soon," Malcolm admitted, "I'm going up to Canada and join up with the Canucks. I'm sure they can use a man with Merchant Marine experience."
Dymitr nodded. "If you go to Canada I go with you, by George! I think they can use two good seamen, no?"
Malcolm grinned and slapped his friend on the shoulder. "I think they can use two good seamen, yes !"
Both men stood and left.
Bruce thoughtfully watched them go. "A submarine, eh?" It made sense. It would explain how Dick seemed to have just vanished without a trace. He followed the two men and saw them board a tramp steamer. He looked at his watch. 3:35 p.m. still too early for Batman to make an appearance.
Ducking into an alley behind a harbor-side restaurant, Bruce hid behind the dumpster and went to work.
A few minutes later, a mustachioed dockworker emerged from behind the alley. Bruce grinned. He'd ruined his impeccable suit, removed the jacket and neatly starched oxford shirt. He now wore only a filthy T-shirt, which he'd rubbed on the ground to ensure that its immaculate whiteness disappeared under alley grime. And, his pants would never pass muster at the Gotham City Skyline Restaurant again.
However, he could now blend in as one of the hundreds of men working the docks.
Dick crawled steadily through the air vent. He wasn't sure where he was going or what he'd do when he got there, but he knew that the last thing he needed was to remain wherever they wanted him.
The sounds of heavy machinery grew louder as he continued in the direction he was going. Arriving at a metal grate, Dick took stock of what he saw below. Men in uniform were hurrying to and fro. They were calling out commands to one another in the same foreign language he'd heard earlier.
He was onboard a German submarine, he realized. Feeling more frightened than he had since he first became the Batman's partner, Dick stayed where he was mulling over his options.
Somehow, he had to sabotage the submarine so that the crew would be forced to surface. But how? And then what? He didn't know where they were. What if they were out at sea? What would he be able to do? He couldn't swim back to shore.
"Doesn't matter," he thought determinedly. "These guys are our enemies. They're worse than the Joker or even Two-Face. I can't let them get away with whatever they have planned. No, I've gotta do something and fast!"
Moving away from the grill, Dick again began crawling through the vents, this time stopping at every open grill to inspect the cabins below. He passed the mess room and kitchens, which were currently occupied with several sailors, mostly young men, singing 'Lili Marlene'.
Moving on, he halted above another room. This one had a single man in a white lab coat, hunched over a desk. He was sitting in a very white and spotless room with shelves of what looked like medical supplies. The man had a stethoscope dangling from his right coat pocket. A moan from another room caught his attention and he quickly stood up and left the room.
Dick continued on his search. Finally, he arrived at a part of the ship that was currently unoccupied. Looking around he grinned.
"Looks like pay dirt!" he muttered. He'd found the torpedo room.
Alfred waited by the phone. Why didn't someone , Master Bruce or the kidnappers, call? The FBI agents were still waiting. They'd set up the recording equipment in case the kidnappers called with a ransom demand. So far, nothing.
Suddenly, the phone rang. Everyone jumped. Quinn immediately got the recording equipment ready. With a curt nod to Alfred, he put on his headsets. As soon as Alfred picked up the receiver, Quinn turned on the voice recorder.
"Mister Wayne's stateroom," Alfred said punctiliously.
"I wish to speak to Bruce Wayne." The raspy voice sounded threatening and had a distinct accent.
"I'm sorry, sir, but Mister Wayne is currently unavailable."
"If he wishes to the see the boy alive again, he'll make himself available! He has twelve hours!" The line went dead.
"No wait! Please!" Alfred clicked the telephone receiver uselessly. He turned to the FBI agent. "Were you able to get anything?" he asked.
Quinn was speaking into another phone. He looked up and shook his regretfully. "I'm sorry, Alfred. He wasn't on the line long enough."
"I'm very worried, sir. The caller never made a ransom demand. He just said that Master Bruce had to make himself available within the next twelve hours or or we'd never see young Master Dick alive again."
"Rory!" Quinn called. His partner looked up. "Take the recording to headquarters. See if the lab boys can get anything useful from it." Rory nodded and carefully took the vinyl disk from Quinn. He wrapped it in thin tissue paper to protect it from scratches.
Alfred walked up to the writing stand by the window. He picked up the 8 x 10 photograph of Dick that he'd placed there earlier. Looking at the boy's winning smile brought a catch to his throat. The photo had been taken almost eight months after his parents' deaths. It had taken the boy that long to finally smile again.
Please, Master Bruce, Alfred prayed silently, please call again, sir. He looked at the desktop clock--6:30. It was time for the Batman to hunt.
"My friends call me Matches Matches Malone." The stranger spoke with a distinct New Jersey accent. He smiled broadly, took out a match, lit it with his thumbnail and allowed it to burn out.
The bartender gave him a bored stare.
"Any work round these parts?" Malone asked.
"What kind of work do you do?" the bartender asked.
"Oh, a little of this a little of that," Malone answered obliquely, lighting another match. The bartender looked away, bored again. Malone continued, "I hear that someone with certain abilities can hook up with the local 'talent'."
The bartender leaned forward. "What kind of abilities would you be talking about?" he asked.
Malone grinned. "Oh, I've established a certain rep as a first-rate 'locksmith'. I've also been known to work successfully as a second-story man." He paused, and then added meaningfully.
The bartender nodded. "Come back at ten-thirty. There'll be someone who might be able to use you."
Malone nodded, gulped down the last of his beer and got up to leave. About to walk out, he paused and placing is elbow on the bar, leaned forward.
"I hear some rich kid was snatched today. Word on the street is that whoever took 'im, brought 'im round the docks, see? Would you know anything 'bout that?"
The bartender picked up a glass and began wiping it. Looking around the bar, he leaned forward and spoke in a low tone. "Buddy, if I was you, I'd keep my mouth shut about the snatch. People have a way of disappearing from these docks and never being heard from again."
Glaring at Malone, the bartender turned away and sidled over to another customer. Malone nodded thoughtfully and walked out of the waterfront bar. Stepping into the cold, December night, Malone pulled on his tattered jacket and closed it against the chill. Walking past an alley, two voices he recognized caught his attention.
"I don't know what you mean !"
"Yeah, we don't know what you're talking about!"
Malone recognized the voices as that of Malcolm and Dymitr, the two friends he'd overheard earlier.
"You were heard talking!" a third voice growled. "You said you saw a submarine. Now talk! 'Verstehen'?"
"Hey! What is this? What are you doing?" Malone heard the distinct sounds of flesh pounding flesh. "Unnhh!"
Looking up, Malone saw a ledge. Taking out a grappling hook, he twirled it faster than the eye could follow and threw !
The ship's klaxons sounded throughout. They were taking in water!
"~Blow ballast!~" the Officer in Charge commanded. "~Bosun Sound General Quarters! Captain to the Bridge!~"
"~All hands Battlestations! All hands Battlestations!" The Bosun's voice echoed through the loudspeakers. There was a mad scramble through the ship, as all hands rushed to their stations.
From his perch, Dick grinned at the pandemonium he'd caused. He didn't understand exactly what was being said over the intercom, but he could figure it out as he'd seen enough Saturday Matinees.
When he'd recognized that he was in the torpedo room, he'd immediately opened the outer torpedo doors to whatever sea the submarine was currently submerged in, thus flooding the tubes. Then finding additional ordnance stored in the torpedo room, he took out enough TNT to blast a hole through the inner torpedo doors.
Setting the charge, Dick climbed back up into the air vent, and quickly made his way forward. When he was near the Bridge, his charge went off, thus blowing the inner doors of two of the aft torpedoes. The ship began taking on water immediately.
Dick swallowed. Listening to the klaxons and excited shouts of the crew, he hoped that these German submariners knew their jobs well enough in order to return to the surface.
The dark figure swooped from the sky, startling the group of men.
"Gott im Himmel!" one cried out.
"~What is it?~" another shouted.
"~It is the American devil called the Batman!~"
Batman immediately spun in the air, kicking out with the force of a tank. As the enemy agents turned their guns on him, he somersaulted, dove and rolled avoiding the hot lead as it flew at him.
Coming up, he answered with three Batarangs, knocking the guns from the German agents' hands. Taking out another, he activated a hidden switch on it and threw. As the Batarang flew around the enemy agents, it trailed a special thin rope that instantly bound them tightly. They were like flies caught in a spider's web, unable to break out of the nearly unbreakable bonds.
As the men struggled, it seemed that the ropes became even tighter. "I'd recommend that you gentlemen stop fighting it," Batman suggested calmly. "The harder you fight, the tighter the rope will bind you. Soon, you'll cut off your own oxygen supply."
The three agents immediately stopped their struggling. "Now, I'm going to ask you a few questions " Batman growled. He bent down and grabbed one of the men by the lapels. " And I won't take 'no' for an answer."
Malcolm and Dymitr stood back, cowering where the German agents had tossed them. They're 'rescuer' was even more terrifying than their attackers. Gathering what reserves of courage they had, the two merchant seamen began sneaking out of the alley.
They froze in their tracks.
"I have some questions for you two, as well."
Both men slowly slid to the concrete alley floor, their legs unable to support them. Batman continued interrogating the German agents. He questioned them in their own language to ensure that there was no misunderstanding.
"~Why was the boy taken?~" he asked.
"~Our government wants to get the plans for the new methods of miniaturization that Wayne Enterprises has developed! He is to be held for ransom.~"
"~Hans! Shut up! You know what the Gestapo will do to us?~"
"~Yes, Erik! I know But it's what's this monster will do that has me worried!~"
Batman grinned in the shadows. Then remembering that these men would be willing to put the life of an innocent boy in peril for their evil purposes, he felt an all-consuming rage overtake him. Batman suddenly couldn't trust himself. He wanted to beat these men to a pulp !
If they'd done anything to harm Dick--!
"~The boy! Is he still alive? Where is he?~" he demanded, striking one of the men with incredible force. It was too much for the German agent. He fell unconscious from the blow.
"Nein! Nein!" yelled the other two. "~The boy he lives! He is alive and unharmed! This we swear! He is onboard one of our U-boats, currently submerged here in the Chesapeake Bay. No more than a mile out!~"
"~How do I know he's still alive?~" Batman asked.
"~The officers They are all professional Naval officers. They would never do harm to a mere boy. He is a pawn, yes, but he is still a boy. The officers will ensure to his safety.~"
Batman was inclined to believe him.
"~What are the ship's coordinates?~ he asked. The two men who were still conscious shook their heads.
"~We do not know!~" they insisted. "~It would be too easy to inject us with truth serum. No, it is better that we wait for the rendezvous.~"
"~Rendezvous?~" Batman asked.
"~Yes. We are to wait for Bruce Wayne to make contact and then we will all be taken to the submarine.~"
"~I see.~" Batman thought about the consequences should Bruce Wayne allow himself to be taken on board a German U-Boat. He thought of the possible compromise to national security. He thought of the possible compromise of Batman's secret identity.
He then thought of the ten-year-old boy who'd won his heart and soul.
There was no question of whether Bruce Wayne would go, he suddenly knew. There was only the question of 'How?'
Batman suddenly reared back with both fists and punched both men. They each fell over unconscious. Checking all three over carefully, he ensured that they were all knocked out. Satisfied, he turned to Malcolm and Dymitr.
"Do you gentlemen wish to do something for your country?" he asked by way of preamble. Malcolm and Dymitr exchanged worried looks. Swallowing they each nodded first at each other, then at Batman.
"Y-Yes " Dymitr managed. "W-What would you have us do?"
"I need the location of that German U-Boat Can you help me?"
Dymitr nodded slowly at first, and then with increasing enthusiasm. "By George! I can help you, by George, I can!" he said. "I saw it with my own eyes I saw it!"
"Okay, Dymitr," Malcolm said exasperatedly. "Tell the man what he needs to know!"
Dymitr nodded. "I was on lookout as we were pulling into the Chesapeake. The bay is well traveled, but there are places that can be treacherous. So the Captain has us act as lookouts until the pilot boat comes and takes into our berth."
Batman nodded. He knew about the Chesapeake's reputation.
"It was just breaking dawn and I was forward lookout," Dymitr began. "Suddenly, I spotted a reflection from the water. I immediately focused my binoculars on it. And there it was a periscope! I'll bet my life on it! It must've just caught the rising sun at the right angle. Anyway, I reported it to the Officer of the Watch He immediately looked over to where I was pointing, but by then the periscope was gone."
"Why wasn't it ever reported to the authorities?" Batman asked.
"The Watch Officer said that we'd be laughed at jumping at ghost U-boats. Besides, he said that even if I'd seen a sub, it was probably one of ours. But I insisted that he put it his log: the date, time, longitude and latitude."
"Do you remember the longitude and latitude?" Batman asked. Dymitr shook his head regretfully.
"But it should still be in the log," he said helpfully. Batman nodded.
"Thank you, both. I'm going to ask you for a favor," he said. Both men looked at him. "I want you turn these men over to the proper authorities and I want you to forget you ever saw me. Can you do that?"
Both Malcolm and Dymitr nodded slowly. Batman shook their hands and turning, faded into the night.
When the phone rang again, Alfred nearly jumped out his skin. Hurrying to pick up, he waited for Quinn's usual preparations, and then answered.
"Mister Wayne's stateroom."
"This is Special Agent Rory. I'd like to speak to Inspector Quinn."
"Very well, sir," Alfred replied, crestfallen. He handed the phone to Quinn. "Special Agent Rory, sir. He wishes to speak with you."
Nodding Quinn took the receiver and shut off the recording device. "This is Quinn. What do you have, Rory?"
"Quinn, the lab boys think they've got something. The background of both Wayne's phone call and the one from the kidnappers sound alike. Definitely located near a waterfront."
"Yeah? What makes you say so?" Quinn asked.
"Well, there's the clear sound of a ship's bell or a buoy and also that of a ship's horn. Plus, we could pick up the sounds of motors not automobile engines mind you, but the steady putt-putt of what is probably a boat's motor."
"Well, Alfred did mention when we first met him at the train depot that Wayne was going to Baltimore. And the kid was probably snatched in Baltimore when the train pulled into Camden Yards Station. Okay, Rory, get us a car. We're taking a trip to Baltimore. I'll alert our office there. Oh, and send a replacement for me, willya?"
"Gotcha. See ya in about twenty!" When Quinn hung up, Alfred immediately started on him.
"You know something!" Alfred said. "About Master Dick! Please, if you're going to Baltimore, I wish to go with you."
"Sorry, Alfred, but we need you here in case the kidnappers call again. Another agent will take over here." Quinn spoke as he gathered his personal effects: jacket, tie, and library book he'd been reading.
Quinn looked solemnly at the Wayne family's loyal valet. "Alfred, I know that you're worried about the both of them. But believe me you can help them best by remaining here and waiting for the next phone call. I'm sorry, but this is for the best!"
Alfred nodded, unhappily. More than Inspector Quinn could possibly realize, Alfred understood the need to wait on his two charges. Since Master Bruce had taken up the Mantle of the Bat, it seemed to Alfred that he'd been waiting a lifetime for his employer's nightly returns. And when Batman began taking Robin with him on his evening sojourns the waiting just became even longer.
Now, the waiting seemed almost unbearable. But, no! Inspector Quinn was right! Worrying would do neither him nor the two young masters any good. He had to be patient for all their sakes.
Dick smiled triumphantly. It had worked! The Captain had been forced to surface. He still wasn't entirely sure what the situation was, but the Captain was barking orders and the crew was still hopping in a state of chaos.
A seaman approached the Captain and said something. The Captain immediately turned to one of his officers and said something to him. The officer nodded, and pointing at three others, they all drew their weapons and took off.
Dick swallowed. He had a feeling he knew 'what' or 'who' they'd been talking about--him!
"Uh-oh Looks like the cat's outta the bag," he muttered. He glanced at the ship's chronometer. It was set on a twenty-four hour clock. Remembering that Bruce had told him once that military operations were usually set to 'Zulu' time, he did mental calculations.
He wasn't one hundred percent certain, but he estimated the local time to be 11:30 p.m. That meant that he'd been missing almost twenty hours. He grinned suddenly.
"Batman is probably on his way right now," he said. "I've gotta find a way out of here."
His view of the ship through the air vent had shown him several possible escape routes, but all were manned almost round the clock. No, if he were to successfully leave the sub, then the only way out was the one that he had opened himself.
He began crawling back the way he'd come, to the torpedo room.
Batman gunned the Coast Guard Cutter to even higher speeds. The tramp steamer's ship's log indicated that Dymitr had sighted what he believed to be a periscope about one mile out, near a high shipping area.
Batman felt his internal alarms sounding. Dick had been gone almost twenty hours now. There was no way that the boy wouldn't have done something by now to effect his escape. For all Batman knew, the boy was currently afloat on the Chesapeake Bay without even a life raft.
Dick was well trained in survival tactics, but even he was incapable of lasting long in the cold December waters of the Chesapeake. His heart hammering, Batman pushed the cutter's engines to the redline.
Quinn and Rory got the call as they were pulling into the Baltimore city limits. Three German agents had been caught at the municipal waterfront by two merchant seamen.
They instantly turned on their portable emergency light and siren and headed in that direction.
Dick looked around carefully. The seawater had been stopped just a few inches from the air vent. He could feel the increased pressure in the torpedo room. The crew had probably pumped the room with additional pressure in order to equalize it with the sea, thus halting the flooding.
Okay, so they wouldn't sink. That was good for now, at least. Putting his hand out tentatively, Dick tested the water.
COLD ! He shivered. He was dressed in his flannel pajamas, but they wouldn't protect him from the cold for long.
"Okay, Dicky," he muttered. "Here's where we separate the superheroes from the boys." He swallowed. "What's it gonna be? Go out like a hero? Or let 'em hold you as a hostage? The Nazis must want something really bad from Bruce, or they wouldn't've taken you So, what's it gonna be? Hero or hostage?"
Dick didn't need to think about the answer. Taking a deep breath, he dove into the near-freezing waters.
As Quinn and Rory pulled into the waterfront, they saw the organized confusion of emergency lights and men in a hurry moving this way and that. Quinn jumped out as soon as they parked. He recognized the local Field Agent in Charge, MacLaren, and walked towards him.
There were several men in uniform standing around him, as well. As Quinn got closer, he noted that the men wore Coast Guard uniforms.
"Mac!" Quinn said by way of greeting. He shook hands with his fellow agent. "What've you got? Any connection to the Grayson boy's kidnapping?"
MacLaren nodded. "These two--" He indicated two merchant seamen. "--Malcolm Gilmore and Dymitr Kryszka, say that they were attacked by those three." He pointed at three men that were handcuffed and seated in the back of a radio patrol car. "The two say that they were knocked out, and that when they came to, they found the men who'd attacked them trussed up like turkeys. They don't know what or who might've done it."
"And what of them ?" Quinn asked, indicating the three prisoners. "What do they say?"
MacLaren grinned. "You won't believe this, Inspector. They claim a bat attacked them! Have you ever heard such a thing?"
Quinn nodded thoughtfully. "As a matter of fact, I have ! What else do you have? Why are our esteemed friends from the Coast Guard here?"
The Coast Guard officer stepped forward. "Because someone's hijacked one of our cutters The name's Whittier, by the way We've sent others to look for it, but haven't received any reports yet. We think that this whole thing is tied somehow. Kryszka, over there--" He pointed with his chin at Dymitr. "--claims that he thinks he spotted a submarine about a mile out a couple of days ago, coinciding with the kidnapping of the Grayson boy--"
"--Not claimed to see!" Dymitr protested. "I saw ! A periscope out there! These men are German agents and they were asking me about what I saw! It's there, Mister Coast Guard officer! I know!"
"I believe him," Quinn replied. He turned to Whittier. "Think you can take us for a boat ride?" Whittier nodded.
"Mister Chavez!" he called. A young officer with a gold bar on his collar was immediately next to him. "Ready the Yellowfin , Mister Chavez! We're going for a tour of the Chesapeake!"
"Aye, aye, Captain!" Chavez saluted crisply and executed an about face. As he ran down the waterfront, the others heard him shouting orders. "Chief Crowther!" A wizened face appeared over the cutter's railing. "Sound general quarters we're pulling out!"
"General quarters, aye!"
As Quinn and the others came rushing up, they could hear the sounds of the cutter's crew running to their battlestations.
Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941: A Day of Infamy.
Dick broke through the surface, gulping deep breaths of air. He was already frozen through. It had taken him several tries before he'd finally found the torpedo tube and swum through to the open sea. He'd clung to the side of the sub and pushed himself up, exhaling steadily all the way to the surface.
Clinging to the side of the sub, Dick looked around. It was night. The sub was in total blackout. The German sailors were moving quietly, making as little noise as possible. Dick knew that sound traveled much clearly and farther out at sea.
If Batman were looking for him, he might have some trouble. Making up his mind, Dick began climbing. That's when he heard it. The distinct sounds of a boat's motor. Batman! He knew it! He was as certain of it as if Batman were standing right here in front of him.
He had to send a signal. Suddenly galvanized, Dick climbed with determination. His cold muscles protested, but he forced himself to work through the stiffness.
Arriving at the ship's railing, he pulled himself onto the deck. Listening carefully, he made out a lookout at the bow of the boat about 50 feet forward. He heard movement up above. The tower there would be more lookouts up there. Staying to the shadows, he crept along the slippery deck.
There were two deck-mounted guns forward and he saw two more aft. He sighed. Now what? Narrowing his eyes, he squared his shoulders.
"Come on, Dicky," he muttered. "Hero or hostage?" That's all the urging he needed. Finding a lookout amidships, he crept up to him, and leaping high, he spun and kicked out, connecting with the back of sailor's neck.
The sailor collapsed unconscious. Dick caught his weapon before it had a chance to clatter to the deck. Listening again, Dick waited for the sounds of the boat's motor he'd heard earlier.
There! To starboard! Running silently in the direction of the sound, Dick made his way starboard and fired off several rounds into the air!
The effect was immediate. The deck crew began shouting and running towards him. Dick threw the weapon overboard and dived in after it. He swam under water in the direction of the motor he'd heard earlier for what seemed an eternity.
What if it wasn't Batman out there? No time to worry about that, he chastised himself. As he swam, he felt the water around him being displaced by what he could only assume were bullets being fired at him.
They sure played for keeps, he thought cold with fear.
At last, Dick was forced to surface. Coming up for air, he was blinded by strange the lights coming from several directions. He looked around in surprise. There was more than a single boat out here many in fact!
He looked around, desperately treading water! Batman was here! He knew it! But where?
"Dick! Grab this!" Bruce's voice! Dick didn't dare call him by name. He didn't know who was rescuing him Bruce or Batman. He reached for the life preserver. AS he grabbed it, he heard voices shouting over loudspeakers.
"This is the U.S. Coast Guard ! You are in U.S. coastal waters without proper authorization ! You are ordered to 'heave to'! Prepare to be boarded."
Several Coast Guard cutters surrounded the submarine. As Dick was pulled onboard by strong, helping hands, he heard the sounds of automatic small arms fire.
"This is your only warning ! Stand to and prepare to be boarded or we will open fire!"
The lights on board the German U-Boat suddenly came on. The officers on the ship's tower tossed their weapons overboard and raised their hands slowly. The sailors on deck followed suit.
Bruce Wayne looked up at his wet and bedraggled ward. He was kneeling in front of Dick and vigorously toweling his boy dry. Wrapping Dick in a heavy woolen blanket, he gave the boy a half-smile.
"Just what did you do, Dick?" he asked curiously.
Dick gave him his best grin. "Just what you taught me to do!"
Dick drank his milk very carefully, mindful to not leave a milk mustache on his upper lip. He looked up at Alfred who was hovering nearby. Alfred gave him a proud nod. Dick smiled back.
Then noticing that the First Lady was looking at him with an amused smile, he blushed furiously and looked down again to his plate of roast chicken. He still couldn't believe that he was having Sunday lunch with the President of the United States, his Secretary of War, Henry Stimson, and the First Lady.
"And you say the Japanese Ambassador has requested an audience?" the President was saying. Stimson nodded, unable to answer out loud. He had a mouthful of chicken and was chewing.
"Dick, I must say that I believe you are the bravest boy that I have ever met," the First Lady said. Dick looked up quickly. Her kind eyes put him instantly at his ease.
"Aw, gee, ma'am," he said self-effacingly. "It wasn't nothing." Alfred cleared his throat at Dick's use of a double negative. "Uh, I mean that is--" he blushed again.
Bruce reached over and squeezed his shoulder comfortingly. Dick looked up at him and was gratified to see his guardian wink encouragingly at him.
"Brave and modest!" the First Lady exclaimed. Turning to her husband, she addressed him. "My dear, we must do something to honor such a brave boy."
"Way ahead of you, Nell," the President said. "Henry! Do you have it?"
"Yes, Mister President," Stimson said, jumping up from his seat. He stepped out for a few moments and then returned, looking extremely pompous and official. He handed the President a framed document and stepped back respectfully.
The President wheeled himself away from the table and turning towards Dick called him forward.
"Come here, my boy," he said. Dick looked first at Alfred then at Bruce in a panic. Bruce gave him his usual half-smile of encouragement. Feeling a bit emboldened, Dick got up and slowly walked up to the leader of his country.
Stimson spoke up. "Everyone, please stand." Everyone in the dining room immediately stood respectfully.
The President of the United States read from the citation that he was holding: "The President of the United States recognizes Richard John Grayson for bravery in the service of his country. While in the hands of the enemy, Richard single-handedly stopped their espionage against the United States by sabotaging their submarine. Such actions are in keeping with the best traditions of the United States Armed Forces. Therefore, he is hereby awarded this citation of merit from a grateful nation."
Dick was stunned. The others in the room began clapping and cheering for him. Smiling proudly, he walked up to the President and shaking his hand, accepted the citation.
While everyone shook hands with Dick, a grim Army officer walked in and whispered something to the Secretary of War. Startled, Stimson rushed out. Within moments he rushed back in. Walking up to the President, he bent down and talked to him briefly.
The others watched as the President's light countenance suddenly became shocked and then thunderous.
"Are you sure?" he asked. Stimson shrugged helplessly.
"Mister President, I'm inclined to believe this to be just a rumor, but--"
"Let me see the cablegram," the President ordered. Stimson handed his Commander-in-Chief the yellow flimsy. The President read it several times. At last he looked up at the others.
"Nell, ladies and gentlemen, at exactly seven fifty-five, Hawaii time, the Japanese launched an unprovoked attack on our Naval forces at Pearl Harbor." The news was met with stunned silence. He turned sad eyes to Dick and called the boy to him. Placing his hand on Dick's shoulder he addressed him personally.
"I'm afraid, Dick, that now other boys who are not much older than you are all going to be forced to be as brave as you were last night." He looked at the First Lady. "And it's going to be my unhappy job to ask them to be."
Turning to his guests, he excused himself. "I apologize, everyone, but I'm afraid that I have a job to do."
"No, Mister President," Dick called out. The President and others turned to look at him. "We all have a job to do now, sir!"
The President of the United States smiled and gave Dick a 'V' for victory sign.
All characters are DC Comics
This story is © 2000 by Syl Francis.
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