Saturday, July 31, 2004

50. The Tempest (continued)

Batman arrived at the air force base at 4 on the dot like a good little hero.

And I zapped the shit out of him like a bad, bad, bad guy. What's worse, I didn't hand over his new boyfriend, either. Now I have both of them right where I want them.

The one called Robin is leashed, spread-eagle (spread-robin?), to a weather balloon which very shortly will take him up, up, and away. (As a timing mechanism, I've employed the time-honored magnifying-glass-in-the-sun technique: the hot beam of sunlight is ever so slowly burning through the ropes which have been tethering his beautiful balloon to the ground.)

Batman, meanwhile, is buried somewhere in the middle of a ton of sand that I dumped into an empty swimming pool on the base. My own version of the desert, which I believe will be effective enough to finish him off through an amusing combination of heat and suffocation. He was still breathing the last time I saw him, but that was before the last seven loads of sand landed on him.

Oh, what a beautiful morning!
Oh, what a beau-ti-ful day!
I've got a beautiful feeling
Everything's going my way.

49. The Tempest

When it rains, it pours.

I admit I flew into a rage when that new brat materialized and started untying Batman, but then it occured to me that having him around might work to my advantage in the long run. He was certainly no match for my Rod, and I decided I could torture Batman a while longer by separating the hero from his would-be savior.

The new one--after receiving several unfortunate shocks to his neck and side--says his name is "Robin." Not much of a fighter, if you ask me. I could break him in half if I wanted. But he means nothing to me, except as a way to further hurt the Bat. The devices I've been saving up for Batman and my other nemeses could be used just as effectively on this "Robin."

Fortunately, he is much lighter than his apparent mentor, and thus easier to drag away. I had him tied to a cot most of Thursday; every time he started to come to, I gave him another jolt until he was back in cloudland.

Late Thursday evening, after "Robin" had had a good rest, the torment began in earnest. He woke to find himself locked in my Cold Room. As the temperature dropped lower and lower, I expected he'd be more and more willing to talk. Instead, he simply grew sluggish and tight-lipped. Much as I enjoyed watching him shiver in his skimpy little outfit, I was getting nowhere. I needed to know what his connection was to Batman, and how to contact the big buffoon.

Next came the Wind Tunnel. It was hilarious watching the red-and-green-clad idiot clutching at whatever he could find to keep from being blown away, banging into one thing after another until he got the bright idea to lash himself to a post with some rope from his belt. (He didn't seem to know he had it, he was fumbling around so much, but then I suppose the hurricane-force gusts didn't help his concentration much.) I was growing weary of his resistance by this time, so I shut off the wind machine and walked over to him with the Lightning Rod in my hand. "You've done a good job tying yourself up, Blunder Boy," I told him. "You just saved me a lot of trouble." By this point he was so tender that it only took a few more blasts with the Rod before he started telling me what I wanted to know. Turned out there was a cell phone--imagine that, an ordinary cell phone--tucked in his belt, and with the push of a single button I had the Caped Crackhead on the line.

I arranged a meeting at 4 A.M. Friday at the abandoned air force base on the outskirts of town. A simple exchange--his new buddy's life for his own.

48. Alfred

Days have passed since I've seen Master Bruce or Master Dick. The former was here, briefly, two nights ago, but has since headed off to attempt to rescue Master Robin. There has been no communication from either in the meantime.

I am beside myself with fear, and yet I must attempt a night's rest.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

47. Batman

Dear lord, how can I have allowed this to happen? A young man's life is now in grave jeopardy--and it's all my fault. But this is no time for self-blame--I must gather my thoughts quickly and head out to try and save him if I possibly can.

The Tempest was ready for me. With no prior knowledge of his physical strength (average) or his arsenal (imposing), I was ill-equipped to confront him when I arrived at the agreed-upon location in the pouring rain late Monday night. Consequently, he overpowered me easily with the help of an electrified weapon he calls his "Lightning Rod." (I have Alfred working on an insulated version of the suit now, but there is no time to wait for it before I face the Tempest again.)

His goal appeared to be stun me; once he had rendered me unconscious, he moved me to a large metal scaffolding and affixed me to it with specially modified wires wrapped around my ankles, wrists, and chest. He removed my belt at some point, which in retrospect was the only thing that saved me.

First, the metal equipment contained within it would have proven irresistable to the lightning that the Tempest was hoping to attract. Equally important, though, it signalled Alfred in the Cave that something was wrong. What I did not intend, however, was that he would send Robin after me.

R arrived (with impressive speed for an absolute novice) and set about freeing me from the scaffolding. What he could not know--what I did not realize myself--was that my captor was observing us both by way of hidden surveillance cameras. R was occupied untying the last bits of wire when the Tempest returned, Lightning Rod at the ready. I watched, helpless, as he gave Robin a jolt which sent the youth to the ground. I was next.

When I came to, both Robin and the Tempest were gone. I quickly removed the remaining scraps of wire and scoured the premises in search of them. I located my belt nearby, but there was no sign of the others.

I have returned here to the Cave to quickly gather my thoughts and compare notes with Alfred. I do not yet know whether the temporary supplies he provided Robin included a tracking device. I fear the worst. R is in no condition to fend for himself; my only hope is that the Tempest will keep him alive as bait in a fresh trap for me.... a dire thought indeed.

R saved my life. But I must rethink the entire plan; he has become a liability now. I cannot believe I just phrased the matter that way, but I cannot deny it, either.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

46. Robin

Okay, I'm in the Cave now and suited up--such as it is. Have to ignore the fact that I'm basically a guy in biking clothes with a mask cut out of some old shorts.

Or at least remember I'm a guy in biking clothes packing a belt full of serious weapons. And it'll be hard to forget that--this thing must weigh 40 pounds! Hopefully it looks more imposing than it really is; Alfred tried to include only the items I've been trained on, though god knows what's actually in there.

Al's staying here to work online. I'm taking one of B's extra civilian cars to the place where the alarm tells us the belt must be. We've got our fingers crossed that Batman is still there, too.

Of course, if he is, I'm betting mister Tempest will be as well. If he's got what it takes to ... yikes... take Batman down, then I don't stand a chance.

Can't think that way. Time to get my game face on.

(Holy shit, I don't even know what that MEANS--how the fuck am I gonna DO it?)

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

45. The Tempest (continued)

"The storm approaches, Batman," I murmured as he watched me, trying to guess my next move. "The flood waters gather. This is only the begi--"

And then the foul beast responded. He'd somehow managed to produce a smoke capsule from his belt and threw it hard against a cement wall nearby. The wisps of smoke drifted toward us, and before I could respond, his boot connected with my hand and knocked the Lightning Rod to the ground. Somehow he was on his feet again, and determined to attack.

I couldn't let that happen. I dove for the floor and reached the Rod. Two quick jolts to his thigh and lower back brought him down again. It was all I could do to keep from blasting him to oblivion in my rage, but I remembered how long I've been planning all of this, so I restrained myself once more.

Sparing him another speech, I simply gave the side of his head a good smack with the weighted end of the Rod and he was out.

I knew the belt had to come off immediately. I rolled him onto his stomach with some effort and unbuckled it, then dragged him by his boots to the metal scaffolding which plays such a key role in my scenario. He was a good 20 pounds heavier than I'd expected, so I am glad I didn't have to carry him much farther. The fact that his costume, like mine, was soaking wet from the rain only added to his bulk.

I stood him up and propped him against the scaffold, then set about fastening him to it. The metal wires I've used are excellent conductors of electricity, and I've increased their conductability with a specially designed grease. According to my calculations, it's only a matter of time before the building--and his wretched body, of course--is hit by a blast of real lightning and he's fried to a crisp before my very eyes. It may come slowly, and it may come fast; nature takes its own time on its course of destruction. But destroy him it will.

In the meantime, I check on him via closed-circuit cameras. When he starts to show any signs of coming to, I return to his side with my Rod and give him another jolt back to dreamland--just sharp enough to knock him out for a few minutes. I want him conscious enough to know his fate and scream for mercy, but I can't risk any escape attempts.

Heavens above, it's truly a beautiful night: soaking rain, thunder, lightning, and the promise of eventual annhilation. Glorious!

44. The Tempest

Conditions are clear indeed--the plan is proceeding even more smoothly than I'd forecast. Batman arrived as planned, and headed straight for the position I steered him toward even without my prompting. That big lunkhead has a dark cloud hanging over him indeed--a cloud of stupidity.

Though he acted cool, I'm sure his mercury rose when he first laid eyes on me. Me, resplendent in my silver suit, which clings to my body like dew on the grass... Face it, I am magnificient--as intense as sunshine against a bright blue sky--and all who gaze upon me are humbled. (Starting with that fuckwad Shore at GOC.)

Batman assumed a fighting stance--again, exactly as I'd planned--so I produced my Lightning Rod and pointed it straight at him. The jolt of electricity that flew three feet from its staff had him on the floor in seconds flat, jerking and twitching like an animal in the throes of death.

But the Rod was not intended to kill him, merely to stun him, stop him in his tracks. Since this was our first meeting face-to-face, I wanted to demonstrate the power at my disposal. I approached his contorted body until the rod was a mere six inches away from him and gave him a second dose. His shrieks of agony were delightful. I wanted to draw out the torture again and again and again until I heard him beg for mercy, but I stuck to the plan. There will be time. There will be time indeed.

I pressed the rod to his forearm (had I brought it to his chest I could have ended his torment once and for all) and watched him as he lay there helpless before me. The look in his eyes told me that he knew something awful was in store, and there was absolutely NOTHING he could do about it.

43. Dick

Alfred just called with horrible news. The signal hidden in Batman's belt is going off--it's rigged so that any unauthorized attempt to remove the belt will trigger an alarm back in the Cave.

In other words, the shit has officially hit the fan.

Al's on his way over here. He's bringing me back to the Cave, and from there I'll...

Frankly, I have NO IDEA what I'll do. What I should do... It's all happening too soon. I don't know enough, I'm not ready. Fuck, I don't even have a proper costume! (I mean uniform--shit, see what I mean?) Fortunately, Al's thrown together a makeshift utility belt from some of the duplicate items Batman has on hand so at least I'll have some real defenses to draw on.

And then what?

I don't even know where to begin.

42. Dick

Batman didn't show up at all last night, so I did the workout by myself--I know the basics pretty well by now--and Alfred showed me the notes BM left for me before heading out. This guy "The Tempest" sounds like a nut job to me; then again, almost every one of BM's adversaries I've been learning about lately strikes me as majorly insane. And I guess a lot of them ARE, in the clinical sense.

Batman's notes are pretty sketchy. I don't think he's used to the idea of anybody else needing to read them yet, so I'm having some trouble figuring out what's going on. But I get the idea that he wants me to look through some sort of employment records. Alfred has also discovered BM's private journal, and together we're trying to crack the password to see if there are any further clues in that.

Al doesn't seem that concerned, but frankly, this all scares the shit out of me.

Monday, July 26, 2004

41. Batman

Rained all afternoon. 67 degrees on the dot. Which makes tonight the night for a trip to the NWSO. I'd hoped to fill Robin in on the case, but there's no time--I'll leave instructions with Alfred. He can conduct tonight's exercises himself.

I don't like the looks of this. I only wish R was ready to provide backup, but he's simply not. I must go it alone, and hope for the best.

40. Dick

Wow, an actual normal-human-being weekend! Sleeping late, seeing friends, eating full meals instead of grabbing snacks between jobs, the whole nine yards. And a nice evening of nooky with Peter, to boot.

Only problem was, the time seemed to draaaaagggggggg along. I was counting the hours until I was back in the Cave (just over fifteen more to go, at this point), suited up and working alongside Batman again. I think my boredom was evident, much as I tried to mask it.

I never knew the real world could be so tedious. Thank god I've got a little action in my life now.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

39. Batman

As I suspected, Gotham has a new felon. The pattern of thefts in recent evenings has pointed toward someone obsessed with weather-related crimes, and during last night's 7 PM news broadcast on WGOC, meteorologist Rob Shore was the victim of sniper fire during a live remote. The shooter then planted a message onscreen intended for me. He identifies himself as "The Tempest," and threatens more assaults until I meet him at the National Weather Service Office--a meeting he has stipulated must take place on the first rainy night with a temperature between 67 and 69 degrees Fahrenheit.

Clearly a madman, but one I cannot afford to ignore. The skies have been cloudless for the last several days and remain so this evening. I must use the time to do further research--and attempt to forestall future attacks.

It is crucial that I check the employment records of WGOC and other local television stations. If my hunch proves correct, this "Tempest" may be easier to track down than he imagines. If I can catch him off guard, I may be able to nip his crime spree in the bud. I need to put Robin on the project--Alfred and I have taught him the necessary skills for research on the batcomputer--but he insisted on two nights off in a row. I knew it was a bad idea, but I must constantly remind myself that he is new to this way of life and does not appear to have as strong a work ethic as I had hoped.

Perhaps the research can wait until Robin is back in the Cave on Monday night. Tonight and tomorrow I will investigate a few other leads on my own.

Friday, July 23, 2004

38. Dick

I'm totally screwed. Ignored the alarm clock this morning and now I'm THREE HOURS late for work. Not that I care, deep down, but something tells me my days are numbered over at the office.

The thing that had me so tired this morning was last night's training. Batman stuck around longer than usual to lead me in some wrestling maneuvers and fighting techniques. We rolled around on the floor, our bodies pressed into each other, for a good hour and a half, both of us working up a sweat. There's no way in hell he could have missed my boner jutting into him over and over again, but he didn't say anything about it. The suit he was wearing was the rubber one he often wears on patrols, and the protective reinforcement in the crotch makes it harder to detect details like bat-stiffies, but I have a feeling he was probably as aroused as I was.

On the other hand, he was a little distracted about something else. Last night there were three separate break-ins that caught his eye when he learned about them: at the airport, at a science supply store, and at Gotham State U. All petty thefts, but the connecting factor he noticed immediately was that all the items stolen were connected to meteorology in one way or another. Too much of a coincidence to be entirely random. Batman says it doesn't fit the M.O. of any of his known adversaries, and he plans to investigate further this weekend.

As a result, I've actually got TWO nights off from training in a row--calling Janice and Peter to see if either is free on Saturday or Sunday night. I just have to make it through today: a few short hours of work, if they'll still have me, then Batman promises a particularly strenuous training later tonight.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

37. Robin

Batman's given me a new homework assignment: He wants me to start finding "the voice of Robin." When he's Batman, he adopts an entirely different way of speaking, a deeper tone, even a different way of phrasing things. It's all part of the camoflage, he says--another kind of mask.

So I figured I'd start this new journal to try it out. Maybe if I start with writing in some new style, I can start adjusting my speaking voice later. But what does a hero sound like?

It's weird--when we're growing up, we don't really consciously decide, "I'm going to talk like a surfer dude," or "I'm going to sound like a young Republican." It just happens; we pick up things from our environment. Or at least I guess we do--I didn't really study any of that in college. This is more like an acting exercise than linguistics, though, so maybe I can draw on those plays I was in back when I was a freshman. (Typical queerboy choice, I know. And I only did it because I had the hots for the director. Thinking back, though, maybe the tights he kept having me wear were part of the attraction, too...)

So far I don't think it's going too well. I mean, I just feel like the same old person writing under a different name. I have to keep reminding myself that in this identity I have no past, only a future. No acting class, Mom and Dad, no Bill, no Janice, no Peter. A clean slate.

To tell the truth, I'm a little distracted. I've only had three hours of sleep since last night's training, during which I had this incredibly hot dream. I don't remember too much about it, but I know I was in the Cave trying on my brand new costume (which in real life won't be finished for several more days, Al says). I left the changing room and walked in on Batman and Alfred. Bruce (okay, he had his mask off, but the rest of the suit was on) was on his knees sucking off Alfred, who was sitting in Batman's command chair. Al noticed me watching them and beckoned me over, and pretty soon I was the meat in a Batburger sandwich... Tell me, Dr. T, whatever can it mean? (As if I need to ask--and as if I'd ever bring it up.)

Shit, this is definitely not what Batman had in mind when he gave me this assignment. Maybe I'm just not up to the task. I didn't ask to be a crimefighter, and so far I'm the farthest thing from one: just a guy with a daddy fixation sitting at his keyboard wanting to jerk. I should be out there catching bad guys, shouldn't I? Or at least getting ready to go to the office. Yesterday there was a memo on my chair scolding me for my poor attendance record. I'd love to march into the HR office and say, "Look, I'm sorry but I'm up half the night toning my body and perfecting my mind so that I can help Batman rid the world of master criminals." But something tells me that wouldn't go over too well.

So instead it's off to CubicleLand and the rest of my somewhat peculiar new daily routine.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

36. Dick

Bruce was only around for the first half of last night's training. --Oh, shit, I have to start getting this straight: Anytime he has the suit and mask on, I have to refer to him as "Batman." When he's in street clothes, he's "Bruce." When the suit is on but the mask is off, I'm supposed to take my cue from him. I don't know how he can compartmentalize his life so neatly, but then I guess I'm learning.

Speaking of masks and suits, I have to wear my mask throughout the workout, even though it kind of gets in the way sometimes. Batman says that's the point: to get used to the feeling of this thing on my face, work around any limitations to my peripheral vision, make it second nature. I don't know how any of this will ever come as "second nature" to me; it's kind of like learning a whole new language late in life, and I doubt I'll ever be able to think in anything but English.

The hardest part so far may be the cover stories I have to invent to explain away my actions to other people who (used to) know me well. I haven't talked to Janice in a long time, relatively speaking, partly because I haven't had time but mostly because I'm dreading having to lie to her. I can see Peter is disappointed that we're not together more often, but I don't have a way to explain how I'm spending my nights other than the shopworn "working late" excuse. And then there's Dr. T. Our sessions are getting really awkward. The single most important development in my adult life is taking place all around me, and I can't even talk about it with the man with whom I've shared the most intimate details of my life for ages. I was so evasive during yesterday's session that the discussion got really boring really fast. I swear I even fell asleep at one point, but that was probably just exhaustion. (BTW, he's moving our sessions to Wednesdays now for some scheduling reason that escapes me. Doesn't affect me much either way.)

I've been out and proud for years now, and suddenly I find myself crawling back into the closet ... or the Cave, to be more precise. I don't know how I feel about that... and I haven't even brought up the whole WayneTech business; how the hell have I ended up falling for the guy whose company I've protested more times than I can count? If any of my old ACTUP pals ever heard that, they'd either kill me or die laughing.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

35. Anonymous

Dark clouds gather. I hear the thunder roar outside the storm cellar I have made my home base. My preparations are almost complete. I have only to gather my weapons and ready my costume.

And then, Batman, the rain will fall for forty days and forty nights. The flood is coming to carry you away. I can already see you on the verge of drowning, begging me for mercy. But I will turn a deaf ear. You have been allowed to roam freely for too long. You must be taught a lesson.

Count your days, my friend. A new era is upon us. The deluge begins.

34. Dick

When last night's workout ended, I headed to the bathroom in the Cave to take a shower before the next round of lessons began. I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror, my masked face moist with sweat. For the first time I thought I noticed signs that all this back-breaking exercise has been paying off. Could be wishful thinking, but I'm convinced my arms are already growing larger, my abs are growing firmer, and my belly is shrinking ever so slightly.

I brought one of my hands up to my nipple and caressed it through the synthetic fabric of my temporary costume. Pretty soon I was aware of my cock popping up against my tights, so I brought my free hand down to give it some attention. Haven't felt this turned on by my own body in a long, long time--maybe ever. I don't know what I'm becoming, but I like it. A lot. I stood there for three or four minutes rubbing my fingers over the lycra, daydreaming blankly as I enjoyed the sensation of flesh against tight material.

And then something else caught my eye in the mirror: Batman, standing in the doorway, watching me. God knows how long he'd been standing there before I noticed, and I didn't know whether to feel more embarrassed or excited.

"I've got someone I want you to meet," he said. His no-nonsense tone suggested the stranger wasn't hiding under his briefs.

I brought my hands back to my sides and tried to divert attention from the minor mountain in my tights by fidgeting with my fanny-pack utility belt. Then I followed him down the hall.

"Robin, this is Alfred, my manservant. He has been with me my entire life, and he is a trusted confidant. I have some business to attend to this evening, so Alfred is going to take over from here. The first order of business is a fitting for your new costume." Bruce handed me over to Alfred, and then he was gone.

This butler guy is one of those older British men I've always found attractive. Clearly a homo, but who knows whether he's as closeted as his boss or not. Don't ask, don't tell is probably the house rule. A little haughty, but then it goes with the territory. I can't imagine somebody spending his entire life working in the shadow of somebody else more wealthy or famous or powerful--at least that's not a career I'd ever want for myself. Hey, if Bruce doesn't make a move sooner or later, maybe I'll give the hired help a try.

Alfred took a few measurements, clearly enjoying the act of holding his tape measure against my body... and given how little action I've seen lately, I kinda liked it too. Then we walked over to the computer and worked on an application designed for the very purpose at hand. That took an hour or two, then he lead me through some more computer procedures and explained the basic guidelines for having our costumes cleaned and repaired. He does the actual work; he just had to show me where to leave mine and where I'd find it when it was done. Since I've only got one costume -- shit, I mean uniform -- for the time being and it's always as wet as a dishrag when the workout is over, I guess that's going to mean a lot of washing. Alfred says Batman has at least ten full outfits in several varieties (leather, spandex, rubber, kevlar, etc; full bodysuit, separate top and bottom; etc.) and countless additional elements, all of which have to be inspected and tended on a regular basis. I'll be getting a spandex outfit first, and then more if I ever make it out onto the street.

We went over some more business, then he drove me home. Not having a car of my own has always been frustrating, but never more than now. I feel like a kid being driven to and from school. On the other hand, neither the "Batmobile" nor Bruce's primary personal vehicle (I take it he has several) is your typical soccer-mom set of wheels, so I'm not exactly complaining.

Batman wasn't back by the time we left the Cave, but Alfred says that's not unusual at all. He only gets worried when the sun comes up, and besides there are several means of communication built into the batmobile and the cave so they can be in contact when needed. Me, I was just happy to be in my own bed (alone) a couple of hours earlier than I've been for the last few days.

Time for a quick bite, and then it's off to the office. Almost forgot--I've got a Tanhoger appointment this afternoon, too. Then back to the day job, and then the night one...

Yeah, this is pretty much a second job, at this point. Not quite what I'd planned on, but as long as I look this great, I'm not gonna complain.

Monday, July 19, 2004

33. Batman

Training with Grayson is going well. He is a fast learner and seems dedicated to the task at hand, despite his troubling behavior this weekend. In such situations, I must press him harder. The life he has chosen is not an easy one, but it is clear to me that that reality has not hit him yet. It will, in due time.

One unintended consequence of my intimate work with him is that my larger purpose has gone neglected for too long. Time I spend in the Cave with him is time away from my patrols. The streets have been quieter than usual with Joker out of action, but I know all too well that the calm will not last.

Alfred returns tonight. I may be able to turn over certain lessons to him so that I may maintain my usual vigil.

32. Dick

What a weekend! Peter wasn't exactly happy to hear me back out of our Friday night date, but fortunately he was willing to move it to Saturday. When we finally got together, I had to disguise the fact that I was so damn tired from the nocturnal workouts with Batman that I could barely move. He was horny as hell, so I just kind of lay there and let him fuck my ass while I fought off sleep. Only the spurt of hot cum on my back snapped me back to life.

Bruce, meanwhile, looked baffled when I asked for a night off so soon into my training. Jesus, doesn't this guy take a break on the weekend? Evidently not, because we were back at it on Sunday night, and I could swear he made the exercise section even longer and more difficult just to get back at me. If he had one iota of self-awareness he'd realize what he's doing to himself... and to me.

The one bright spot in all of this is that I'm spending so much time up close and personal with Batman. When he's spotting me as I lift weights, his crotch is frequently smack dab in front of my face, and it's all I can do to keep myself from grabbing a mouthful of it. I'm positive he's aware of this; my hunch is that he's trying to teach some kind of twisted lesson about restraint.

Speaking of restraint, I've learned more in the last 24 hours about ropes, handcuffs, and other devices than I ever thought I'd need to know. Putting them on somebody else, getting myself out of them, you name it. And it's only just beginning; Bruce says we'll be focussing on that for the next three weeks or so (in addition to combat techniques, first aid, the computer database, and half a dozen other topics). I've never really played around with bondage much in my sex life up to now, but when he held my wrists behind my back and cuffed them, I ... I dunno. It just felt electric, like somebody had just slapped me out of a deep sleep.

And speaking of SLEEP, that's the most precious commodity in my life right now. No more sleeping in on weekends, I guess. And trying to balance a full work day with a full night -- whether I'm spending it with Bruce or Peter -- is starting to take its toll. I dread the upcoming work week, much as I look forward to the evenings. Which, as far as I can tell, will all be spent in the Cave. I told Peter I'd call him midweek if my schedule cleared up, but that it was going to be a pretty busy time at the office. He looked disappointed, but he's willing to be patient. I don't want to lose him -- as a friend or whatever more he might be -- but this business with Bruce just feels so incredibly important that I have to pursue it.

When I'm with Bruce, I feel like my real life has just begun. But how much of my old one will I have to surrender in the process?

Friday, July 16, 2004

31. Dick

Holy GOD am I ever sore. Every fucking muscle in my goddam body is aching now--with the exception of Little Robin, that is. He's the ONLY one who didn't get a major workout last night.

(Speaking of "Robin," I don't think Bruce was too crazy about the new name. Sounds too effiminate, he says. I told him it was more androgynous; I mean, there are plenty of male Robins--Robin Leach, Robin MacNeill, Robin... Hood. He says Hood is the wrong image--we don't steal from the rich and give to the poor, after all. But Bruce himself is rich, and he's diverting his income to those less fortunate, so it sort of fits. Anyway, I just like the sound of it. Sort of campy--which, of course, Batman TOTALLY hates. But he's willing to live with it during this trial period. Guess you could say Robin is on probation for the next few months.)

The costume, at least, passed muster for the time being. "It'll do for training," he says. But if I ever do go out on patrols I'll need something reinforced, probably with Kevlar. He also wants me to have a cape, although if you ask me it looks like it'll just get in the way. I also need a proper "utility belt"; the fannypack I've got now just won't cut it. He says he'll have his butler/servant/whatever get to work on it as soon as he's back in town. (This Alfred guy is evidently on vacation or something now, so I haven't met him yet.)

Bruce picked me up at the usual time last night, only this time he was in his regular car (VERY nice), dressed as Bruce Wayne, and I got to actually sit in the front seat during the ride and not wear a blindfold. We're making progress, I suppose. I had my Robin duds on underneath my street clothes, as he'd instructed me. I got a quick tour of the ground floor of his place--a stately manor if I've ever seen one (and until last night I hadn't)--then we shed our civvies and got to work. The warmup alone was half an hour long; lots of stretches and breathing exercises. Then he led me through a TWO HOUR exercise regimine more intense than even the most sadistic of gym coaches could ever dream up. Fifteen minutes rest break, then another two-hour tutorial on a computer database he's customized. That part had me bored out of my mind, but I guess it'a all part of the routine, and routine is clearly VERY important to this guy. We went over some basic interrogation procedures, and he left me with a stack of law books I'm expected to read in my, uh, spare time. This all seems completely over the top to me, and I don't know how he thinks I'm going to get through any reading before we meet again toni--

SHIT. I completely forgot I'm supposed to be getting together with Peter tonight. I've already blown him off (or rather NOT blown him off) all week, and now...

I don't know what to do. And I don't know which is less appealing: four more hours of boot camp with a deeply repressed but otherwise flawless stud, or an evening of vanilla sex and strained conversation with a cute guy who's no superhero.

Of course, Dr. T would point out here that I've framed the choice in the worst possible way. Looking on the bright side, no matter what I decide, I'll be spending the night with a hot man, building something I haven't had in my life up until now.

Great. Either way, I have to figure out something FAST.

30. Dick

I swear I'll never understand that man. I called him just now on the secure line he gave me last night to tell him I'd made my decision to join him, and he almost seemed pissed off. Says I didn't take long enough to think it over, that I don't know what I'm getting into, etc., etc.

Shit, I think I have a pretty good idea. I mean, I've been reading comic books since I was old enough to read. I know what a hero does, and chances to become one in real life don't come along every day.

He says I'm way off base, that what he does is nothing like what happens in the comics and the movies. The "hero" comment seemed to really set him off--"I've never, EVER seen myself as a hero, and I don't suggest you start your career that way, either," he insisted. All that was missing was a "...young man!" tacked on at the end. Scolding me, like I was his kid or something. Sometimes you'd think I was ten years old, the way he talks to me. Sorry, but if he thinks I'm gonna be his Boy Wonder, he's got another think comin'.

Okay, Dick, calm down. All things considered, maybe Dr T's solution isn't such a bad one after all. A few hours ago I picked up the meds he prescribed and started the daily dosage. Wasn't paying much attention to what the guy at the counter was telling me about whether or not to drink water with them, empty stomach or full, all of that. Something about alcohol, too, but I've already forgotten what it was. (Hey, maybe THAT's how you know you need an anti-anxiety medication--when you're too distracted to listen to the pharmacist when he's telling you about your new anti-anxiety medication.) I'll just try not to get smashed when I'm on them. Shouldn't be too hard.

Tanhoger says the effects are really subtle--so subtle that you don't notice a thing, "and then one day you notice that life doesn't have its old edge anymore." I just have to remember to keep taking them every day. After a few weeks, he says, we may have to start meeting twice a week to monitor their effects.

Anyway, after a long back-and-forth with Batman, in which he reminded me of the scars all over his back and bombarded me with horror stories about life-and-death situations for half an hour, I reminded him that he's already told me I won't even be going out in public with him, at least until I know my shit. Maybe never.

My first "homework assignment," if you will, is to come up with a name and a disguise. (He calls it a uniform, not a costume or a disguise.) And that took me all of 10 seconds. I'm going with "Robin." I don't think I'm gonna tell him that it's always been my pet name for my little -- okay, Robby, not-so-little -- pocket pal. (Cock Robin--get it?) I think that's just going to remain my own little private joke. Anyway, "Batman and Robin" has a nice ring to it. Who knows--maybe "Robin and Batman"... We'll see.

As for the outfit, the red-and-green cycling getup I've been using on my night rides--especially that one where I "saved" him in the woods (yeah, right) -- seems like a great start. Guess that means I'll need something else for biking, but then I've got a hunch I won't have much time for leisurely rides through the park any more.

Speaking of which, I've got to wrap this up and get out of here. I'm only working a half day today (Susan wasn't too happy about that, but what the hell--it's Friday), and then it's home for a short nap before my first night of training in the Cave. Batman says I'll need my rest for the workout he's got planned for me later tonight.

The one thing I still need to come up with is a mask. I've got an older pair of black lycra shorts in the closet somewhere; I'm thinking I'll cut one of the legs and turn that into something. It's not perfect, but it's a beginning.

29. Dick

My first night at home alone in days. Not that I'm complaining, mind you, about my newfound life of insane batcave visits and sex with a cute, totally normal guy on alternating evenings. But I need time to think. Especially now that I have a LOT to think about.

I'm still getting used to the idea of Batman as Bruce Wayne. Funny, but it never occured to me to wonder who he was beneath the mask. I just took him at face value. I didn't really want or need him to be anyone else but "the Batman." And now that illusion is shattered forever, I guess. The question is, what do I do next?

Who am I kidding? From the minute Bat ... er, Bruce ... invited me to work alongside him, I was sold.

I mean, sure he's crazy. The whole idea is crazy. But how often does an opportunity like this come along? For years now I've been saying I have to do more with my short time on the planet than work in an office all day and watch TV all night. The time I spent as an activist was the most rewarding period of my life; this strikes me as an extension of the same impulse, just under slightly different circumstances. Either way, it's working outside the law to try and make the world a better place. And this time, I get to wear a hot-looking costume and work alongside the sexiest man I've ever seen.

Besides, if I don't like it, I can always back out later on down the road.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

28. Dick

I don't really know that much about Bruce Wayne. I've heard of him, of course--I mean, who hasn't?--but I never really read the society pages. One thing I do know is that he's pretty much always seen in the company of some allegedly hot babe or other: startlets, socialites, rock stars, you name it. I guess that explains why he's been so weird around me ever since our first meeting. Or not. I don't know--I'll have to bring it up with him sooner or later.

And it looks like I'll have plenty of opportunity.

I was silent for a moment after he told me who he was, and then I had to ask: "Why are you doing all this--bringing me here, night after night, showing me all these things, and now this?"

His turn to be quiet for a while. And then he answered: "Because I need you, Grayson. The image I show the world is by necessity one of strength and fearlessness, but the truth is I need help from time to time. On three separate occasions now you've shown me that you are capable of providing that help. In short, I trust you."

I couldn't believe what I was hearing. "So you're saying you want me to be your ... partner?"

Batman was quick to clarify. Sort of. "I don't know what I want you to be. Not yet. You need training--I can't let you join me on patrols until you've learned everything you'll need to know. And that day may never come. But in the meantime, I invite you to return here on a regular basis. From this point on, you may come and go as you please. My resources are at your disposal. In exchange, I ask that you be on call to lend me assistance as needed."

"You're joking, right?" I said.

"You may have noticed by now that I'm not a joking man," he replied. "I'm not looking for an answer tonight. Go home and think about what I've said. The risks involved in my work are enormous; the sacrifices are innumerable. The rewards are sometimes too minute to notice."

"And they are...?" I wondered aloud.

"Satisfaction that I am playing a small part in making the world a better place. A sense of purpose. And -- in the rarest of situations -- a peace of mind beyond any I have ever known."

He put his hand on my shoulder--the most intimate we've ever been--and I stared deep into his eyes. For the first time I was able to look at his entire face and recognize how handsome it was. And, in the same instant, to notice how sharp the contrast was between his head -- the head of Bruce Wayne -- and the rest of his body, clothed in a costume. The body of a man living a fantasy existence on the edge of night.

Where do I sign up?

27. Bruce

It has begun.

I brought Grayson to the Cave once again last night. This time, I showed him my face. Standing before him with my mask removed, I felt almost naked. I'm certain he could not see it, but I sensed myself shaking, sweating, my throat parched, my breathing shallow. And then, after a moment, I felt lighter, as if a great weight had been lifted from me.

For twenty years I have held on to this secret more dearly than life itself. For twenty years I have waited for the right time, the right man, one I could trust. Alfred knows this side of me, but given the nature of our relationship he can never fully share my experience.

Have I made the wrong choice? It is too late now to turn back... and that awareness only made the moment of my unmasking all the more highly charged.

I have given Grayson a gift: my fate, in his hands.

And I have made him an offer. Time will tell what he makes of it.

26. Dick

Holy... Ah, fuck it. I'm still in shock; too hard to find the words right now.

But I feel like I need to write down what happened last night in as much detail as possible, so I'll try:

It was raining when Batman picked me up on the usual corner. I headed straight to the rear passenger door, slipped the waiting blindfold over my eyes, and stretched out on the seat once again. The trip to his "batcave" was shorter this time--fewer twists and turns, a more direct route. I took this as a sign he was starting to take me into his confidence.

And how. When we pulled into the garage of the cave, I heard him open his door, then there was a longer than usual wait before he opened mine.

No matter what else happens to me in the years to come, I'll never forget the shock I felt when I could see at last. There, less than a foot away from me, stood Batman. Unmasked.

He looked familiar, but I couldn't quite place him. Where had I seen that face before?

"I think you know my family business," he said in a tone that almost sounded playful. He gestured to a nearby table, where I saw the flier for the most recent demo against WayneTech Enterprises.

Strangely enough, the first thought that popped into my head was: He's been digging through my stuff when I wasn't looking! And the second thought, the one I actually blurted out loud, was: "You're ..."

"Bruce Wayne," he said, after I appeared incapable of completing my own sentence. "Pleased to meet you."

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

25. Batman

The time is right. I have studied him, I have talked with him, I have done a complete background check on him, and I am convinced that Grayson can be trusted.

I realize the decision I have made could destroy my career, even my life. But I am willing to take that risk.

Tonight is the night.

24. Dick

I realize I haven't written much about my job lately, which is probably an indication of how little it matters to me. I've come mighty close to falling asleep at my desk the last couple of days, after my late-night adventures with Batman.

On top of that, I was 15 minutes late for my appointment with Dr. T. yesterday. The session was incredibly awkward, since I was trying hard not to bring up what's really been going on in my life for the last week. He noticed, and asked at one point, "Any further contact with the Batman?" I tried to change the subject, but I'm sure he saw right through me. Of course he did: he's a shrink, right? As our time was wrapping up, he told me I seemed more anxious than usual--which is true--and handed me a prescription for an anti-anxiety medication. I haven't filled it yet (no time!) but I'll do it on my lunch break. Can't hurt, right?

Called Peter yesterday to try and explain why I've been incommunicado. More hemming and hawing on my part, but he seems understanding. I said I was up against a deadline at work and we made plans to get together Friday night.

Meanwhile, Batman appeared at his usual time again last night. I guess it's evidence of how nonchalant I'm becoming about all this that I'm only getting around to that news now, but there really isn't much to say about his latest visit. He seemed more interested in the contents of my apartment, like the wall over my desk (which is covered with posters from demos of the last 10 years), than in talking to me. Besides, he only stayed about 15 minutes. Told me he's coming back tonight to pick me up at the same corner as before for another trip to the Cave. (Keyword: "told." Didn't ask if it was convenient for me; didn't offer any other options.) Says he has something else to show me.

Frankly, if it's not his cock--and something tells me it won't be--I don't know why I'm even bothering.

Monday, July 12, 2004

23. Dick

Batman drove for about 20 minutes; I'm pretty sure he circled a few blocks and took a few unnecessary detours just to throw me off. Didn't he trust me? I mean, I was the one climbing into the car of a man whose face I'd never seen, putting a blindfold on, and hoping for the best.

I felt the car slow to a halt, then heard the engine cut off. "We're here," Batman announced. Maybe it was wishful thinking on my part, but I could swear his tone was slightly less gruff this time.

I heard him open his own car door, then walk around the vehicle to open mine. I felt his hands wrap around my shoulders as he helped me to an upright position. One of his gloves brushed against my cheek as he lifted the blindfold from my eyes. Every moment of contact was electric.

He guided me out of the car and through a sparkling clean garage to a much larger room. I was dumbfounded by what I saw: electronic equipment of every conceivable variety, a fully stocked arsenal of equipment, a personal gym to rival the finest facillities in Gotham City, racks of costume supplies, and vast amounts of other things whose functions I could only guess. All of it was in impeccable order.

"I call it 'the Batcave,'" he told me.

"Very Goth," I replied. "Big Bauhaus fan, are ya?"

He didn't get the cultural reference. No surprise. Anyone with a secret life this elaborate clearly had no time for the pop culture of the last 30 years. I started to regret the years I'd spent memorizing Joni Mitchell lyrics and learning the names and voices of minor "Simpsons" characters instead of doing something truly useful with my time.

There was far more to the "cave" than I could take in. My eyes eventually settled on a section of the room loaded with restraints and torture devices of every description: stocks, crosses of various types, a rack, and much more.

"That's quite a dungeon you've got there," I said.

"This is where I practice ... escapes. My enemies have devised ingenious means to torment me, and it is essential that I understand how they are constructed," he explained.

"Yeah, whatever," I mumbled, imagining selected items in use. "Have you ever invited anyone to try this stuff out with you?"

"From time to time. Like you, each guest has been brought here blindfolded. No one knows the location."

We spent the next hour touring the facility, and then it was back into the car, blindfold on, lying down once more. There was almost no talking on the way to my home, which gave me the opportunity to pay attention to the ride itself: different route, equally circuitous.

"Sit up," Batman barked after about 20 minutes. "Take the blindfold off first."

With that, we were at my corner. Silence. "Uh, thanks for the tour," I said as I prepared to open the car door. He said nothing in return. I toyed with the idea of giving him a peck on the cheek on my way out of the vehicle, but decided against it. "Goodnight," I told him, even though I noticed it was almost morning.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

22. Dick

I knew something was up when the phone rang at midnight on the dot. The caller ID read "123-456-7890," which told me that the person on the other end of the line had access to fancier blocking equipment than most. Guess who.

"Meet me on the corner of Adams and Kirby in 10 minutes," a familiar voice said. "I've got a surprise for you."

I hadn't really expected to go out, so I threw on a pair of socks and shoes, locked the apartment, and headed to elevator and then out onto the street.

At the precise moment I got to the corner of choice, a jet-black sportscar came roaring up to meet me--obviously the vehicle the local media had dubbed the "Batmobile" with their usual flair for sensationalism. No idea what make or model, but I'd say it looked like some kind of souped-up vintage Mustang. The windows were tinted so dark I couldn't see inside. I reached for the handle to the front passenger door and started to open it until I heard a voice say, "Get in the back seat."

Batman's tone rubbed me the wrong way once again, but I realize it's all part of the guise he's adopted for self-protection. Or maybe it's force of habit, the way some cops can behave like real assholes when they're in uniform--and even when they're not--probably after years of dealing with the worst of the worst.

I closed the front door and opened the one behind it. "Mmmmm, leather seats," I said. "Nice touch."

Batman didn't play along. "There's a blindfold on the seat next to you. Put it over your eyes, then lie down."

I hesitated for a moment. Mama always told me not to get in the cars of strangers with candy; she didn't say anything about strangers with masks and handcuffs.

This wasn't the first time in my dealings with the man that I had to ask myself whether I'd lost my mind, of course, so I slipped the blindfold on, shut my eyes tight, and settled into the soft upholstery for a ride into the unknown.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

21. Bruce

There are times when I regret the choices I have made in my life--the choices made for me by Mother and Father's deaths so very long ago. There are nights when I want nothing more than to rest, read the paper, have a glass of wine, enjoy the passage of time.

I watch Grayson with a degree of envy--he is young, handsome, has not a care to his name. He knows nothing of the violence in the world outside his door, nothing of the evil which surrounds him, surrounds us all. He is lost in the minutiae of his existence. He does not seem to realize it, but he is a happy man. I fear I have shattered his illusions; as is so often the case, my mere presence in his life may have brought his happiness to an end. And yet I feel we are now drawn together by a force beyond my power.

I've already told him more than I've ever told anyone else.

I want to tell him so much more.

I can only hope he's ready.

20. Dick

The next 15 minutes were almost indescribably tense. I ruled out calling 911, because I couldn't figure out how I would explain the presence of an unconscious guy in a costume on the floor of my living room. For a brief second I thought about calling a friend with medical akills, until I remembered I don't know any. I was pretty sure I had a first-aid book somewhere in the apartment, but finding it would be a major feat.

Fortunately, while I was pacing around, opening up pages of the phone book and then snapping it shut, he came to. I didn't see him pull himself off the floor and onto the couch; by the time I heard him and turned around, he was in the process of removing his cape and gauntlets.

Next to come off was the top half of his costume, which he deftly lifted over his cowl. Under normal circumstances this sight would have been a dream come true--and as I write this now I can vividly picture his hairy, sculpted chest--but in the moment all I could concentrate on was the network of fresh and ancient scrapes and bruises crisscrossing his flesh like some horrific boardgame.

"Rough night?" I asked, as he sorted through the equipment in his first-aid kit as if it were second nature.

"Two thugs, a block away from here," he said without looking up. There was considerably more energy in his voice now. "You really should consider moving," he added.

"I thought you only went after your ... playmates," I said. "The ones you mentioned in your letter."

"Normally they take up most of my time," he replied, "but I saw these two about to mug a young woman, and I had to stop them. Thought the mere sight of me would be enough to frighten them away, but they put up a real fight. Usually the costume does half the work, but this pair must have been high on crack. One of them pulled a knife; the other was wearing sap gloves. I took quite a beating."

"I got the impression you liked that," I said. Judging from the look on his face and the ensuing silence, Batman didn't seem to think that was very funny. And by the condition he was in, I could see that none of this was exactly fun and games for him.

"Do me a favor," he said after a moment. "I can feel a scratch three inches below my left shoulderblade on my back. Clean the wound and dress it for me, please." It sounded distinctly like he was giving me an order.

"Yes, SIR," I responded with as much sarcasm as I could summon. Nancy Nurse is not a role I've ever been asked to assume before, and I'll be damned if I'm gonna start now, no matter who's playing doctor.

The cut looked awful, and I did my best to treat it. He didn't flinch when I worked a dab of antibacterial ointment over it. Nor did he say thanks.

"You need rest," I told him. "Can I drive you home?"

"Out of the question," he snapped. After a pause to reconsider his words, he made a stab at toning them down: "Too dangerous. Can't risk your safety. I'll sleep here instead."

Hot damn, I thought, envisioning myself side by side with the masked man all night long. But before I could help him to the bedroom, it dawned on me that he was being literal; he'd already draped his large frame over the couch, his cape serving as combination pillow and blanket.

"Wake me up at 4:30," he practically barked, adding, after another characteristic silence, "A.M."

Your wish is my command, bitch, I wanted to reply, but I held my tongue. "Can I get you anything?" I asked.

"Water," he said.

"Just what I like: a cheap date," I cracked. He glared at me with a look that spoke volumes as I headed to the kitchen faucet. Maybe I'd read him wrong all along; maybe there really wasn't anything on his mind but this demented "job" of his, fighting bad guys online and off.

He was sound asleep before I even had the lights turned off. I walked over to the couch and gazed at the battered, shirtless madman for a good five minutes longer, studying his closed eyelashes through the eyeholes in his mask, fantasizing about his dry, pink lips, and brushing my hand over the crotch of my pants.

I set the alarm for a few hours later and tried hard to sleep. Impossible. Every sound on the street outside, every shudder of the refrigerator and every trembling in the pipes all seemed amplified a hundred times as I lay in my bed, tossing and turning.

Or maybe I wasn't as alert as I thought, because when the alarm went off at last and I returned to the living room to awaken my guest, he was already gone. In the empty space he had so recently occupied on the couch was another handwritten note, this one far shorter than the last:


19. Dick

This is what I get for complaining I could use a little more action in my life: A total of two hours of sleep, an apartment that smells like rubbing alcohol, and a hard-on that just won't quit.

Batman showed up last night after I put the signal in the window, only this time it was 20 minutes after midnight by the time he arrived. (I know, because this time I was ready for him, in case he tried to pull that peeping-tom routine again. Instead, I sat waiting by the window for nearly an hour.) I knew something was wrong from the minute I spotted him climbing up the side of the building, because he was moving much slower than usual, almost in a daze; I was even afraid he was going to lose his grip on his rope.

When I opened the window, he practically fell into the apartment. In the light, I could see that his costume was flecked with grass and mud, and there were several small rips in his cape.

"... Sorry I'm ... late," he practically grunted, in a voice not much louder than a whisper, as he stumbled to the floor. It seemed to take great effort to get the words out.

"Are you okay?" I asked, praying the answer would be yes and that this was all for the sake of drama, because I had no idea what to do next.

"First ... aid ... kit ... third compart ... ment ... of my belt," he mumbled. Third from the left, or the right, I wondered to myself, already fearing I was in over my head. My hand headed for the third one from the right.

"Other ... side," he said, with a slight edge of irritation.

I located the proper pouch and opened it, revealing an ingeniously compact collection of ointments, bandages, and tweezers. But by the time I waved it in front of his eyes, he had already passed out.


Friday, July 09, 2004

18. Dick

Well, well, well: so the Saviour of Gotham City turns out to be a rich guy into role-playing. And a major closet case, from the sound of it.

Barely slept last night. I've read and re-read the letter at least six times now, and every time I just come up with more questions than answers. More than ever before, I realize I don't know how to feel about this guy. It's obvious that he's totally fucked up. But there's something about his story--his real story, if I can even trust him to tell me the truth--that I find incredibly attractive. Or maybe it's just the outfit giving me this constant boner.

One thing is clear: as soon as I wrap up this entry, I'm calling Peter to cancel tonight's little get-together. Then I'm taping that, uh, bat-signal back in my window.

I have no idea what's coming next, but I'll be damned if I'm gonna miss it.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

17. Batman (letter to Dick)

Dear Mr. Grayson,

I feel that I owe you a fuller explanation, if not an outright apology, for my behavior thus far. My story is lengthy and complex, so I have chosen to write down the essentials here. If you wish to know more after you have read this letter, I will be happy to explain further. For obvious reasons, however, I must request that you destroy this message after you have read it, and that you speak to no one about any of what follows.

Allow me to begin at the beginning. I was born into a wealthy and privileged Gotham City family; as a child, I had everything I could ever have wanted, and more. But my idyllic youth ended abruptly when both of my parents were murdered in cold blood. Their killer was never identified. I was 10 years old at the time.

Throughout my adolescence, I was passed from one relative to another until my parents' butler was officially designated my legal guardian after a protracted court case. Unable to find a true home for myself, however ornate my surroundings, I retreated into a fantasy world of comic book superheroes, detective fiction, and bodybuilding, vowing to avenge my parents' deaths with all the resources I had at my disposal. I resolved to develop my physical and mental abilities to a level equalling that of my fictitious heroes. When I reached maturity, I inherited a fortune which guaranteed I would never have to work a day in my life, beyond serving on the boards of numerous corporations in which my family holds a major stake.

At the age of 18, I began to travel the world on my own, mastering languages, studying human behavior, and cultivating the sophisticated air one expects of my elevated social standing. But this persona felt like a disguise to me, masking my true self, one I had already dubbed "The Bat-Man." I adopted the bat as a sort of totem animal because it is a small, peculiar-looking creature whose appearance is nonetheless capable of striking fear in those who do not understand it. Moreover, the bat is nocturnal, and I knew that my true work could only be carried out at night, in a dreamlike world of solitude and imagination.

At an age when most people discard their childhood fantasies, I had the means to hone mine; I strove to hold onto an illusion others would have abandoned in the daylight world of jobs and family. I spent the next 10 years acquiring practical skills and the technological tools of my trade and teaching myself all that I imagined a "superhero" would need to know. In retrospect, I'm not sure I had any intention at that point of moving my Batman persona into the public sphere; adopting it in private was simply something I felt I had to do for my own inner well-being. My alternate existence as Batman was my most closely guarded secret, the truth which gave me my only satisfaction in life.

A decade into this pursuit -- approximately 10 years ago -- I began to discover the existence of other individuals who nurtured similar dreams, men and women who, like me, had created alternate selves modeled on the heroes and villains of their youth. Through the newly emerging internet we started to find each other and create a common space in which to live out our fantasies. Our earliest encounters were strictly online, but within a fairly short period of time some of us began to meet face to face, albeit always in disguise. Anyone who did not share our tastes would have interpreted our encounters as harmless, if not childish, fun, but for the participants these interactions carry the power of transcendence, a power not to be wielded lightly.

I remember the first time I donned my uniform in front of another man, one who was also wearing a mask and costume of his own devising. It was as if, for the first time in my life, I was able to reveal my true self to a stranger. Our interaction that night was more intimate than any encounter I had ever experienced, and the realization that neither of us would have been able to recognize the other should we meet on the street the next day added to its intensity. Soon my evenings were filled with such activities. More and more characters began to present themselves, with names like The Riddler, The Penguin, The Sandman, and on and on. Some were "heroes," some "villains," a few crossed back and forth at will. Some modeled themselves on existing fictional characters; others, like me, created our own personae.

Alas, as seems to be the nature of the online world, our once closed community was quickly infiltrated by individuals with darker intentions. Moral lines which had once been clear to all participants were now being crossed with abandon, and our counter-world was tainted by real-life crimes. These began with harrassment and threatening e-mails, then escalated to computer viruses, then fraud and extortion. We tried to police ourselves; the man you now know as the Joker made his earliest appearances in our virtual community as a con man calling himself the Red Hood. The Hood was the first character to be expelled from our circles, but he returned with a vengeance as the Joker. He was not the first of the infiltrators to emerge in the daylight world, but his exploits were certainly the most colorful--and the first I know of to turn homicidal. The rest of us cringed as the newspapers began to report his crimes: what started as pranks and public disturbances soon led to robberies, kidnappings, and outright murder.

At that point, I realized that everything in my past was now coming together and steering me unavoidably toward my destiny. If my involvement in the online community had inadvertently unleashed such unthinkable madness into the outside world, it was now my responsibility to enter the larger world myself as the Batman, to try to right the wrongs being committed by my former peers.

And that, Mr. Grayson, is what led me to the public notoriety with which I have been saddled for the last 3 to 4 years. Although I have taken pains to avoid interactions with civilians, reports of my appearances began attracting media attention, and I found myself an inadvertent celebrity--a role which threatens my ability to do my work. Some of the characters I encounter now--like the gentleman you met in the park, who calls himself the Black Eagle--are harmless friends (albeit ones about whose unmasked lives I know next to nothing); others--I believe you have seen their work--are dangerous criminals. Unfortunately, it has become harder and harder to tell the difference.

I deeply reget every harm that my actions have caused you. It was never my intention to involve innocent bystanders in this world, and I will certainly understand if our paths never again cross.

I also realize that my explanation may be difficult for you to fathom or accept; I still have trouble understanding and accepting it myself. If you have any questions about any aspect of it, I will be more than willing to elaborate to the best of my abiity. (For obvious reasons, my alternate identity must remain a secret.) Should you wish to speak with me again, simply affix the attached image--my logo--to your window, and I will return to your apartment the following night.

Regardless of what you decide, I must again ask that you destroy this message, and that you not divulge any of its contents to anyone. For your own safety as well as my own, secrecy is a must.


16. Dick

I don't know whether this is good news or bad news, but Peter stayed over last night. He showed up around 8 with two bags of Chinese food and a large black notebook. His portfolio, as it turns out. Ironically, it was ACT UP that led him to photography nearly 10 years ago; he started documenting actions for legal purposes, then realized he had a knack for it. His stuff isn't bad; he showed me all kinds of work, and I liked most of it.

I was also thankful because it gave us something new to talk about, since I suspect we've pretty much exhausted everything we have in common. The last pictures in the book were nudes, and frankly, they were pretty hot--especially the couple of himself he included. They also made a great segue into the rest of the evening. We put the book down and picked up where we'd left off on our last date, spending a fair amount of time on the couch before moving into the bedroom.

The sex was a little more rewarding this time, but I have to say that I kept re-running last night's scene in the park over and over in my head. Peter was stretched out on his stomach and had my cock pressed between his legs when I came. I collapsed onto him, spent,then rolled off him and cupped my hands around his balls while he jerked himself off. After we washed up we both fell into a deep, happy sleep.

Peter kissed me on his way out early this morning. I was still sleeping, and the heat of his breath on my face woke me up. I offered to make him breakfast, but I think we both knew that was an empty proposal. Even so, we made plans to get together again tonight--seems a little hot and heavy a little sooner than I would normally feel comfortable with, but then few things seem normal these days. Life goes so slowly for so long, and then it seems to race by with a timing all its own. I rolled over and went back to sleep for another half hour or so, happy to have some time to myself before heading to the office. This need for privacy makes me wonder: Do I really WANT to get involved with somebody else? For so long after Bill left, I thought I did, but now I'm finally getting used to solitary life--well, as solitary as life can be when you've got men coming in through your doors and windows at all hours of the night.

Ah, the window: Getting out of the shower, I pulled the curtains open and propped it open just a crack.

That's when I noticed the sheet of paper on the sill. The side facing into the apartment was the product of a computer printer: bright yellow with a black bat in the center; the other side bore a handwritten note.

My first thought was: Fuck. God knows how long that freak must have been watching Peter and me last night through the window.

My second thought was: Batman, watching me get it on with somebody else without my knowing it. How fucking hot can you get?

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

15. Dick

(Boy, when it rains, it pours: had to stop writing when the phone rang. It was Peter. To my surprise, he wants to get together again, and -- even more to my surprise -- I said yes. I suggested a replay of the dinner-and-a-movie formula, but he's bringing takeout and just wants to stay in. First there's nothing going on in my life, then it feels like I'm being hit from all directions.)

Now, where was I? Oh, right, the park:

I knew I had to act fast, so I thought about the resources I had on hand. The mini-MagLight probably wouldn't do much good, except maybe as a distraction, but the pepper spray would come in handy. I reached a hand in the pocket of my windbreaker and realized I still had my balaclava stuffed in there from last winter, so I pulled it on. I figured if I was in the company of two men wearing masks, I might as well have a little disguise of my own.

My main goal was to subdue, or at least detain, the attacker and cross my fingers that Batman could somehow free himself. My heart was racing as I turned the flashlight on and hurled it as hard as I could about a dozen feet to the left of the bad guy. As I hoped, he turned to see what was going on, and with his guard lowered I came charging straight at him. Don't ask me where I got the nerve to do it, or what specifically I had in mind once I reached him, since the only knowledge I have of fighting technique comes from movies and tv shows, but I held the spray straight in front of me and pushed the button so that a jet of it headed directly for his eyes.

The closer I got, the better I could see what was going on. Batman's tights had been pulled down, exposing some kind of jockstrap and athletic cup around his waist. His belt had been removed and was lying on the ground at his feet. Strangest of all, the "weapon" the bad guy was holding turned out to be a large black rubber dildo.

It fell from his hands as he screamed in pain. "SHIT! You didn't tell me you were bringing a friend!" As he went on, his voice sounded less like a master criminal than a bitchy queen: "This guy doesn't even play by the rules! 'Safe, sane, and consensual,' my ASS--if he fucked up my contacts, I am sending YOU the BILL." The fight I was expecting never materialized, as the shrieking, sobbing bad guy stumbled off blindly into the woods, cursing us both.

I decided it was more important -- and smarter -- to help Batman free himself than to pursue his attacker. I fumbled around for a while with each of the knots as he twisted and turned to loosen their grip. He didn't seem as appreciative of the helping hand as I would have expected. To be honest, he probably could have escaped faster by himself, but I was kind of enjoying the role of assistant crimefighter. After all, he'd already saved my life, so I figured I owed him one.

That's the line I planned to use as I pulled the balaclava off my head and smiled at him. "Remember me?" I said after he'd pulled up his pants and buckled his belt once again. But to my surprise, he looked more pissed off than anything.

"You," he hissed. And then he turned and walked away into the darkness.

14. Dick

Holy fucking SHIT. So much has happened in the last 24 hours that I don't see how I can cover it all here.

First things first, just so I don't forget: The session with Dr. T went well. It took me pretty much the entire 50 minutes just to recap everything that had happened since the last time I saw him, and as usual he listened without saying much at all while I rambled on about Bill and Janice and Peter and all the other characters in my humdrum existence. When I got to the part about Batman and the Joker, he looked up from his notepad and then started to press me for more details. I assumed at first that he must thought I'd completely lost it and was going delusional with invisible playmates, but I'm not so sure. He probably saw the same coverage on TV as everybody else; there's still a lot of speculation that the whole thing is a publicity stunt or a hoax, even now, but everybody wants to believe in heroes. And celebrities. Maybe he's just as starstruck as everybody else. We made another appointment for next week and I headed home.

I've stepped up my exercise regimen lately, probably as a way to deal with all the anxiety I've been feeling lately. In addition to working out at home, I've been jogging a lot and taking longer and longer bike rides. My schedule was a little screwed up because of the afternoon meeting with Dr. T, so I decided to do a night ride instead. A LATE night ride this time--I didn't leave the apartment until about 11 p.m. Seemed like a golden opportunity to break in the new cycling outfit I bought last week: green biking shorts and gloves, and a stretchy red top. (Okay, I admit it: I think I had the whole comic-book crimefighter model in mind when I picked out this little ensemble. Doesn't everybody who wears this stuff?) I've also got a black leather fanny pack stocked with a flashlight and pepper spray, since I like the night rides from time to time. I knew it was a little cold out, so I wore my fall windbreaker, too--the bright yellow one, so I'd be seen more easily on the road.

I left my place, wove my way through a few side streets, and headed to the park. It's closed after 10, but I've never let that stop me before. It's always so quiet and peaceful in there after dark that the deeper in you go, the more you feel like you're in the wilderness. There's usually only one or two other cyclists or a few pedestrians at most at that hour--sometimes a few more on a beautiful night with a full moon, but not on a chilly evening like this one.

I got about as far as the bird sanctuary and stopped for a second to rest and have a sip of water. That was when I started hearing something--twigs snapping, something running in the woods nearby. I figured it was an animal of some kind at first, but then I heard some muffled but distinctly human sounds. I couldn't make them out, but it was clearly something aggressive.

A smarter person than I would have hightailed it out of there, and a more conscientious one would have found a park phone and called 911. (A wealthier person than I would have just dialed his cell phone.) But no. Something -- a death wish, perhaps? -- compelled me to find the nearest trail and ride directly toward the ruckus to investigate.

Took me a while to locate its source, and when I finally did, I propped the bike against a tree and walked over to peer through the brush. It was pretty dark, despite a little illumination from the moon and a streetlight far in the distance, but I didn't dare use my flashlight. When my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I almost couldn't believe what I thought I saw: Batman was there, along with another guy in a mask and costume. Batman was tied to the trunk of a large tree, his wrists bound over his head and his ankles pulled as far apart as they would go, each tied snugly to the trunk. There was more rope wrapped securely around his chest, and he was struggling to try and break free. It looked like the other guy was coming toward him with a weapon of some sort.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

13. Batman

Fresh peril looms. If I read his clues correctly, the Black Eagle plans to strike in one hour in Gotham Gate Park. Time to suit up and beat him there. I have every reason to believe I'm walking into a trap, but I have no choice.

12. Dick

I can't believe how long it's been since my last session with Dr. Tanhoger. (I know he wants me to call him by his first name, but his just doesn't seem shrink-like enough. "Sigmund," maybe, but ... "Gus"? I could always go with "Gustavus," since I think that's what I saw on the diploma mounted on his wall, but he doesn't seem to use that himself.) I tried to make an appointment right after the scene at the bank, but he was on vacation. He's been booked up ever since he returned, and this afternoon will be our first meeting in ages.

God knows we've got plenty to talk about: the bank for starters, and the subsequent business with Batman. Then there's this whole thing with Peter--try as I might, I just couldn't get off until I started picturing Batman in his place. I'd love to start a truly healthy relationship some day, but frankly I just don't see it happening. Not now, maybe not ever.

I can already guess what Dr. T will say--when I first went to see him, I was obsessing about Bill, and now it's the same thing, only it's Batman instead. Always chasing after the inaccessible, and refusing to let it go even when it's clear that there's no chance.

Dr. T--okay, Gus--has already been an incredible help to me, even if the change isn't always so clear. If nothing else, I owe this journal to him; after our second or third session together he suggested I start writing down my thoughts between meetings. I still feel as fucked up as ever, but leaving his office always makes me feel like there's hope.

11. Dick

It's been so long since I've been on an actual date that I almost forgot how to do it. Peter arrived at my place at 7 and we went to a burrito joint around the corner. He's still as attractive as ever; if anything, the ensuing years have made him even cuter. Beautiful brown eyes, close-cropped hair, a nice build. Over dinner, I realized that when the conversation strayed away from our common interest in politics, we didn't have much to talk about, but maybe we were just getting to know each other.

We'd agreed over the phone earlier in the day to see "Fahrenheit 911." Not the typical make-out movie, I guess, but throughout the film we both kept escalating the physical contact between us--legs pressed against each other, arms pressed together, until at one point he had his left hand planted directly in my lap. I stiffened up immediately, and we had to sit in our seats until long after the credits had ended before I could stand up without embarrassment. I could see he thought that was hilarious.

We made it back to my apartment in a hurry, and headed to the couch. He was a great kisser, and when he took his shirt off, I liked what I saw. A lot. I took his nipples in my hands and rubbed both of them between my thumbs and index fingers, which got him moaning. He ran his tongue over my earlobes, grabbed my cock in his hand, ran one of his fingers down the crack in my ass--every gesture serving to excite me more.

Great foreplay. As ACT-UPpers,even lapsed ones, there was no way we were gonna fuck without condoms, but I sensed that neither of us really wanted to fuck at all. We started to jerk each other off instead. He came in no time.

Not so easy for me. I let my imagination drift, and pretty soon I found myself fantasizing I was in bed with someone else. Three guesses who. First I imagined it was Peter's head beneath Batman's mask, his cape tossed casually on the floor, the top half of his costume pulled up and the bottom half down around his ankles, leaving only the belt around his waist.

In my mind's eye it was Batman himself, the real one, whose gloved hand wrapped around my shaft, sliding up and down along the stiff flesh there. I pictured him curled up beside me until I shoved him over onto his stomach and planted my dick straight between his legs, thrusting in and out with increasing force.

That thought brought me back to the scene at the bank, the Joker's leering face egging us both on once more. I had Batman pinned beneath me, and I pumped into him with all my might...

... and shot a load so powerful it made me shudder, up into the air and landing on my belly with a splash.

"Wow," said Peter, snapping me back to the real world. I smiled stupidly at him, and we kissed once again. We lay side by side for a few minutes, and then he got up, cleaned himself up, and put on his clothes.

"See you around," he said.

"Don't you want to stay the night?" I asked. Deep down, I wanted his answer to be "no," and it was. A polite no, accompanied by a weak promise to call soon, but a no all the same. I saw him to the door and then went back to bed, hoping to pick up the rest of the story in my dreams.

Monday, July 05, 2004

10. Dick

Biggest event of the last couple of days hasn't had anything to do with a "superhero," thank God. Janice called to remind me about the July 4 demo outside WayneTech Enterprises to protest their dubious defense department contracts. I swear those assholes have been on the wrong side of every major issue of my adult life -- South Africa, sweatshops, union-busting, you name it. This is easily the tenth demonstation I've been to at WT; I feel like I know the place by heart now. We stood around, did the usual chants, handed out fliers to people who were there for the annual Independence Day concert and fireworks, then went home.

Not so long ago, I wouldn't have needed a reminder call. In my college days I probably would have been one of the organizers, plotting ways to padlock the doors, or break in and hurl a banner from the top floor, or at least blitz the surrounding area with wheatpaste and spraypaint. But no more. Looking back, I think it was around the time I got involved with Bill that my activism shrivelled and died. When that relationship headed south, I just retreated further and further into myself. Alas, the outside world is as fucked up as ever, if not more so, but I can't seem to drag my head out of my ass or my ass off the couch anymore. I don't really seem to do anything exciting anymore. Unless you count the business at the bank, but that was pretty much an accident, and the followup with Batman, which was pretty much a bust.

I definitely need to get more active. Guess I'm just waiting for the right opportunity.

Uh, speaking of which, when Janice and I were walking back to her car from the WT action, I felt a tap on my shoulder from behind. "Hey, Dick! Remember me?" somebody said.

I didn't remember, not at first. After a little prompting, though, I realized it was Peter, a guy I'd gotten to know through ACT UP Gotham City years ago. We'd never been close, but I'd always thought he was pretty damn hot. In fact, he was the reason I'd gone to more than a few affinity meetings back in the day--I kept thinking that would be a good way to meet him. Eventually I saw that strategy wasn't going anywhere, and I moved on. Hadn't seen him--had barely even thought of him--for years. And now here he was saying he wanted to get back in touch.

Sensing something was up, Janice left us alone. We have years of experience interpreting when to leave the other one alone and went to stick around. I told her I'd get a ride home myself--and Peter conveniently offered one.

On the way back to my place, we talked about the demo for a second, and how different it was from the old ACT UP actions, which led us to reminiscing about various characters from the old days and what had become of them. When we got to my apartment, we stayed in the car and talked a good half hour longer. I asked if he wanted to come up; he declined, but said he was free the next night. He squeezed my hand, aaid it was good to see me, and then gave me a kiss.

At last: a good old fashioned date to look forward to. I thought about telling him to use the door, not the window, but I doubt he would've found it as funny as I did.

Friday, July 02, 2004

9. Bruce

I wanted to tell him everything. To show him everything. To say ...

But I couldn't. I can't.

Not yet.

8. Dick

Well, I guess we've established this guy's not plugging a movie. Know why? Because in the movie version, the masked man at my window would have taken me into his arms, kissed me till the breath left my lungs, and ...

Ah, fuck it. Who am I kidding? That's the movie in my mind, not the one coming to a multiplex near you anytime soon.

It's also not what happened between him and me.

Shit. Fuck. FUCK.

7. Dick

Our first few minutes together were about as awkward as you'd expect, considering that one of us looked like he'd just walked out of the pages of a comic book and it wasn't Halloween. (Not that I'm complaining about his outfit, mind you.) Miss Manners doesn't seem to have addressed the etiquette of dating superheroes.

But was this a "date"? I couldn't tell. I was pretty damn sure from the minute he opened his mouth that he was the same guy from the bank, so at least I could move past my initial paranoia, but beyond that it was anybody's guess what was going on.

After an impossibly long silence, I offered him a beer. He told me he didn't drink on duty.

"Duty?" I said. "You mean this is your job? What kind of -- oh, wait, so the rumor is true! This is all to hype some new movie, right?" These days, every "caped crusader" worth his salt has a box office blockbuster behind him, and lots of people assumed that any day now we'd hear that Time/Warner or some other huge studio was coming out with a movie about a masked vigilante called "The Bat" or something like that.

"I wish that were the case, Mr. Grayson," he said gravely. (He continued to call me "Mr. Grayson" for a long time, even after I made a point of asking him to stop. I figured we were already past the point of formalities, given the way we'd first met. Evidently not.) "I have adopted this persona strictly for my own reasons."

"You mean you're ... serious about all of this?" I asked, recalling once I'd said it that what had happened at the bank was clearly no joke, as the trail of corpses and injuried innocents had firmly established.

"Dead serious," he replied. "And if your offer still stands, I'll take a glass of cold water instead, please."

There was something damn spooky about this guy. Not so spooky that I thought for a second about asking him to leave, mind you--far from it. I seem to have a long history of falling for deeply fucked up men. But this one was different--not just because of the costume, but in ways I couldn't quite put my finger on.

As I walked to the kitchen and reached for a glass, I was almost positive he was checking me out behind my back. Don't ask how I know, but it was the same feeling I'd had before I noticed him at the window, only this time I was sure it was my ass he was zooming in on.

He sat in the least comfortable chair I own; I took up a spot a foot away on the sofa. For the next half hour he grilled me about the crime scene. More specifically, he grilled me about me: how often I went to that particular branch of the bank, how much I knew about the Joker, seemingly random details from my personal history, etc. No small talk whatsoever. I told him how I'd moved to Gotham when my parents kicked me out of their house after I came out to them, how I hadn't had any previous contact with armed robbery, and so on.

"What's this all about?" I blurted out after I started getting nervous that maybe this was some kind of Homeland Security bullshit. "You make it sound like I'm a suspect or something."

"I apologize if I've put you on edge, Mr. Grayson," he said. It almost looked like he was trying to crack a smile, only the moment he realized what he was doing, he suppressed it. "Force of habit."

I tried a different tack. "Do you pay house calls to all your tricks?"

That little attempt at humor didn't go over too well. For starters, he didn't seem to understand the expression. Stony silence again. It occured to me that I'd completely misread the situation, that there was nothing to this visit beyond ... well, just the facts, ma'am. And then I remembered that lump in his crotch, and felt really, really confused.

I looked into his eyes one more time. Beautiful as ever, maybe more so now that we we'd spent some time together. But they also looked empty now. And I realized his expression was as blank as his mask--blank enough that I could project any conceivable emotion onto it. Turns out I'd projected the wrong one.

We were both so silent I could hear our breathing. At last he reached out his hand. Took mine in his gloved palm.

And shook it. Squeezed it with a more forceful grip than necessary, held onto it longer than casual friendship would suggest, released it after some hesitation.

"Thank you," he said.

And he was out the window once more.

A fucking handshake, and he was gone.

6. Dick

I gazed out the window at my midnight caller for what felt like ten minutes, probably searching for some kind of proof that he really was who he appeared to be. Could be just about anybody under that mask of his--well, any Caucasian male of a certain age, that is--but he looked familiar enough. I stared into his eyes, took note of how large and active they were, how they exuded a kind of unearthly intelligence. I studied his chin, his cheeks, the masculine jut of his jaw. My eyes travelled down the upper half of his costume--identical in every way to the one I'd seen in the bank--and rested, as I'm sure anyone's would, on his crotch.

The bulge I found there was too big to be covered up by the pair of briefs he wore over his regular tights (I assume that was their main purpose). His hands were hooked between his belt and his clothes, close enough to the buckle to suggest that he'd perhaps been fondling himself while he was watching me earlier.

Great. Either this guy was the man of my dreams and he shared my every emotion, or he was just some sicko voyeur who'd found a way to climb up a brick wall to check me out and probably murder me. No way of knowing, unless...

I'm getting harder and harder as I write this, remembering how fucking horny I felt at that moment. It occured to me then and there that even if my life was in danger, I didn't care. I was willing to risk anything for the chance that the shadowy creature outside my window was really the Batman.

I unlatched the window and pulled it upward.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

5. Batman

I arrived at Grayson's mid-city apartment at 11:25 p.m., staked out the building with my infrared binoculars until I located his floor, and noticed lights on in a bedroom I intuited was his from the shadow his body cast on the curtains. It was easy to scale the wall and arrive at a ledge near his primary window, where I installed myself to survey his actions without being noticed. It was of utmost importance to my purposes to ensure that he was alone, safe, and trustworthy.

Judging from the surroundings, Grayson is between 29 and 32 years old, college-educated, has pronounced leftist tendencies, and brings in a modest income well below his earning capability. He is a transplant to the city, a bit self-possessed, has little contact with friends or family--in fact, I suspect he is an orphan--and spends an inordinate amount of his disposable income on clothing. Evidence of frequently-used amateur-grade weight training equipment suggests he takes excellent care of his well-toned body. The condition of his kitchen tells me he eats out more often than in.

I studied him for half an hour as he walked through the small, moderately tidy apartment beginning and abandoning a variety of odd jobs, visibly nervous as he anticipated my arrival. He looked exactly the way I remembered him, the way I had pictured him since our last meeting: clean-cut, athletic, intelligent.

Once I had obtained all the information I could gather in this fashion, I made my presence known to him.

4. Dick

I probably can't say what exactly I was expecting would happen at midnight, but I certainly thought it would have begun with a knock at the door. You can imagine how surprised I was to hear a soft tap at the window instead -- even more so because for at least half an hour I'd had the funniest feeling I was being watched.

Did I say "surprised"? The whole thing scared the shit out of me. And for the first time it dawned on me that this all could have been a hoax. If the local tv stations had figured out how to track me down, then so could any nutjob in Gotham. What the fuck had I gotten myself into?

I stood there staring out the window at a masked man cloaked by darkness and a huge billowing cape. What little I could make out of him looked like the man at the bank, but how could I know for sure?

My heart was already racing from sheer anticipation. This new shudder of doubt was almost more than I could take.