Saturday, February 19, 2005

117. The omniscient narrator

"Surprise, surprise," said Hugo Strange, making no effort to disguise his amusement over the sordid chain of events now unfolding. He'd been dreaming of this moment for years, and carefully setting this particular trap for months in order to live the dream at last.

The biggest and most obvious surprise was the fact that he was not the man now lying beneath the Batman wearing a nearly identical outfit.

No, he was dressed in a suit and tie, standing at a safe distance behind the other two men.

"Strange," the stunned Batman blurted, and this time the word referred to far more than just a name. "How did you ... Is he .... How can this be?"

"I know you have a lot of questions," Dr. Strange said as he walked closer to the dumbfounded detective. "All things in time. You must be exhausted right now. Perhaps you could use a little rest." The grinning madman produced a syringe from his coat pocket and jammed it into Batman's upper arm.

The drug it contained took effect immediately, and the caped crusader slumped forward, unconscious.

"Get up," Strange ordered the other man who was still pinned beneath the sleeping superhero. Without a second's hesitation, the man in the Impostor's suit sat up, silently pushing the dead weight of Batman to the side, then rising to his feet.

"Take his belt off, first thing," Strange commanded, and the Impostor knelt down and unbuckled Batman's utility belt. He handed it to the doctor, who located a pair of bat-shaped handcuffs and gave them to the Impostor. The unmasked automaton quickly snapped one cuff around Batman's right wrist, then pulled the detective's left wrist behind his back and fastened the second cuff around it.

"Pick him up and take him to my private chambers," Strange said, and his glassy-eyed servant did as he was told, draping Batman over his shoulder and carrying him to a couch in Strange's lavishly appointed office, then lowering him onto it.

The Impostor stared blankly at the inert masked man for a moment, then stepped away. He studied the room: it was so familiar, so welcoming, so safe. He had spent so many hours in this room that it almost felt like home.

He walked over to a mirror and smiled at the reflection that greeted him there: the strong, chiseled body, the broad shoulders, the confident,handsome face.

The face of Dick Grayson.