Thursday, February 24, 2005

126. The omniscient narrator


It was all Batman could do to force those two syllables out in a gutteral whisper. The immense effort that simple act took made the hero wonder just what was going on: how much of his weakened state was due to drugs, and how much to power of suggestion? Either way, the situation was not good. Not good at all.

Directly addressing Dick did no good; the younger man simply stared into space like a zombie. What hellish tortures had brought him to this place? What would it take to bring him back?

"So many questions, Batman," a voice said. Somehow--but no, it was impossible!--it was Strange's voice. Could he truly have mastered the art of reading minds?

"All will be revealed in time," Strange said. "For now, though, it is time for you to reveal another part of your secret self."

The madman shifted his attention to Dick Grayson. "Richard, the cape." The younger man again knelt beside Batman, and brought his hands to his mentor's neck, where he unfastened a clasp. Slowly, without any evidence of ill will, he pushed the captive onto the floor.

Batman landed on his stomach with a quiet, slo-mo thud. From this position it was easy for Robin to remove the cape and pull it away. It caught for a moment on Batman's still-cuffed wrists, but with a gentle tug it came loose and joined the rest of the discarded artifacts of the costume on the desktop.

The dazed Batman was still trying to figure out that mind-reading trick. There had to be some kind of secret... Or perhaps it was coincidence, an accidental alignment of the questions racing through Bruce's head and the seeming answers flowing from Hugo Strange's mouth... But how could...

"I see everything," the "doctor" announced. "I know everything. Everything there is to know about you, Bruce Wayne. There are no secrets left." Strange walked over to the helpless man on the floor and stood beside him. All Batman could see was the lunatic towering over him, Strange's shoes level with Bruce's eyes.

The madman squatted next to his captive and ran his hands over Batman's cowl. "We're almost there, aren't we?" he said, stroking the crimefighter's head as if he were a pet. "Almost there."