PUBLISHED March 22, 2015
The kettle pot whistled loudly and longer than usual. It's been a long day at the office. I simply wanted to relax with some hot tea and wind down for the evening. But I came home late. Traffic on the main was awful. The police closed down a section of First Street. Hostage negotiations, the radio said. Not my problem. I'm the District Attorney again. I'm sure I'll come across this case later when it goes before the judge. Right now, I just wanted to get the hot water off the fire and into the tea pot.
I carefully move the kettle off the burner with my surgically-repaired left hand testing to see if has gotten better. There's still some pain there from the skin grabs. I try not to use it too often since my skin feels like elastic, but I have to practice or how will it ever fully heal? I carry the kettle and pour the boiling water slowly into the tea pot with difficultly. Such a simple task. Those with good hands should count their blessings. I know I'm counting my second chances. It's hard returning back to normal.
It's a cold night. The fireplace is going in the living room of my penthouse. I carry the tray with the tea pot, tea cups, and biscuits to the coffee table. Funny. I don't remember the last time I drank coffee at this table. No matter. Tea is better for me. I place the tray down and adjust the tea cups that moved from their plates as I carried them. Biscuits are accounted for. Tea spoons, check. But it looks like I forgot the paper napkins. Got to have everything ready for my guest. My guest's time is always short. Wouldn't want to waste any time having to get up to get something as mundane as napkins. I make my way to the kitchen and pull a couple napkins from the holder. As I make my way back to the living room, I notice the balcony window open. He's here already.
"Right on time, old friend," I motion to the coffee tables and flanking chairs. "Please sit. The tea is hot and biscuits are fresh."
Batman makes his way over to the usual seat – the one nearest the window. I really don't know how he does it, his sneaking around like that. I've been in rooms with assassins before. They're quiet but loud enough to hear. Batman, on the other hand, is like a ghost. You barely see him there then he's gone. But no disappearing act this time. This is our scheduled tea time. Yes, The Batman and I have tea time. It's the least I can do for one of the few friends that still believed in me. Batman saved me from myself. I held up my end of the bargain by returning to a civil life after therapy. Eventually, I became a public servant again. The road to recovery wasn't easy, but Batman and a few friends didn't give up on me. So I didn't give up either.
It's been at least a year that Batman and I have conducted our monthly tea appointments. He could be out there fighting crime as he normally does, but he hasn't missed one appointment. What a friend. Though after a year, I'm still not used to seeing him sit on that seat with his armed-to-the-teeth suit. That utility belt of his is a punchline of many a joke among the heroes and villains, I hear, but once you see it as close as I have, you can't help but be in awe of all the gadgets, gizmos, and things he carries in it. It compliments his armored black suit well. Wish I had one of those…
At any rate, time is short per usual. Got to make most of the minutes and seconds I have with my good friend. I take my seat and serve the tea. I pour with my left hand for Batman to see how much progress I've made.
"Improving, I see," Batman noted in his usual gruff voice. I must say, Batman does not always talk during our meetings. He only says what needs to be said in the fewest words possible. A literal Man of a Few Words.
"It sure is, Bats," I respond as I pick up my tea cup. "This is green tea from the Blue Mountains of Taiwan. Had it imported just in time for tonight." I inform him as if the origins of the tea will make him appreciate the effort I made to make this meeting more special. "It's supposed to be a really fine tea." If Batman likes it, he wouldn't express it. He's always brooding. I sometimes wonder if he's even capable of smiling.
"So," I take a sip of my tea. "Anything new on your end?"
He doesn't respond. He never does to that question. Maybe he's being cautious in case I use the information against him. I don't blame him.
"Did you see the paper this morning?" I signal to The Gotham Times sitting on the table folded to the day's headline. "Victor Zsasz is free on bail. Again."
"I'm keeping an eye on him," Batman finally responded.
"You know, Bats, I been meaning to have this conversation for some time. I may not be the best qualified to talk about this, but somebody's got to say it." I take another sip of my tea. "Gotham isn't improving its crime rate as quickly as it should. In fact, I saw last month's crime statistics. Crime went up again year over year. And that's considering there are more of your masked friends out there fighting crime."
"You think we are to blame?" he asked me.
"No. Not directly, at least." I set my tea down. "The Rogues and the copycats are a dime a dozen nowadays. Lately, the GCPD has had to put a stop to fraternities at GSU that encouraged civil disobedience. You remember the Occupy Wall Street movement? That group wasn't a result of some villain worship. It was the result of misguided and leftist education from our institutions. This generation of youth have a skewed view of morality and social justice. Heck, the teachers of those ideologies control most of the Gotham municipal positions and legislature."
"I don't take a political stance," said Batman in his stern manner.
"I know, and I'm not trying to persuade you one way or another," I clasp my hands and lean forward. "Batman, your crusade against crime is never ending. The influence of the liberals in power and in the media have influenced the public into accepting a view of justice that is anything but. The more it's become engraved in our society, the more you and others like you have subconsciously accepted it. This in turn has put you in a never ending cycle of repetition. Bad guy commits a felony. You swoop in to stop them. The police book them. A judge passes on a light sentence. Bad guy is back on the street next week before lunch."
"That's because the system is broken," Batman growled. "The mob bosses control the courts and buy off the cops."
"So why do you trust an unreliable system?"
"It's the only one we got, and we have to prove it can work someday."
I pick up the newspaper and turn to an interesting article. "Batman, this is a chart of a survey done with high school and college students. Seventy percent of those polled have an unfavorable view of the Gotham Police Department. Seventy-five percent say the courts are racially biased. While, get this, a staggering 88 percent have a favorable view of The Joker. The survey's results are inverted when polling middle-aged classes." I put the newspaper down disgusted by the article. "Don't you see, Bats? The system itself cannot improve when those next in line to occupy those positions of power and influence don't share the same view of morality and justice. Lately, I been hearing this term of 'set of morals'. It's the silliest thing I ever heard. Things are more black and white than the intellectuals would have us believe."
"So what would you have done?"
"If I were mayor or governor, I would sign into law a proposal that would empower masked heroes like you, that publicly swear the oath to protect and to serve, to enact justice."
"You mean make us judge, jury, and executioner? You're starting to sound extreme."
"What is so extreme about the idea of officially making masks public servants, Batman?"
"We aren't in this for public approval. We do this because we're needed." Batman tensed up. "Its tough enough keeping those like me in line. Giving us the power to kill will only create more chaos."
"That's where I disagree with you, Bats. You do what the police can't, but in effect, you're also breaking the law thereby making you a criminal by legal definition. Citizen's Arrest is one thing. You go beyond by using assault, torture, and intimidation as weapons for justice. Sorry, Bats. Those means don't stand on legal ground. It's like when a police officer forgets to cite the Miranda Rights during an arrest. It doesn't matter how guilty beyond a reasonable doubt the perpetrator is. He is free on the fact that he was denied due process, and the officer failed to follow procedure. Villains like Scarecrow don't escape prison time because of a bought jury only. Legally, you don't have grounds to conduct your war on crime. Commissioner Gordon only turns a blind eye, but no judge is fooled by that defense."
I take a biscuit. Batman just sits there. I can hear the faint reports from Batman's earphone. He doesn't budge. He's listening intently. I resume my point.
"Gotham City has the strictest gun laws in the country. Gotham nearly abolished Capital Punishment in the last election. Still, there hasn't been a public execution in at least 15 years. Even the murderer of the Waynes was sentenced to life with the possibility of parole. This is an upside-down generation now. How is it that The Joker continues to be allowed to walk? And how could you let someone like him live after he killed Robin, and shot the Commissioner's daughter?"
"I will never kill him!" Batman barked. "If I let my emotions get the better of me, I will be no better than him!"
"How many people have you killed by letting him live?"
"Bats, The Joker not only killed dozens over the years, he's also ruined countless of other lives. The court simply labels him as an insane patient and turns him over to Arkham. The Joker tricks a psychologist that wants his name in the paper into having him declared sane. Then The Joker roams the streets just to mock you."
"If I treat others as you say, I would not have helped you," Batman shot back.
"I'm ever grateful for your faith in me, Batman. Truly I am. I can never repay you and Bruce Wayne for all the kindness. But the difference between The Joker and I is that you knew who I was before my accident. The Joker has perhaps always been this way. There's no telling if he can ever truly change. How can a society survive on endless opportunities offered to monsters like him?"
"I can't believe the words coming out of your mouth. You're starting to sound like the old you."
"Please, Batman. My days of villainy may not be far behind, but they are behind me nevertheless. There is a difference between justice and murder. You've judged me in the past for my black and white view of the world. Well, you have a more extreme black and white perspective than I do. For example, you hate guns."
"Guns are a coward's weapon," Batman snapped.
"Are cops cowards?"
"Batman, guns are not evil. Guns are controlled. It's the bearer of the gun that can be evil or good. Your hatred of guns is misdirected. Just like the city officials too. Guns are all but banned in Gotham yet more people get hurt as a result of gun violence. And let's be real here. In the history of mankind, guns only make up for about 400 years out a span of thousands of years. Man did not need guns to kill or commit crimes."
"Get to your point," he growled again.
"My point is, society today is wasting time fighting the wrong thing. It's a waste of resources. Just like you waste yours unless you secretly enjoy your bouts with The Joker and the like."
There's a moment of silence. I pour some more tea into our cups.
"Why are you telling me this now?" Batman asked with suspicion.
"Lawmakers have had it with the perpetual cycle of violence. This last election saw citizens vote in people that would crack down on crimes by empowering crime fighters including masks. I been consulted on the drafting of a law, that if passed, would give room for costumed heroes to be recognized as official law enforcers. I mean, it wouldn't be automatic either. There's a screening process being discussed. Gotham is just trying to take an approach similar to how Metropolis dealt with Superman." I looked straight at Batman. "Your city wants to recognize you as its official watchful protector."
"No. This is a slippery slope."
"Not if you're the beginning, Batman. The city needs you more than ever. This time they want to give you the legal power to do so."
"I refuse to give government power over masks."
"This isn't an attempt to register heroes. Anonymity is important. That's why I'm overseeing the language of the bill. The rumblings from the legislature all point to this bill being ratified, but as I told several Assemblymen, the precedent is meaningless if Batman and those like him don't abide. And that's why I'm discussing this with you, Batman. Over the past year I've see you become more menacing yet weaker. More bad guys pull off jobs just for a chance to run into you. That symbol of hope has diminished. It's time to give it back to the people."
"Giving me official police powers will not be a deterrent to crime."
"Again, I disagree. Capital Punishment is still legal here but not utilized. If Capital Punishment were enforced, and the public perception of it being cruel and unusual punish changed, you bet people will think twice before committing a capital crime. And the Rogues' Gallery will be eliminated completely."
"I've heard enough," Batman stood up. "I'm going now."
"Batman, you're not the anti-hero you believe you are. Superman and you are more alike than any of you lead on to be. At least your antics don't lead to millions or billions of dollars in property damage. You're the strong and silent type, a Dark Knight in the shadows hunting criminals. Being in the dark doesn't make you an evil presence. Until you find yourself again, when you stop letting the liberal ideology set the ground rules and mindset, then you'll be able to understand what you need to do in the name of justice."
Batman made his way towards to the window.
"How else do we prevent another violent takeover of Arkham Asylum, Batman? The more we pack criminals and thugs into prisons, the more are released onto the streets to ease the overcrowding. The cycle will never end."
"It has to get worse before it gets better," replied Batman as he climbed onto the window.
"It's been 10 years. How many more years should pass before you finally do what is necessary? Change began with you, and it can only continue with you."
Batman gazed out the window. "It's good to have you back, Harvey."
And with that he disappeared into the night. Good old friend. Even when I went by the name Two-Face, he never stopped calling me Harvey. Bruce Wayne's funding of my expensive plastic surgery reconstruction, extensive rehab, and lengthy therapy have reformed me. Now, I fight for justice without the need of flipping a coin. I do believe in the justice system. I just know the system needs to be reformed also. But unless Batman and the likes of him accept true justice, Gotham will continue to suffer for it. Until that reality happens, I will do my part as District Attorney.
"See you next month, Batman." I say to myself as I pick up the tea tray and carry it over to the kitchen.