Alternate Gotham

I am reading a book, that tells the story of an alternate history to Bruce Wayne - aka Batman - and his situation. As I turn the pages, I am pulled into the story, and it unfolds as a film before me.

Stately Wayne manor is unkempt and uncared for. The rain that lashes down seems to be a constant thing, and the grey stonework of it's walls seem to blend seamlessly into the mist and drizzle that surround the overgrown grounds.

Bruce Wayne stamps into the foreground, wearing a tweed-country suit. His hat doesn't do much to keep the rain off, but he doesn't care. His face is a complex assemblage of lines and wrinkles, most of them put there by bad temper. He hates this house, he hates his family, and he wants to leave. But he also hates people, so he won't go into town to place and advertisement into the paper to sell Wayne Manor. So he types up a bleak offer of sale on his battered Corona typewriter and pastes it on the bricks of the manor's front gate. If someone happens to pass, and they want to make an offer for the house, then so be it.

Returning to the manor, Bruce spares a curt word for his mother, a dour widow obsessed with her embroidery. She rarely leaves the front parlour any more, surrounded by fabric hoops and tapestry stands, and Bruce doesn't care any more. Something has happened between them that has left them as enemies.

Another enemy is Alfred, the family butler. He, too, dislikes Bruce passionately, and he knows of Bruce's attempts to sell the manor. If the house is sold, Alfred will be out of a very comfortable job, and he has set his mind to driving away any potential buyers.

As it happens, a lone man happens past the front gates of the manor, and decides to make an inquiry. The chap is a bit eccentric, but also very rich - as Bruce and Alfred both know - and they set out to acheive their contrary ends.

Bruce does his best to charm the potential buyer, although Bruce's little-used manners are rough and abrupt at best. But the eccentric guest - either through ignorance or etiquette - seems not to notice Bruce's awkwardness. At one point, Bruce plays at a harpsichord - not excellently, but with some skill and enthusiasm - and the visitor finds this charming. Incensed, Alfred goes up to the nearby organ loft, and attempts to drown Bruce out with a dreary racket. Fortunately, the visitor has noticed the antagonism between Bruce and Alfred, and he ignores the actions of both parties.

It is time to see the grounds around the manner, and Bruce and the guest head outside. There are three children - family to residing servants - playing out on the overgrown lawn. The grass is nearly waist-high to an adult, so it's heaven for kids, even in the rain. They have a leather satchel full of junk mail, and are playing at being mailmen.

The children seen the two men go into the high grass and one of the kids, a blond boy of perhaps nine years, becomes worried for Bruce's safety. The little boy believes - at his mother's behest - that he is an illegitimate child of Wayne's, and that he might receive some hush money later in life. Therefore, the child is anxious about Bruce's survival in this thoroughly hostile household.

The guest re-emerges from the tall grass, first, smiling and assuring the boy that there is nothing to worry about. A moment later, Bruce Wayne appears, and immediately falls into a pit trap dug on the edge of the lawn by an unknown party - although there is a strong feeling that it was probably Alfred and a few of his cronies. Instead of sharpened stakes, the trap is full of very fine grass-cuttings which quickly envelope and smother Wayne.

Two servants appear, and now my point of view is through the eyes of one of them - one of the kitchen staff. The trap was lined with heavy plastic, akin to a giant garbage bag, and we quickly bundle up the greater part of the grass clippings, with their murderous secret inside. We intend to dump the bag in the dumpster at the front gate. If Wayne's body is ever found, we're confident that enough time will have passed - and we'll have enough warning - to make a clean getaway.

As we reach the dumpster with our morbid package, I notice a sandwich truck has pulled up outside. I'm hungry and - ludicrously enough - I decide to get a snack. The woman who takes my five single-dollar bills in payment thinks nothing of the fact that my hands are covered in grass clippings, and I wonder if that might implicate me, later...





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