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|Date of Scene:||12 August 2023|
|Location:||Dodgy Mafia Doctor's Surgery, Gotham|
|Synopsis:||Rumors of an impending assasination attempt on Helena Bertinelli bring Red Hood and Batman into the fray. Batman's a little unhappy about the current state of his city, to say the least.|
|Cast of Characters:||Huntress, Red Hood, Batman
- Huntress has posed:
There's a particular scurry to the way ants move frenetically when their ant-hill has been kicked over. This is the same kind of reactionary response the Cosa Nostra has had to the recent one man war from Red Hood and the upheaval internally in the ranks. Mafia dons being replaced; attempted internal insurrections; attempted assassinations -- all just par for the course for a Mafia at war, with itself and an outsider. But there's no denying that such instability spills out, in unintentional ways, to innocent citizens of Gotham. That of course means attracting the attention of the many other vigilantes who inhabit the city.
After the previous night's reputed gun battle (media sources are calling it an internal mafia war, though there's suggestions a vigilante was involved again...) things were quiet for the day. Night's fallen, and the various Mafia families are licking their wounds, regrouping, and considering how to proceed next. Some have made their choices though. Word has gotten around that the Galantes and Inzerillo families are plotting some major hit. Helena Bertinelli's reached too far, they say. Convenient that she survived, is the other rumor. And the ones tying her to Red Hood? Well, they've stirred up more rebellion in the ranks, enough that word has begun to reach the ears of those vigilantes keeping track of such things. Tonight, someone's going to die.
Helena Bertinelli has, mercifully or not, been out for most of this time. Shoulder surgery is no joke, especially when it's done not in an accredited hospital, but in the back room of some shady Mafia doctor's house. The signs of her presence at subtle, but there are Bertinelli soldiers keeping watch in and around the house, none of them difficult to bypass for a Gotham vigilante.
Finally awake, Helena's seated in a room with windows that open up onto a balcony, while her consigliere is giving her an update on what's been happening. "The Cassamentos barely got hit. There's some speculation Santo encouraged that... maybe fuelled by some rumors we started," the man looks amused. "Galantes are pissed. The Don isn't saying, but he isn't keeping the rest of his people from making noise that you've taken Nero-"
"-under approval from Santo-"
"-still. It's causing bad blood, they've got the Inzerillo's on side, there's rumblings about movements against you. Everyone else has kind of gone to ground for now. They're probably rethinking this declaration of war."
"Good." Helena passes a hand over her eyes. "I need to get dressed, and we need to get to work. Bring the car around?" she asks, as the man departs. Getting dressed involves pulling a sweater over her head, something she's far too proud to ask for help for -- and settling her arm into a sling.
- Red Hood has posed:
Red Hood left the scene the night before and went to ground to nurse his own wounds. He has had worse but that doesn't mean it doesn't hurt to have broken ribs or a concussion. Eventually he listened to his symptoms and went to visit Dr. Thompkins. A few X-rays and bright lights in the eyes later, she confirmed what he already knew. But she could also tell him he wasn't at risk of puncturing a lung from the broken ribs. Assuming he takes it easy for a few weeks so things can heal proplerly.
The whispers from the street come through the channels Red Hood has established and suggest that things are going to get worse before anything gets better. Red Hood has violently shaken the nest and angered a lot of bees. It's clear that many of those bees are getting ready to swarm once again, but this time directly against the Bertinelli family to try and 'cure' the sickness in Gotham.
Regardless of his issues with Helena since she's come into power, Red Hood isn't going to sit by while a hit has been put out on her. She's going to answer for her crimes.
Pot meet Kettle, of course.
By no means healed or in any real condition to be going back into combat situations, Jason had a tough role model. Ignoring the pain, he suited up and set out to check one of four possible "doctors" that Helena could have been taken to. If he's fast enough, he may get there before (or as) the hit team does.
- Batman has posed:
So... Gotham's pretty lively right now, isn't it?
That certainly isn't the way that Gotham's Dark Knight typically likes things to go in his city. The quieter the better really, especially when he can't be there to oversee things personally.
Of course, in all fairness Batman very rarely gets what he wants. At least when it comes to things being quiet and orderly in his home town. To say that it is all a work in progress might be overly generous. The troubled port city seems to breed chaos and despair like some natural wellspring. And when he and his allies manage to dam up one of those leaks, another just bursts forth to start the cycle all over again. It should be enough to make just about anyone lose faith.
It doesn't seem to deter Bruce Wayne.
As much as possible Bruce dedicates himself to the protection of *his* city. Yes, he can be a little possessive at times. He's aware. He's working on it. But the simple reality of things is that the world is a big place and sometimes the best way to prevent threats from manifesting close to home is to deal with them before they ever show up at his doorstep. Sometimes that means he is off working with the Justice League, dealing with threats that he just might not be able to handle on his own, even with all his resource.
Sometimes it just means that Bruce Wayne or Batman has to pack up for a time and go travelling.
So what has kept him so occupied this time that he has let his eye slip while a war in the mafia itself springs up in his city? Good luck getting that out of him. Unless it suddenly rears up again to become a threat, he isn't always the most communicative. He's tried to work on it.
One more work in progress.
Regardless, the Big, Bad Bat is home now. And the reports that he has been reading haven't exactly filled him with joy. In fairness, he's not exactly known to have a smile on his face and a song in his heart, so maybe that was inevitable.
Safe to say however that unsupervised play time might be over. Or at the very least curtailed.
Or at least the attempt might be made. It's not like Bruce has ever been exactly great at bringing either Jason or Helena to heel. Maybe it's just not in their makeup. Maybe it's a flaw in his own.
Either way, Helena has no sooner risen from her seat then a shadow detaches itself from the thickest bathc out there on the balcony, slipping through the door soundlessly. The theatrics really aren't necessary, not here, not with her. But it seems to be ingrained in him, entirely second nature so as she goes to set that arm in a sling, that all too familiar cowled shadow falls across her.
"You've rather made a mess of my city while I've been away Helena," comes that quiet, familiar voice.
- Huntress has posed:
The Costa Nostra, by and large, aren't in the business of being subtle. They rule by fear and violence -- live and indeed, die by that -- and so it's not hard to spot the vehicles as they pull up. Four dark, armored SUV's, the figures that pour out are carrying assault rifles or shotguns and a variety of pistols. Like Jason, they've probably been to every known mob doctor to track down Helena Bertinelli.
And this is their final stop.
Half of the figures are directed to the back, but almost immediately the impatient man in the front just blows away the lock at point blank range with the shotgun, kicks the door open, and strides in. Usually, places like this -- that treat the Cosa Nostra -- are considered safe, neutral ground. Sooner or later they all end up here, usually. Tonight though, the Galantes are blowing that tradition out of the water, the rattle of gunfire starting already.
Up on the second floor, Helena's just got her sling settled around her arm when she hears the first shot. She spins around; the only obvious weapons in the room are are set of small surgical scalpels. She grabs one, goes to the door, peeks out.
"Bertinelli!" comes a roar from downstairs. "Give her to us and the rest of you leave untouched. Protect her and you're dead." Helena shuts the door, leans against it. Breathes. Resolve flows through her and she reaches for the handle again, just as that familiar, growly voice airs its grievances behind her.
Great. Impossibly dreadful timing, all this.
"The city is always a mess. Will always be. You and I both know that. It's just that I'm honest about it." There's no apologies. No point in it -- he would see through it, and Helena is not, in any way, sorry. The one thing she's never faltered in is her unenduring hatred of the Mafioso of Gotham. Her fingers tighten on the scalpel, but she doesn't turn to sight the Batman.
"You could say I'm doing you a favor. Cleaning house, so to speak. If you like, you can put it on my tombstone." Helena sounds faintly amused, though it's a flat, tired kind of sound. Forced, even. Then she reaches to open the door again, intending to give herself up.
- Red Hood has posed:
Rolling up ninety seconds too late to interdict the hit before it set itself into motion, Red Hood curses loudly inside his car.
Turning the Angry Red (it's a paint color name and it's trademarked, look it up) '67 GTO into a skid brings it to a stop sideways behind three of the mob SUVs, Red Hood erupts with all of the anger and fury that being set up for a trap last night and leaving with broken ribs, and seeing the 'ping' in his mask's optics alerting him that Batman is already here, can give fuel to. It's a lot.
Guns in hand, the violent vigilante immediately opens fire on the first visible hit men. And a woman. Subtlety is rarely his strong suit. Never has been. Making a big entrance is his way of throwing the other guys off balance.
He also knows Batman is inside. Which means these tools don't. The more noise he makes, the better Batman can work. See? It's teamwork. Red Hood sets them up and The Batman knocks them down. Just ignore his gunfire. Speaking of.. are these hitmen still alive after going down from his hail of fire? At the moment it would be hard to tell.
- Batman has posed:
Of course it would be too much to expect any sort of contrition from her.
A part of him understands of course. When he first conceived of the cape and cowl, when he first took to Gotham's nights to try and bring a little order to the city it was the mafia that he targetted first. Lessening their strangehold on the city, breaking their hold on the GCPD and the corruption that had ravaged that body was the first step in retaking Gotham.
For a time he though it would be enough, that it had turned the tide.
Then the lunatics started coming out of the woodwork.
In fairness more then a few people over the years have felt that he is little better then them. He goes out into the night afterall, intent on terrorizing. Perhaps not the general populace of the city, but certainly the criminal underground. And while he might draw an unyielding line in the sand when it comes to killing, he has left more then a few criminals with broken limbs and shattered joints.
He might not like it. But that isn't what costs him sleep.
It's what costs him sleep that has brought the Dark Knight out here tonight. No matter what Helena and Jason's intentions might be with this little war, and putting aside all of his moral objections to killing -- anyone -- it's called a war for a reason.
In war, the innocent die, right along with the guilty. It is an inevitability.
And an unacceptable on in his city. Under his watch.
That sound of gunfire is the first and most obvious warning that the war has come to them this evening. The call for Helena to come down, to surrender herself. Because sure, no doubt they fully intend to just slap her wrists, give her a warning and send her on her way.
And then there is that second burst of gunfire, the shouts from below as the attackers become the attacked.
"Red Hood, I presume," he says flatly, words directed towards Helena. There's no realy way for her to *know* presumably. But Batman is fairly certain that she does. Some part of her at least.
"This is what happens in war Helena," the Dark Knight continues, his voice just as flat, just as unyielding. "The innocent die right along with the guilty. And that's unacceptable," he says, turning for that door, blocking it so she can't go through. Instead he reaches for a device on his belt, clicking it there then hovering, right in front of the door, preventing her from going through.
"You are not judge, jury, and executioner. Damn it, I thought I had gotten that through to you both," he says, just a hint of exasperation sounding in his voice.
In the distance, the flapping of hundreds, thousands of wings draws ever closer, a dark cloud of shadow rapidly approaching those balcony doors. And as all those bats pour into the room, the Dark Knight finally opens that door in front of them, hurling that device outside, the swarm following after it. Out into the chaos.
"Use your head for once," he says. He doesn't precisely order her to stay here. He's fairly confident that she wouldn't start listening to him now.
But he does turn resolutely, and follow his totems out beyond that door.
To bring his own version of justice to the thugs below.
A different sort of Justice.
- Huntress has posed:
The attack from behind is totally unexpected by the hit squad. It's /their/ ambush; they're not expecting to /be/ ambushed. Two immediately go down, and a third and fourth seconds later -- dead or just unconscious isn't clear, but they're out of the picture. Beyond them, several of the hit men whip around and open fire at the costumed figure in red, the sound of the gunfire rattling up through the house.
As far as drawing attention goes? Red Hood's got that on lock.
It's going to hurt though.
Upstairs, Helena's pulling door open when the gunfire sounds. Behind her, Batman names the perpetrator of this new violence, and she finally turns to look at him -- there's surprise and alarm in her expression. Helena is many things, but a talented actress she is not: she's not so great at concealing her expression.
It's obvious she didn't expect Red Hood to be here.
Uncertainty is in her expression for a moment -- it makes her look younger, might make Batman think of the angry, uncertain young woman she was when she first returned to Gotham all those years ago -- but that expression snaps away as he closes the door and blocks it. Dark eyes narrow and she turns her fury on Batman.
"I /am/ using my head. But you -- and he -- needs to stay out of my way. You need to let this play out, however it plays out. This is going to end." That's familiar, the fiery, Sicilian pride, the certainty that she is right. That her way is the right and only way: Huntress at her core. "You keep playing by these rules and nothing changes. Nothing ever changes. I go away and come back and it's like I was never gone. It's the literal definition of insanity."
/Use your head/ he says, and then he's gone. Batman might well sense the fury she directs at the back of his head. Good thing it's just as well armored.
The bats go screeching down through the floors. The screams start, then, the gunfire faltering a moment then ramping up. It's kind of impossible to hit a flying bat deliberately though, and when there is dozens of them, it devolves into pure chaos. The perfect opportunity for vigilantes to strike.
- Red Hood has posed:
Pain? If it wasn't already obvious, this has hurt Jason since the beginning. Before Helena looked him in the eyes and told him she was using him like everyone does. That she was turning her back on anything other than The Family. The wrong fucking family.
Whatever the plan was, he was elbowed out. This, last night. The Velvet Club. The Warehouse. It's all Jason, an unsheathed blade, slashing out in the dark and following the cries of pain to determine where to stab next.
Physical pain comes in spades. Automatic fire slams into Red Hood's chest. If it weren't for the Beyond The Bleeding Edge tech from a certain R&D division, the bleeding would be physical too. Instead the impacts cause pain in the form of his already broken ribs.
It only drives him onward. Stepping behind one SUV, he slaps an explosive on it then flips one onto the hood of two others in range before reloading. Rising up again, he continues to fire toward the front door as he advances. Just as he reaches the door, the bats erupt out windows and doorways. Just in time for the three SUVs to experience complete engine block failure as the charges explode downward through each hood.
Raising one hand to deflect some of the chaos of the bats. Rolling away from the door, it's clear that anyone inside the house has already lost. It makes more tactical sense to sweep up the stragglers behind the building, so he moves around the side of the building quickly, keeping below the window sills and line of sight.
- Batman has posed:
The situation -- the emotional situation -- with Helena, with Jason as well he presumes is all just too hot.
And by his nature it seems like the Dark Knight does not do the best of jobs at bringing calm to these sorts of things. Oh sure, every once in awhile things with the family settle, after a fashion. Gives some semblance of being something akin to a healthy, functional relationship between them all.
It never lasts.
Some of the responsibility for that falls on him, there is no denying that. For someone who would probably make one of the foremost psycologists in the world, he doesn't do such a good job with his own issues, with the issues of those closest to him.
But it is not all on him. Every single one of them brings something to the table. Something a little broken. Something that, sooner or later, just makes them behave irrationally. Unwilling to listen. Unwilling to retreat, even for a moment. It might be nice to deal with things a little differently this time, to try for a better outcome. The unexpected outcome.
But for the moment? Yeah, Batman is probably in crisis mode.
The bats are a wonderful distraction. It is, of course, why he uses them. They are fundamentally harmless, and yet everyone almost reacts instinctively. Frightened, terrified. Even without what they represent -- that he is there -- they just instinctively invoke fear.
Which, of course is why he chose them as his symbol.
So as they flood through that door, he is right after them, plunging through that mass to land amongst those attempting to but an end to the Bertinelli line, once and for all.
As he hits the floor he drops into a crouch, one leg lashing out, sweeping through the gunman closest to him, knocking his legs out from beneath him and sending him crashing to the floor. There is no mercy in him and as he whirls around he brings his elbow crashing down on the man's forehead, cracking him against the floor beneath him and rendering him unconscious in the span of seconds.
His methods might not be fatal, but he is hardly playing with kid gloves either.
Then he is among the rest of them, a shadow amongst all the fluttering wings, the high pitched screeching of the flying rodents. A batarang appears in his hand like magic, is hurled across the short expanse to strike another of then men, drawing a yelp from him -- and possibly breaking a few bones -- as the gun goes clattering to the ground.
He probably never even sees the thrust kick that sends him flying back through that doorway and out onto the steps outside.
"This is my city and your are going to remind your bosses of that fact. You don't want me coming down on you all," he growls, voice low, dangerous and he ducks low under a sudden spate of gunfire, thrusting the rifle straight back into the man's face.
It is a fine line he walks sometimes.
- Huntress has posed:
Two more figures go down inside, but they're quickly replaced, so the withering fire towards Red Hood barely abates. They may have come here for Bertinelli, but Red Hood is still Mafia Enemy Number one right now. Shelter behind the SUV's gives Jason significant reprieve, and the explosion of the three cars together with the bats creates a confusion that allows him to slip away.
Inside, several bats are still fluttering around to the flailing, instinctive terror of those inside. But they don't know true terror until they realize the Batman is among them. He is brutal and exacting, but most fearsomely, a shadow. Gunfire rattles out but they can't get a lock on him, and even when they do it pings off his armor. One by one, he tears through them, leaving them broken and still -- but alive.
Several take the growling warning to heart and just try to book it right out the door. Those are the smart ones. The not so smart ones? Well, they're stuck in the room with Batman.
Speaking of fleeing the scene: Batman didn't order Helena to stay. Even if he had, she wouldn't listen. There's too much stubborn pride in Helena. Besides, she's worked around and yes, occasionally with, both of these vigilantes often enough to know their mere presence changes the odds. She's not walking out to likely certain death anymore. But there will be consequences if she stays -- consequences she's not prepared to face right now.
The Bertinelli Donna slips out onto the balcony the bat came in from. It's cold out here, the wind whipping through the light sweater she has. A drop from the second floor would normally be no problem, but she's hurting. No choice, though. The scalpel is tucked up into the palm of one hand, while she slips her other out of the sling. Climbing over the railing, she leaps into darkness.
Counting. One cat-and-dog, two cat-and-dog, three- Helena hits the ground, rolling instinctively, and it's that movement that draws a breath of pain from her as pressure bends the bullet wound and the stitches there in in ways it shouldn't be. It brings two of those hitman spinning around, stalking in her direction, as she gets up, running for the deepest shadows of the yard. The first nears the tree she's sheltered behind and she strikes out with the scalpel.
With her injury the hit lacks the power it would usually have, but it still cuts deep, the hitman flailing back in surprise. He starts to reach for his assault rifle, but Helena grabs it with her other hand, pushing the nozzle so that the bullets rake across his companion. A moment later there's just the sound of her ragged breathing in the dark.
More bats are pouring out the back door, and with them, some screaming civilians. The remaining hitmen are raising their guns, seemingly prepared to gun down whatever and whoever comes out of the door, just as Jason rounds the back in time to witness this.
- Red Hood has posed:
Stalking around the side of the building and emerging past the last corner, Red Hood raises his guns and fires on sight. Anyone with a weapon is hit till they are down and no longer moving. As both clips empty, he spins low behind a parked car. Ejecting the spent clips he reloads with the lyrical motion of a deadly ballet so that when he rises up, a new hail of fire is unloaded on any still standing gunmen. He doesn't even bother with the house. The sounds from inside tell him those few remaining of the hit squad won't be holding out for long.
That's when he hears, sees, the muzzle flash from the gunfire as Helena defends herself.
Breaking into a run, that is more of a jogging lope given his ribs, Red Hood heads in that direction, still looking for stragglers from the hit team.
- Batman has posed:
The panic that the bats inspire steal that from the hitmen that have come to kill the Bertinelli Donna. They can no longer pay attention to everything -- or anything -- going on around them, far too obsessed with those flapping wings, to each rustle of warm bodies skittering past them, that device on the ground nearby keeping the bats whipped up into a frenzy.
Those foes that flee out the front door, the ones who abandon their assignment -- he lets go. Fear is his ally, and they will carry back that fear to their bosses. They will take his message and they will talk. Talk to the others, spread the tales, each one exaggerated a little more. That fear will fester and grow. While it might not be pretty, while it might not be nice, it is his ally. They are his allies now, no matter how unwitting and short lived that might be.
Only a few threats linger inside, continue to offer any sort of threat. Their gunfire is wild, undirected -- though no less dangerous for that fact -- and the Dark Knight doesn't hesitate to ruthlessly put them down. He slams a kick right into a kneecap as he ducks low, dislocating that joint as the gunman shrieks, the sound quickly cut off. Another one takes a punch to the face before he hooks a grapnel to his best, sending him flying up towards the ceiling, impacting there heavily before simply dangling limply there in the middle of the hall.
Batman scoops up that device, reattaching it to his belt, undisturbed by the critters that flock around him, surround him like a shroud, like a living cape and he moves to the back of the house, watching the terrified civilians flood out into the night. He spots the hit squad waiting there, ready to spray the area with fire and his hand darts to one of the pouches at his waist, pulling out a handful of pellets, hurling them in that direction.
As soon as those pellets hit the ground they burst open, spilling a sickly green gas all around the men, that cloud of tear gas blooming outward impressively almost at once.
"Down! On the ground," he barks out, words fierce and threatening. Not that he wants to terrify the innocents in all of this. But gunfire is inevitable and they all stand a better chance out of the line of fire. Stepping in front of as many of them as possible, he whirls and thrusts out his arms, gripping that cape like some sort of shield.
- Huntress has posed:
Batman unleashes his ruthlessness on the remaining threats inside the house, and soon all that's left is the sound of groans and pained noises. Anyone left conscious that is down stays down. At the back door, a spray of taser bullets from Red Hood takes out two more hitmen, while the rest are encased in a sudden welling of gas, writhing and flailing as they in a breath and immediately begin coughing, twitching and falling to the ground.
The fear the Batman brings isn't specific to his enemies though. The civilians take one look at his terrifying mask, the bats, the gas, and they flee in terror, as if he's now the biggest threat.
Following that muzzle flash deeper into the yard, Red Hood finds one straggler -- already dead. The second hitman though is still very much alive, possibly for not much longer. Helena's leaning over him, her hand pressed across a wound at his neck. Her voice is quiet, fierce: "Who did the order come from? Cassamento?"
The man writhes in pain. "Ahh! No! Galante! He wants his nephew back. Don't, please!"
Helena lifts her hand, and blood pours out. The man clasps at the wound, trying to hold it closed, though there's probably too much blood for that. She stands unsteadily, arm pressed carefully to her side, still holding the scalpel. That's when she sees Red Hood. Her face is a parade of emotions. Never more has she wished for the protection of her mask, but she hasn't got it. Relief and anger both are prevalent, but there's something else underneath that. Something familiar. Fear.
It's not normally a thing Helena harbors.
The fear is /for/ Jason, not /of/ him, but that nuance isn't necessarily apparent. Her fingers coil around the scalpel. She's tried pleading with him. Tried forcing his hand. Nothing's worked. Granted, the one thing she hasn't tried -- honesty -- is probably the immediate salve, but it's also her last resort.
Helena Bertinelli turns and runs.
- Red Hood has posed:
Slowing as he lays eyes on Helena, Red Hood watches as she pulls the scalpel away from the man's throat after getting the intel she was after. The blood on her hands is more than symbolic. His are really no cleaner these days.
Walking toward her, he does the one thing he knows she can't resist.
Out front,t he '67 GTO's motor roars and it spins a 180 to drive rapidly toward Red Hood's location. It's a trick that might even make Batman proud.. In better circumstances. Not that he'd likely admit it.
The same moment the command is given, Red Hood shoots Helena Bertinelli with a taser round. Just one. One should be enough in her condition.
Walking up to her, he seeks to pick her up as the car's driver door opens. Catching the seat with his booted foot, he eases her into the back seat before falling heavily behind the wheel, coughing in pain as he prepares to drive off into the night.
The fact Batman showed up. Well that changes everything, doesn't it?
At the moment Red Hood has less than zero desire to face the man or the legend. How much less to hear the words of judgment and disdain that will come with it. Not because it's new, but because it isn't.
- Batman has posed:
It's over. For the moment.
At least the violence is. The gunmen are all dealt with -- unconscious, crippled or, and his jaw clenches just a little, dead -- and the civilians on the scene are high tailing it out of here. The chances that they really know anything that he doesn't already are scant indeed and he doesn't really want to put them through any more then they've already been through.
There has been enough of it all tonight. Enough fear. Enough blood. Enough death.
Getting back to his feet, the Dark Knight surveys the aftermath, lets his eyes wander over those he took out. And then his eyes flicker to the man laying in a puddle of his own blood.
Contact the GCPD," Batman says lowly over his subvocal mic. "Have them send cars to this address. Let them know that there are a number of people to be taken into custody. Hired guns for Galante," he reports, words low, even. Then they take on a little more bite. "And let them know that there were a number of fatalities on the scene," he adds.
For a moment that cowled gaze turns towards the front of the house and he considers going after them. Chasing down Jason and Helena.
That seems likely to end badly though.
Maybe not tonight.
Instead he turns away, deactivating the device at his belt, that swarm of bats starting to dissipate almost at once. Well before dawn they will be back at the cave, nesting once more.
So will he.
Stalking off into the dark night, he is soon nothing more then a shadow again, only the fading roar of the Batmobile's engine to say he was ever present at all.