Joseph Kane awoke to a ringing headache in a cavernous chamber, a lot like a church. In fact it was very like a medieval church, with the creepiest stone statues and stained glass you'd ever see. Horrific scenes of torture and damnation, figures of lecherous couples and doomed individuals. And right in front of him, above a pair of mighty oak doors, stood a stone wheel. Around the figure of the wheel were allegorical figures of sin and virtue, pleasure and wisdom, war and peace, life and death. In the center of the wheel stood the stone figure of a woman in a crown and robes; half her face a beautiful young woman; the other a skull. Supporting the wheel were the figures of an angel on top, and a devil on the bottom. A control wheel made of wood and steel stood in front of it.
This is like a church Two-Face would love! Even has his favorite idea: fate. Joseph felt dried blood on his face, his clothes were torn and messed up. He remembered being attacked, chaos, similar statues. His eyes turned back towards the statue. He then realized he was tied up to a wooden chair, a lot like a throne. A sun was at the top of the throne, the armrests were capped with skulls. He was wrapped with iron chains. I'm sick and tired of being captured and trussed up. If I get out of this, I'm going to force Batman to teach me escapology or find someone else to do so!
Ominous Latin chanting began sounding through the space; there were no monks or priests here, but Joseph noticed hidden speakers in the columns of this temple of Fate. A rustle of silk was heard; out of the shadows came a figure much like the one in the middle of the wheel. Her dress and robes were of a pale blue, her crown of gold, onyx and ivory. Her porcelain mask had the left side be the maiden, and the right was the death head.
"So, you must be Fortuna; I got friends looking to lock you up in a nice dark cell." Joseph said, trying to hide his fear.
Fortuna laughed, a sound like silver bells. "Oh, my young lord, Fortune will not be kind to you." She held up a tarot card, one that looked like the one sent to his office who knows how many hours ago. It was of the Major Arcana, a young traveler, carrying his worldly possessions in one hand and a rose in another, having a dog nipping at one leg as the other seemed to be about to go over a cliff and into the void. "I picked 'The Fool' for you. And a fool you are." She slipped the card into his shirt pocket and headed over to the wheel's controls and started spinning it. The oak doors opened, and Joseph saw the fate she intended for him was a fall into Gotham Bay...if he didn't hit the rocks first.
If Fate is truly kind, and not like this wackjob, prayed Joseph, Have Batman come, PDQ! The chair started moving down the track......
TWO WEEKS AGO
Batman and Robin reached the collapsed building as soon as they could. They heard over the police band coming back from fighting Black Mask's gang that the building blew up and collapsed in a way that didn't affect the other buildings other than to coat them with plaster dust. It was an abandoned building, set for demolition so a new condo would go up.
"Geez, Commish, you think the neighbors should consider themselves lucky," said Detective Harvey Bullock, looking sloppy as ever as he dug into a Philly steak sandwich he got from the all night pizza joint two blocks over.
"Bullock, if there is anything I learned in my years as a policeman, it's that something in this matter isn't a matter of luck." Commissioner Gordon wiped his glasses rid of additional dust as Batman and Robin appeared through the mist.
"I hate it when they do that!" hissed Bullock.
"Nice to see you too, fatty!" sneered Robin.
"Behave!" shouted Batman and Gordon to their opposite numbers.
Gordon turned to Batman, "You're not one to investigate building collapses."
"It was considered stable enough to warrant demolition, too stable to fall by itself." Batman brushed past Gordon and Bullock.
"Expect the worst?" called Gordon.
"Always," responded Batman.
Batman and Robin went through the wreckage of the building. Debris was everywhere; mason and timbers scattered across the lot and on top of each other.
"You shouldn't be rude to Bullock, Robin," began Batman.
"He's a pig," retorted Robin, his close cropped black hair coated with dust.
"Even so, Jim trusts him."
"I trust him more than most Gotham cops." Batman paused, seeing fresh blood on a timber. He and Robin followed it to a horrid sight. Admit burnt chunks of wood was the burnt corpse of an African American woman in professional attire. She was wrapped in somewhat melted chains. Batman sent up a flare, alerting the police. They approached as Batman and Robin investigated.
"Good Lord, that's Beatrice Deveareux," exclaimed Gordon. "She's on the city council, pushing for gentrification in this area."
"Unpopular?" asked Robin.
"Quite popular, actually; she turned this neighborhood from a crime ridden slum to hipster town."
"Don't know what's worse," commented Bullock, "Hipsters or druggies." Batman, Robin and Gordon shot him looks. "What?" Bullock asked.
Gordon turned to Batman, "She used to do the more low methods of improvements back when she was a real estate company president; emanate domain and all that. But after meetings with several outraged residents; she took a different approach. She tore down the buildings, but gave those displaced apartments in the new buildings at discounted rates. Really improved the place."
"So we're not looking at someone wanting revenge," Batman remarked. He looked at her jacket and saw a burnt card sticking out of the pocket. He took out a pair of tweezers and removed the card.
"What is it?"
"A tarot card, I believe." The picture on the card was that of a tower burning after being struck by lightning, two people tumbling out of it. THE TOWER was emblazoned on the bottom of the card. Batman put it into a bag for evidence.
"Hey, you can't do that."
"He can if he returns it to us ASAP with his findings," said Gordon. He turned, "Right Bat--". Batman and Robin had vanished....
"A tarot card?" asked Joseph as he watched Batman run the card through a machine in the Batcave for a trace.
"I don't know why you sound so astounded," said Batman as he waited patiently for results.
"It's a bit dramatic, isn't it."
"Coming from the grandson of an actress with a dramatic flare of his own." Batman looked up, "Even when he works behind the scenes."
"Yeah, still a sore subject for me, Bruce. You know I'd rather be out there." Joseph, formerly a vigilante in New York City, came to Gotham to help Batman after being forced to work together. However, a caveat of that deal made Joseph work behind the scenes, feeding Batman and other superheroes needed intel and researching things as need be. Batman sometimes allowed him to tinker with gadgets; but Joseph would rather be in the field.
"You're earning training so you will be up to my standards. And you're just beginning." Batman said, a note of warning in his voice to tell Joseph to drop the subject.
"Be glad you weren't out there tonight, Doctor," said Damian, drying off from a third shower. "I swear my lungs are coated with plaster dust."
"You missed a spot," said Sam Kane, pointing to a smear on Damian's cheek. Sam, Joseph's much younger brother, had moved with Joseph because Joseph would rather be the one taking care of him than their parents. After a VERY rough starts, Sam and Damian had become friends, much to Joseph's surprise and occasional annoyance.
">TT<" Damian wiped his cheek.
The reports came up negative for any traces. Batman turned to Joseph, "Any luck finding anything out about similar crimes."
Joseph shook his head, "Not yet, Alfred and I are still searching for those...."
Alfred Pennyworth approached with a folder in his immaculately white gloved hand, "I found them, Master Joseph; you need to get used to Master Bruce's...unique archival system." Alfred opened the folder, "It seems similar crimes have been occurring the last few years all over the country, and some in Europe. Victims showing up with tarot cards that resemble the way they died. Some reports say before the victim appeared, there is the glimpse of a woman in medieval robes and a mask, liturgical music is heard or snatches of Orff's Carmina Burana, and then...this. They call the woman Fortuna, as in the famous song."
"That song is spooky," said Sam, who quickly hugged his dog, Barkley, and Damian's dog, Titus. "Joey plays it sometimes on his computer when he's in a mood...."
"You're probably associating it with my temperament when I play it," said Joseph with a small smile as he ruffled Sam's hair, a shade of blond lighter than his own. "But yeah, it is creepy. Especially if you know what it means."
"And what does it mean?" asked Damian, haughtily.
"That Fate can be a monster. And so is this Fortuna person."
"What's the meaning of the use of those cards?" asked Sam.
"Why don't we ask Grayson, he's a gypsy after all," said Damian.
"One, Dick is out of the city. Two, don't stereotype," said Bruce in a very serious tone.
"Well, there is something that could be of use." Alfred took a pamphlet out of his jacket pocket. "There is an exhibit on Medieval Mysticism and related topics at the Gotham Museum of Art."
"'Danse Macabre'?" asked Joseph, "I've been meaning to see it."
"It's been traveling Europe and the country before finally settling here in Gotham for good," said Alfred, "Thanks to a Wayne Foundation grant."
Joseph smiled, "Of course." He took the pamphlet, "I guess I could arrange to meet this..." he looked at the pamphlet for the name of the curator in charge of the exhibit, "Doctor Cybele Crowley to find out more. I'll take the boys, make an outing of it."
"You?" asked Batman. He stood, seemingly towering over Joseph. "Why should you do it? I told you that you weren't allowed to investigate."
"Well you have that meeting with Galaxy Communications tomorrow, and I have the day off." Joseph turned serious, "We're dealing with a killer who has gone international...."
"Yes, 'We'; I'm part of the club now aren't I?" Joseph breathed in to steady himself, one wrong statement could send him packing. "You want to catch this Fortuna ASAP, so you'll need more boots on the ground. This is a way I can be helpful without breaking our agreement."
Batman nods. "Do so; besides, it might be educational for both. I know Sam doesn't mind museums, maybe that will rub off on Damian."
">TT< I happen to have a fine appreciation for art," sniffed Damian haughtily.
"Then why do you make such a fuss when I suggest that you go to a museum?" asked Alfred.
"He's got you there, Homonculous," laughed Joseph.
Before Damian could respond, an alarm went off. Someone escaped from Arkham, someone that should never be let out......
Batman walked through the hallways of Arkham, a rebreather attached to his mask. Whoever broke into Arkham to let that inmate escape used a gas that paralyzed the guards and wracked them with pain. He approached the cell. The label on the cell read:
There were three cards in the cell, all in a row. From left to right, Batman flipped them over.
The Devil, Death, and the Wheel of Fortune.
Batman didn't trust in tarot cards, though he knew the occult was real. But as far as he believed, Death had indeed been loosed on Gotham, a Devil incarnate. And it seems Fortuna, named after the personification of fate, was behind it.
To Be Continued