Somebody getting robbed in Gotham is an everyday occurrence. What is in unusual is when it’s one of Gotham’s criminals who get robbed. They don’t call Batman right away.
There isn’t just one scenario when it goes down, but a level of unpredictability. It’s not that there is any honor among Gotham’s thieves, but regardless of popular opinion they don’t have a death wish. As Batman would say criminals are cowardly and suspicious, so they tend to leave each other alone.
When they risk upsetting the equilibrium, it’s for a prize that’s worth the trouble. An when the purse is big enough, you’ll usually find more than one hand in the til. When it’s the underbelly of our city, it’s less about money, and more about power.
Territory is power in Gotham. Criminal kingdoms shift quickly here, except for certain exceptions, a criminal can be king one day, and a henchman the next. Today’s king was The Clock King, William Tockman, alias Temple Fugate. The alias is important because it shows his obsession concerning time.
I’m not a doctor. I don’t claim to know all the mechanics of his mind, but I do know that he values his time so that he refused a lighter sentence because he had plans for his stay in Arkham. Most of the underworld used him for timing out their attacks, down to the last second.
He had not made many enemies over the years, but he had made two. King Tut and Egghead are a lot like Clock King. They rarely venture out on their own. Egghead is another freelancer, hacking computer systems, writing viruses, creating malware attacks. King Tut specializes in ancient artifacts, knowing what is worth what to whom.
After Tut’s first few public outings did not go well, he shifted to being a broker and consultant for the underworld. Robin growing up used to call him the phony pharaoh. He isn’t even Egyptian, the closest he came to Egypt was the name of the street in Gotham he was born on, Thebes Ave. I don’t know where his obsession began, but it started early.
At least Egghead’s was traceable. A result of defiance from bullies calling the smart young man Egghead led to a love of computers, and eggs themselves. One bully beat him up one Friday, and woke up to two hundred rotten eggs under his broken bedroom window the next day.
Normally the three freelancers paths would never cross, but the time they did was volcanic. Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, had hired the three for a very unusual case. It was a robbery of a different kind, they were breaking in, not to steal, but to replace something.
This was not a counterfeit, but the real thing. The Tweeds had taken the real item years ago, and replaced it with a phony. Now they desperately needed to return the original, and it was this replacement that cost the freelancers the most.
Tut, Egghead, and Clock King were left holding the bag while the Tweeds appeared innocent. Five years later, after being freed from prison, they each promised revenge. The problem was, none of them seemed to blame the Tweeds.
No one knew why, none of those involved had talked. The building was almost completely destroyed, something had obviously gone wrong. It took three more years for Batman to find out that much. The only reason he did was because of a car jacking. It’s not often that Killer Croc is assaulted, but a huge man known as Mammoth was able to accomplish it.
When he arrived, Croc was knocked out on the side of the road, and the truck he was driving was gone. Batman set his jaw, Mammoth was very strong, and took him home. Croc doesn’t like hospitals, and this time he had done nothing wrong.
Batman promised him he would find out why Mammoth did this, and told him not to act on his own. “Thanks Bats. Did that sound as weird to hear as it was to say?” Batman laughed. “It could be worse, I heard the Joker say it once, then he tried to kill me, again.” While Croc was laughing he left.
That night, Batman paid a visit to Gotham Animal Reserve, Mammoth’s territory. He owned it, and half of Gotham. He was expecting him. “It was my property Bats. Croc didn’t steal it, but either way it’s my truck. I tried to tell Croc, but you know how difficult he is.”
“So rather than showing him a receipt, you dislocated his jaw. I won’t threaten you, you know he won’t press charges. Instead I’ll ask a question, what was in the van?”
Mammoth towered over him at six foot eight, and my guess 450 pounds, all muscle. His tailor made gray suit, elephant motif with little touches like a tie clip, and elephant head cane all in place. A handsome man and rich, he styles himself as the future Lex Luthor of Gotham City.
Much like Luthor, he’s a humanitarian. Unlike Luthor he came up with nothing, and worked for his fortune, turning to crime when he got bored. By then, he was a popular public figure, supporting several charities. With great success, and strong ties in Gotham’s Puerto Rican and African American communities, the Mayor was pushing for him to run to take over when the term limit law kicked in.
The Mayor knew he was dirty, but then so was the Mayor. Mammoth hadn’t decided. Batman used this moment to encourage him not to run. He laughed, but did not swing at him.
“I’m not going to fight you Batman, it’s beneath me. Though I could crush you in an instant. Instead I’ll give you a free piece of advice. Ask Croc’s boss what they have that I want. Goodnight.”
The Batman does not allow himself to be dismissed, but that night he complied. It wasn’t about a brawl, or ego, it was about information. Mammoth didn’t just want something, he would have bought it. Croc’s boss had something he needed, and letting Batman know it was intentional. He wanted him to find it.
It was almost dawn, and he had been up all night. He tries to get to sleep by four, but it rarely happens. Instead, he shared a cup of coffee with me on the top of police headquarters as the sun rose. “Croc’s boss this time is Clock King. He’s his new enforcer, or was. Once word got out that Mammoth attacked him, Clockman dropped Croc.”
“Any idea what the prize is? Is Mammoth moving in on Clock King’s territory? Doesn’t sound like his M.O.””
I shook my head. “It’s not. Mammoth owes somebody a debt. Getting involved was his way of paying it. Getting you involved his way of getting out of it. He wants to keep his hands clean. Technically the truck was his property.”
“He owned the leasing company Clock King uses for vehicles, to not be directly tied to anything on paper. No one knows why, but Clock King is very intentional about not owning anything out right. Batman, this city isn’t just getting more dangerous, it’s getting weirder. Criminals are becoming more corporate, pretty soon they’ll have HR departments like Luthor and Mammoth.”
Batman was out of sight before I finished the sentence. I promise him every New Year I’m going to do that to him once, we’ll see. Batman had one more stop to make before bed.
This one he chose to be very noisy, breaking three windows in Clock King’s factory. He worked himself up to Clock King’s tower apartment and kicked down his door. “Clockman, I’ve been awake all night. I don’t usually do morning visits, but this is an exception. Tell me, why am I here?”
He was sitting at breakfast, in his full getup, having tea and holding his pocketwatch. “You’re fifteen seconds late. You should have discarded the last two henchman quicker. You’re slipping Batman, follow me please.”
He knew it could have been a trap, but he was tired, so he followed. It wasn’t a trap, at least not in the traditional sense. “It was here Batman, my prize possession. A few nights ago, someone stole it. I need it back, and you need to help me.”
If you stay quiet, and look annoyed, when you’re Batman, people will talk to you. Clock King continued. “It’s a solid gold clock, I can show you the receipt. It cost me two million, but I bought it. I tried to steal it four times, and couldn’t, so I bought it. I need it back, I’ll pay you three million. It’s not the money.”
“That clock is the symbol of my power. I hyped it up in a ploy to let all that opposed me know I had timed their actions down to the second, and compensated for them. If someone finds out the symbol of my power was taken, under my nose, while I slept, I’ll lose everything.”
This time Batman spoke. “Keep your money, you know I wouldn’t take it when you said it. Now that you’ve conveyed how important it is to you, why should I get involved to help you keep power?”
Clock King snapped the handle of his tea cup, spilling tea all over him. Calm on the outside, he was furious inside. “Now you’ve caused me to make a mess, but it’s nothing like the mess Gotham will be in. I’ve got multiple jackals after my land Batman, including one with two faces. Who would you prefer was in charge?”
Yes I know who they both are, no we haven’t verbalized it exactly, but he knows I figured it out, and we don’t speak about it. That’s a whole separate story. When we talk, he refers to Alfred as his Dad, the boys as his son, and Barbara as Batgirl. I use the same titles in case anyone else is listening.
Clock King was bad, Two Face would be worse. “Give me everything you’ve got, and everything on who you think it was. An tell me about the Tweed Caper.”
He didn’t move for three and a half seconds, but then poured out information. Croc was innocent, but the van wasn’t. Someone had used it to steal from Clock King, and returned it.
Mammoth was taking it to his own forensic specialist, and Croc didn’t understand, so he hit him. The results were worthless, no prints, clues, etc. He gave the report to Batman, but it didn’t hold much to go on.
Clock King spent a lot of time on Mammoth, and very little about the Tweed Caper. Batman knew he left stuff out, but it wasn’t much use asking more. All crooks are hesitant to share information with Batman, even when they need him.
On the way back to the Bat Cave Batman processed most of what he had, while it wasn’t a lot, there were possibilities. There’s a cot by the Batmobile, for those nights when he collapsed as soon as he got out of the car. Later he told me it was one of those nights.
The cot only works on those times when Alfred is out of town. If he’s in town, he insists he go to his bedroom like a normal person. A normal person who fights crime all night, and sleeps most of the day, when he can.
He said he tried to argue once, and the conversation ended with, “In front of everyone it is Sir, but here it’s I love you, but don’t argue with me. Now shut up son, and go to bed.”
I never know whether it’s technically breakfast or dinner for him, but he ate around six pm and dressed for another long night. He had three visits to make before midnight, Tut, Egghead, and the Tweeds. I think he enjoys aggravating Egghead, reminding him he’s not quite as smart as he thinks he is.
Batman didn’t break a window to get in his place, he put in Egghead’s personal entry code, which Egghead thought no one knew. “Hello Egghead, I’ve come to talk, unless you try something.” Egghead sighed, mumbled about having to write a whole new security program, and asked what he wanted.
“Clock King, Tweeds, Tut, what do you know?” Batman didn’t say it quite that simply, he paused, frowned, and said each word as if it were a threat. It doesn’t always work, but it usually does, especially if you have his reputation.
Egghead smirked, he was smart. “He’s turned you into his bulldog. You’re working for Clock King, how interesting. What does he pay?”
This is where, Batman told me, he resisted the urge to smash his computer. “You’re smart Egg, ask yourself this. If I am looking for information for him, how badly do I want the information? Also, how angry do you think I am?”
Egghead’s eye twitched twice. “Clock King was betrayed by the Tweeds, he burned me, I burned Tut, and then both of us burned Clock King. If someone has hurt King, it wasn’t me, and it’s not the Pharaoh, it’s the Tweeds.”
It’s all he offered, and Batman didn’t push. He headed immediately to Tut, for this reason. Egghead was sending him away from Tut, in Gotham that means go directly where they don’t want you to go.
Batman knew this also meant that Tut was expecting him. A mile away from Tut’s place, he altered his plan. Instead of staying away, or walking into a trap, he would make Tut come to him.
It pays to be a billionaire. Bruce Wayne owned two paintings of the greatest living Egyptian artist, and he loaned them to Batman for the night. Next Batman called Tut, told him where they and he would be in an hour, and to not be late.
Tut showed up with two of his best henchman, eager to see the paintings. “Take a good look, they’ve not been outside the walls of a private collection for five years, and they’ve never been on camera before.”
He allowed Tut ten minutes, then demanded answers. “Clock King, Egghead, the Tweeds, I want information? Why did Egghead try to keep me from talking to you?”
Tut didn’t look away from the paintings. “He outsmarted you. He wanted you to talk to me. Egghead knows I know nothing, and he thought he’d aggravate us both.”
Batman pushed a button on his utility belt and a panel covered the paintings almost immediately. Tut did not turn his head away. Batman told him to try again.
“Clock King, Egghead, and I were setup by the Tweeds. They never had really stole anything, and they didn’t replace anything either. The whole caper was a lie.”
“They owned the piece they fed everyone the line about. The person who had it, had been loaned it by them. The entire caper was about blackmailing each of us with a robbery charge.”
“It was small potatoes, but they wanted to use it as leverage to control us for as long as they could. At least long enough to win their feud with Hatter. The three of us don’t take to being controlled, we prefer to do the controlling.”
It sounded like the Tweeds, but something still didn’t make sense. Batman was putting everything together, but thought he’d give Tut a chance. “Why is the news the three of you are mad at each other, and not the Tweeds?”
Tut turned away, admiration and anger in his face. “We weren’t mad at the Tweeds because any one of us would have tried the same thing. It’s a classic caper, what happened next wasn’t.”
That night the three of us had to enter the building to put our parts of the plan in motion. An insistence by the Tweeds, that we were on sight, we didn’t like it, but they paid well. One of Egghead’s devices exploded, but not as planned.”
“The three of us were trapped in a room, there was one opening. We each went for it, but Clock King reached it first. Egghead could have tried to follow, instead he grabbed Clock King and threw him backwards towards the fire in the room.”
“I had a choice, follow after Egghead, or carry Clock King out. I’m a crook Batman, not a murderer, other than occasionally trying to feed you to the crocodiles that is. I carried Clock King to the opening, and pushed him through.”
Batman realized at that moment where he had to be. He thanked Tut, and gave him one more look at the paintings as Batman sped away. To his credit, Tut only tried to steal one, but soon realized Batman had taken precautions.
Nightwing stopped him, then allowed him and his henchmen to leave per Batman’s instructions. Tonight was about something else, and Tut wasn’t the one in danger. There was still one piece of the puzzle that wasn’t completely clear.
Tut may not resent the Tweeds for manipulating, Egghead may not either. Egghead had more to worry about though than resentment. Right now especially, he needed to stay alive.
One person would resent the manipulation. A man who prided himself on a different level than Egghead and Tut did. Clock King resented losing time, and the Tweeds cost him time.
Batman called me, for once I got there before he did, but it was too late. One Tweed had been kidnapped, and the other had been shot. He was alive, but barely.
Dumfree Tweed would have died if Batman hadn’t figured it out. We got him to Gotham General just in time. Under a heavily guarded basement room, he came to.
Batman and I questioned him, I went first. “Dumfree, tonight it’s no good cop bad cop deal. Because of Batman here, you’re alive. We hope your cousin is. If you want to be sure, and as a thank you to Batman here, tell us what’s going on.”
He didn’t joke, argue, or speak in that ridiculous rhyming thing he and Deever did at times. “It was Clock King and his men. His lieutenant shot me, and I went down. I was still conscious but barely. I heard what he said to Deever.”
“He told him that because of us, he had spent time in Arkham, time he didn’t have to waste. He said he didn’t like that, but more than that he didn’t like the fact we almost cost him his life. Deever said we didn’t know what Egghead would do, or that his bomb would go wrong.”
“Clock King said, ‘Oh I’m going to scramble Egghead’s brain a little, but I need your help. Unfortunately I need one Tweedle alive, looks like you’re it.”
Batman left. I didn’t have to ask where he was going. By now it was obvious. When Batman got there, Egghead was in a computer chair, chained to the desk. The circle around him was surrounded by red lasers.
Deever Tweed held the very prize they had supposedly hired the three to help them replace years ago. His hands were taped, and he could barely hold it. Batman walked into the trap knowingly, it was his only chance.
They heard Clock King’s voice over the loud speaker. “This building has been completely rebuilt Batman. It’s the scene of the event years ago. I’ve made some modifications of course.”
“Instead of Tut, Clock King, and myself, it’s you, Tweedledee, and Egghead. Egghead’s only hope is to reprogram that computer virus which a third party paid him to create years ago. He was hired to make it unstoppable of course.”
“It controls the bomb in Tweedledee’s hands, inside his precious artifact. If Egghead can’t reprogram it the computer will explode in two hours, or if Tweedledee drops his prize, it will go off first. I needed a third person to complete the reenactment of that night.”
“Since my death was out of the question, I decided I’d kill two birds, and a bat with one stone. I don’t like Tut but I owe him, so I won’t kill him. First of course, I had to steal from myself, just as the Tweeds plotted for us to do from them. I paid Mammoth well, Croc got in the way, but he didn’t figure it out.”
“It’s time to end this. I’ve calculated, even for you Batman, it would take three hours if you hope to walk out alive, and both bombs are set for 2 hours. Good bye Batman, oh and thank you for your help today!”
Batman didn’t move for a moment, Egghead’s hands swiftly typing on the keys. Tweedledee’s hands grasping the bomb with everything in him. In his mind Batman was going over multiple scenarios. There was only one that made sense, if he was right.”
The Batman doesn’t carry a gun, but he does carry a batarang. As he threw the two simultaneously, each villain screamed, ‘Are you mad!?’. The explosion could be heard for three blocks.
I got there as the smoke was clearing. Batman, Egghead, and Tweedledee were bruised, but alive. ‘Batman, how did you three survive it?”
He doesn’t laugh often, but he did that night.“Commissioner it was all a matter of time. The one thing Clock King wouldn’t cheat is time. I knew when he said I had two hours he meant it, no more no less.”
I threw an EMP batarang at Egghead’s computer, it stopped the system clock, stopping that bomb for two minutes. I threw another batarang knocking the other bomb out of Tweed’s hand, and caught it. Then I threw it as far as I could, while I covered the three of us with my cape shield.”
“It gave me time to cut Egghead free, and us to dive for cover. Clock King had a two minute fail safe on each bomb before they exploded, and before all the other bombs he had planted exploded. We made it out just barely, but we made it.”
Egghead snarled. “I could have reprogrammed it, I just needed a little time. Also, I wasn’t trying to kill Clock King that night. I was just trying to get out alive. He had a bomb in his hand, I think he would have trapped us in, and didn’t want to take that chance.”
Batman left me to take the two in. Each ratting on the other about various things they knew would ensure both of them did some time in Arkham again. Dumfree would join them after he recovered, what one cousin did, so had the other.
Clock King was actually shocked when Batman showed up. He really believed he had outsmarted the Caped Crusader. That’s what usually took down most of Gotham’s criminals. An arrogant belief they were smarter than anyone, even Batman.
He made quick work of all the henchmen. Batman had Clock King in handcuffs before his coo coo clock went off. When it did, something was different. Tut couldn’t resist one swipe at Clock King.
Batman stopped, and looked at the coo coo. It was different. It was an Egyptian sphinx instead of a standard coo coo, Clock King noticed it too.
“Why did he do it! How did he get in here and replace my coo coo with that. I’ll fry that phony Pharaoh for being a stool pigeon, and for trying to gloat about it. There’s only one king in Gotham, the Clock King!!!!”
Ironically, Tut’s joke caused him a short stay in Blackgate. Clock King reported him for breaking an entering. It was a petty charge, but they were both being pretty petty if you ask me.
Fugate ended up in Arkham, and lost his entire criminal empire because of his plan for revenge. He had it all, and lost it all. His need to be the smartest, proved that in Gotham, Batman was smarter than a cracked egg, a phony Pharaoh, and a clock maker.