The Dark Knight Lives (TWENTY-EIGHT)

Blake Lively could not seem to shake the fact that he had seen Mr. Goldman before. In Gotham Park, he had stood a distance away from the stage but there was a disturbing familiarity to Mr. Tom Goldman that had his brain throbbing with frustration.

He tried to let go of his worries as he stood in the lobby of the orphanage that the Wayne Manor now housed. Behind him, he could hear the voices of children permeating the walls of the mansion. It brought him memories of when he used to be an orphan. Those years of his life hadn’t brought the fondest memories but…there were memories that he recalled with joy.

Being an orphan had turned him into the man that he was today; a warrior. Someone who never quelled under darkness and strove to protect those who couldn’t protect themselves.

He was hoping that the young teenager, Gloria, could understand his offer and appreciate the path that he was trying to provide for her. Yes, he was probably bringing a world of pain to her by offering her a chance at something beyond a normal life but he knew, she was the next hero. If Gotham was to thrive and move into a new age, one that left the villainy of the past behind, there needed to be people like Gloria in the world. He had realized this yesterday after nearly dying.

He was certain that even though his time hadn’t come yesterday afternoon or last night, the crazed villains assigned to kill him would find him again and maybe next time, he wouldn’t be so lucky.

He sat in the lobby, pervading a calm demeanor as he waited patiently. The head of the house had approached him and upon seeing him broke into a joyous countenance. He had been a major part of the orphanage’s inception seven years ago after Batman (or as Blake knew him, Bruce Wayne) sacrificed himself to save the people of Gotham. To return to the orphanage after so long brought the head of the house, an older woman named Meredith Grayson, much joy.

It was why he could sit in the lobby of the establishment without being bothered or eyed strangely.

After waiting for nearly an hour the door to the orphanage finally opened and in stepped Gloria, a backpack slung over her shoulder. When she spotted him there was a look of determination in her eye. He stood, approaching her.

“So I’m guessing you took my offer,” he said.

She nodded.

“How did your parents take it?”

“I left on my own accord,” she responded. “I wrote them a note of my decision. I…” she stopped, containing her emotions. After a second she continued, “I couldn’t look my mother in the eye and tell her what I was going to do. It would’ve been too hard.”

“You ran away from home?” he asked.

She nodded, her eyes growing glassy. “I’m on my own now.”

He took a deep breath. “I’m sorry. I didn’t want it to happen this way.”

She smiled sadly. “This is the path I chose right? To chase your…fate sometimes means having to cast the past behind.” Her chin raised. “And I stand by my decision.”

After a second he nodded. “Then I stand by your choice.” He outstretched his hand. “Welcome to the world of a hero.”

She smiled, shaking his hand. “It’s an honor, sir.”

He smirked. He then looked from left to right, making sure no one was around and gestured for her to follow him.

They walked over to a bookshelf in the room and as he scanned his surroundings yet another time to make sure there was no one in the vicinity he pulled on a book. Immediately there was a thunk followed by the inward swing of the wall beside the bookshelf as it revealed a secret entrance. Gloria gasped.

“Whoa.”

He smiled. “Whoa indeed.”

He then entered the secret space followed by Gloria who tailed him closely. He pressed a button on the wall in the enclosed space and immediately the secret entrance closed with a solid gravelly thunk. He then pressed another button and Gloria yelped as the floor beneath their feet began to descend into the earth. At the same time, a dim light brightened the space enough for them to see one another clearly.

“A secret elevator,” she gasped.

He nodded. “A secret elevator,” he repeated.

The “secret elevator” descended into a massive cavern filled with dim light and the undeniable squeak of bats. As Blake stepped out of the elevator Gloria followed after him with a dropped jaw.

“Wait a minute.” She looked at his back. “Where are we?”

He looked back at her with a smirk. “Have any good guesses?”

She stopped, looking upward at the stalactites hanging dozens of feet above her covered in bats.

“Judging from the bats,” she grinned, “is this Batman’s base?”

Blake grinned in response. “Very perceptive. You are correct.”

Her mouth slightly gaped in amazement.

“Seven years ago I came here. I wanted to follow in Batman’s footsteps. I wanted to make sure there wasn’t a void in the space that he filled for Gotham and I was determined to be the person he believed I could be.”

“And a bloody good job you’ve done so far,” an old man’s voice reverberated throughout the cavern.

Gloria looked to find an old man with white hair and a suit approaching.

“Gloria Ramirez, meet Alfred,” Blake Lively said.

Alfred smiled at Gloria. “Mr. Lively’s told me quite a bit about you. Apparently, you placed quite an impression on him.”

“Apparently,” she said, smiling at Blake.

“It’s good to have you here,” Alfred told her as they walked through the underground base. “Sometimes I get tired of talking to a testerone-filled man every day.”

Gloria chuckled.

“Now come with me, Ms. Ramirez. It’s time to make you your costume.”

Blake sighed. “It’s not a costume, Alfred.”

The butler looked at him. “That caped fiasco you walk out of here with every day? Just like Wayne, that’s a costume and you can’t change my mind about it.”

“Wayne?” Gloria asked. “Wait a minute. Are you trying to tell me Bruce Wayne was…Batman?”

Alfred smiled sadly. “Yes, he was. A bloody stubborn man he was but no one could deny his bravery.” The old man’s gaze lowered. “I miss him every day.”

As the tone shifted, Blake placed a hand on his shoulder. Alfred smiled at him before brightening once more.

“Okay Ms. Ramirez. This way.”

As the enthused teenager followed after the elderly butler, Blake walked over to the screens he had set up to survey Gotham. He sat down at the kiosk, typing in TOM GOLDMAN and was surprised when no one was recognized in Gotham with that name.

He sat back, his dark eyebrows furrowing. He needed to learn who Mr. Goldman was and quickly because he had a feeling Gotham was in big trouble.

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