In Bruce’s opinion exams sucked, not because they were hard, no examination was hard when you had a photographic memory, but because they took so long. Usually Bruce took just twelve minutes to answer an exam paper. His average score on every exam taken since he was ten was 99.99% it could never be 100% because Mrs Redman his sixth grade Maths teacher never gave 100%. She had removed one mark from Bruce’s mid-term paper because Bruce had failed to put a full stop at the end of a sentence. Her actions had infuriated the young man. But like Alfred always said ‘You learn from your mistakes!’ and Bruce had learnt, he now always took an extra minute to check punctuation.
There was still at least forty-five minutes of the exam to go and Bruce was bored. Why the hell he was even doing the examination he didn’t know. He had no intention of going to Gotham State University. His plans were already made. He and Alfred would be flying to London next week. At fourteen he couldn’t enrol at Cambridge University to read Chemistry without a chaperon. Not that he minded having Alfred along, but he felt a bit sorry to be dragging his butler / guardian away from Gotham and his friends, well one friend anyway, Dr Leslie. Although neither Alfred nor Leslie had voiced any objections to his plans he knew they were unhappy at the prospect of a long separation. Bruce was aware that they had been spending as much time as possible together over the last few days, in fact Alfred had asked for the day off because he was taking Leslie out for a picnic lunch up the coast, right after he had helped her with morning surgery. Bruce had told his friend not to hurry back to collect him as he was going to workout in the school gym until around 6:00pm.
Bruce looked at the clock, forty-two minutes left.
Trevor Rhodes one of Bruce’s classmate was sat at the small desk near the door. He was working as exam monitor, running any errands the members of staff overseeing the test required. Bruce noted that the boy had his small transistor radio in his inside jacket pocket and he had the cable to an ear piece running up the inside of his shirt. Bruce could see Trevor’s fingers drumming along to the beat of the music. As he watched he saw the boy’s finger stop and his face glaze over, glancing at the clock Bruce noted it was half past ten, the local news broadcast would be on. Bruce turned his attention back to the exam paper, he had decided to check he’d put all the full stops in.
Suddenly Trevor was stood over him. He was thrusting the radio into Bruce’s hand. “You’d best listen to this, it concerns that clinic your Father started. Some nut’s been shooting the place up. The report says there’s two dead and six badly injured. By all accounts they’ve got hostages.”
Bruce grabbed the earpiece and listened unbelieving to the story unfolding on the news. His blood felt like ice in his veins. “At least two men are known to be dead and six people injured, three of them critical. No clear details were known at the present time” the news reporter had stated. When Mr Hall approached to confiscate the radio, Bruce ran for the door.
He saw Dr Hammond the school principal accompanied by two police offices approaching him.
“Bruce, you’ve heard.” the old man said.
“Who’s been killed?” Bruce asked the older of the two officers. “Are Alfred and Leslie OK?”
“Son, we don’t know, all we were told was to pick you up and run you to the hospital.”
Hospital, that had to be a good sign, they wouldn’t be taking him to the hospital if Alfred were dead, they would be taking him home.
Dr Hammond climbed in to the car next to Bruce.
“Can’t you use your radio to find out if my friends are ok?”
“Son we’ll be there before we even get a reply.” The younger police officer said.
They pulled up outside the Gotham General within minutes. Bruce had the door of the car open and was running towards the hospital entrance. He was stopped by a large scruffy man who’s hands were sticky from eating a doughnut.
“Hold it son, where do you think you’re going.”
Bruce was struggling, to get past the man.
“Bruce!” Dr Hammond shouted.
Sargent Bullock looked at the distraught teenager. “You’re Bruce Wayne. Come on son, the lady’s inside asking for you.”
“The lady, you mean Dr Leslie?”
Bullock nodded. “She took a bullet in the arm, but she’ll be ok.
Bruce felt elated Leslie was going to be ok! Suddenly his joy evaporated and he felt sick, no one had mentioned Alfred. The radio announces voice played back in his head, ‘At least two men are dead.’ If Alfred was dead, then Leslie would be the one to tell him. He suddenly didn’t want to know. If no one said the words then Alfred couldn’t be dead. He could go back to school and wait for Alfred to collect him as normal. As they got to Leslie’s room Bruce suddenly turned away.
Harvey Bullock was a big man but he was fast. He grabbed the boy’s arm as he tried to run past him. “What the hell’s up with you?” Bullocks gasped. “Your friend want’s to talk to you!”
“Alfred’s dead,” Bruce shouted at the man, “isn’t he? Just tell me! Don’t make Leslie do it!”
Bullock’s face lost its angry look and softened. “Bruce it’s ok, your, butler.. guardian isn’t dead!”
“He’s one of the hostages.” a soft voice said from behind him.
Bruce whirled around to see Leslie dressed in a hospital gown stood in the doorway to her room, her arm was bandaged. She had been crying, her eyes were red.
Bruce ran up to her and hugged her tight. She started crying again.
“Alfred’s OK, you’re sure?” Bruce asked concerned. Leslie nodded.
“He was when I last saw him. He was helping me stitch up a head wound when three men with guns burst in. They had escaped from a prison van. One had been shot. For a few minutes we were in the middle of a gun battle. Two prison officers were killed, two seriously injured along with one of my patients. Maggie and I received flesh wounds. When the firing died down Alfred, started to attend to the wounded. When the police arrived he helped Maggie and me escape through the fire exit.”
“Why didn’t he escape with you?” Bruce asked.
“That’s my fault,” Leslie said hanging her head “I said I wouldn’t leave my patients without medical aid. So Alfred shoved me out of the exit towards a police officer then went back inside.” With that she burst into a flood of tears. “If anything happens to him I’ll never forgive myself!”
Bruce held her tightly, “He’ll be alright Leslie. He’s got to be.”
“But it should be me in there not him!” Leslie Whispered.
“He wouldn’t have let you stay on your own, Leslie, you know that. It would have been both of you in there. What do the gunmen want?”
Leslie and Bruce both looked at Sargent Bullock. “A helicopter out of state and $1,000,000.”
“I can pay the money!” Bruce stated. “A million is no problem, I’ve got that in my stocks account.” At Bullock’s inquiring stare Bruce explained. “I’ve been playing the stock market, just for fun. So far I’ve turned my $1000 start money into $1.3 million. So I don’t even need the trustees permission to use it. I just need to know how they want the money. Is Captain Gordon in charge of the case?”
“I want to go there and speak to the Captain.” Bruce stated.
“Sorry son no way; you’re a minor, there’s no way they’ll let you near the scene.”
A young nurse called Bullock to the phone.
Captain Gordon was looking at the Commissioner in disbelief, “Why are you even considering SWAT at this time? We can pay, Bullock has already said that Bruce Wayne is willing to put up the money! We pay, put traces in the money and then take it from there.”
“And the public see criminals getting the better of the police again. No Gordon, I am not having my force accused of bowing down to criminal’s demands yet again. This is our chance to show criminals that Gotham is not any easy target.” Doyal insisted.
“You want to do that by putting peoples lives on the line?” Gordon asked. “We can pay, and it won’t cost the tax payers. Commissioner if we pay then we reduced the number of hostages and we have a better chance of stopping this with no one getting hurt.”
“Captain Vickers, assures me his teams can deal with this swiftly, and with a minimum number of casualties. No payment made, and no chance of the perpetrators getting away. Can you give me the same guarantee Gordon? No you can’t!” Doyal snapped.
“But we’ve always paid in the past, then hunted the perpetrators down! What’s changed? OK so it takes time. But it’s safer that way.” Gordon insisted.
“And the public will see us giving in to scum again! No I want this resolved fast. We hit them hard,” Doyal said, “that way others think twice before they try the same thing. The public then knows that the Mayor and I kept our pledge. We will not let criminals get away with crime in Gotham.”
“This isn’t about the hostages or what’s good for Gotham its about that!” Gordon pointed to the election poster on a wall near by. “It’s about your jobs. This is just an election ploy!”
“I suggest you consider your job Gordon, before you start throwing that kind of accusation around. Now I am handing this over to Vickers, so I suggest you and your men withdraw. I am sure there’s other things you can be getting on with. After all I haven’t seen a reduction in the crime figures from your department.”
Leslie led Bruce into her room. The TV on the wall was tuned to the news channel and Maggie, Leslie’s assistant, was sat watching.
“Oh, Leslie, you’re not going to believe this, the Commissioner is calling in the SWAT teams.”
On the TV Commissioner Doyle could be seen with the clinic in the background. “Gotham does not give in to terrorists. These men are killers, we do not intend letting them escape. We are certainly not going to pay a ransom. I have a special force ready and willing to go in and stop these men at any cost!”
Summer Gleeson the Gotham News Channel’s reporter asked. “Commissioner Doyal, are there patients in the clinic?”
Commissioner Doyal looked pained as he answered. “There are six patients and a volunteer medic in there, as far as we know, along with the three escaped criminals.”
“Commissioner won’t the hostages be in danger if you send in a SWAT team? I mean won’t sick and injured people will be in danger from stray bullets.” Summer said.
Doyal looked directly into the camera. “There is a slight risk, but it’s an acceptable one. We will not have terrorists and criminals getting the idea that Gotham is any easy target. Let me make our position plain here and now. In any war, especially a war on crime, there are casualties, innocent people always get hurt. That cannot be helped, like I said before there is an acceptable risk we must take for the good of Gotham.”
Bruce felt Leslie’s grip on his hand tighten. “He wouldn’t be saying that if his friends and loved ones were in there!” Maggie said her voice full of anger. “It because it poor people, and they don’t matter, he can calmly talk about acceptable losses.”
“They’re not planning on storming the clinic are they?” Leslie asked in a totally shocked voice. “There are sick people in there, several of them bed bound. They cannot be serious?” Leslie staggered over to the bathroom, Maggie got there just in time to support Leslie as she threw up.
“It’ll be OK Leslie, you know how resourceful Alfred is, he’ll make sure everyone is OK!” Maggie assured her.
“But who’ll make sure Alfred’s Ok? I can’t lose him Maggie, it’s bad enough knowing he’s going to be going away for months. But I can’t stand to lose him like this!” she was sobbing uncontrollably. Bruce helped Maggie get Leslie into bed, then he sat next to her holding her hand.
At Bruce’s worried look Maggie said, “It’s the anaesthetic and shock talking Bruce. If she was thinking straight she’d know Alfred’s capable of taking care of things, he’ll be OK. I am sure he will be.” Bruce thought she sounded anything but sure.
On the TV another face could be seen. “So Professor Stevens, as Professor of Criminal Psychology at Gotham State what do you think of the Commissioners tactics?” Summer asked.
“Well acceptable risk is a well known police phrase in this type of situation. But acceptable to who? I am sure the hostages loved ones and friends wouldn’t find the police’s 50% hostage loss rate in this type of operation acceptable, but that is what the police are working on. If only half these people get out alive the police will consider they’ve done a good job. There are other ways to tackle crime. Understanding the Psychological profiles of criminals and being able to out think them matters more than brute force.”
Bruce was listening to Professors Stevens with interest.
“Another Goody two shoes!” Bullock muttered.
“I am going down to the clinic!” Bruce stated.
Sargent Bullock who was stood against the door blocked his exit. “Sorry Mister Wayne, Commissioner Doyal’s orders are that you stay here.”
On the screen they could see the SWAT teams moving in. Bruce felt so helpless. Shot could be heard and explosions as stun grenades and tear gas were used. Finally after what seemed to Bruce like an eternity, the police teams were seen to with draw and ambulance crews went in.
“First reports state that all three escaped criminals are thought to be dead. On the hostage front, two are known to be injured.” Summers commentated as pictures of casualties being brought out on stretches were shown. Bruce felt Leslie’s hand grip his arm as they saw Alfred being escorted out to a waiting ambulance. He seemed to be OK. Bruce felt so relieved he was almost in tears as he hugged Leslie tight.
The camera cut back to Summer Gleeson. “So Professor Stevens it seems the Police tactics were the right ones in this case!”
“They got lucky Summer, like I said before the only way to beat criminals is to out think them. After all three people are dead. And even if they were criminals they were people. They had families too!”
Bruce was listening to Professor Stevens carefully. For the first time Bruce felt he had found someone who understood crime and criminals.
Within half an hour Alfred had joined them. Apart from looking totally dishevelled and having a minor scratch to his forehead he was fine. Leslie couldn’t stop crying as she embraced him. Bruce squeeze his friends arm “Good to have you safe Alfred, you had us pretty worried there.”
“I was pretty worried too, Master Bruce, especially when the SWAT teams moved in, I didn’t expect that to happen. But everything alright now!”
Alfred stroked Leslie’s hair, “I hope we can get our picnic in before Bruce and I leave for Cambridge.” he said.
“About that Alfred, would you mind if we didn’t go this year. I’d like to study at Gotham State for a year. There’s a Professor Stevens I’d like to study under.”
Bruce saw Leslie smile. “Not at all sir.” Alfred said hardly able to hide his own elation.