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AltPooetryman @POOetryman
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That Friday at Wayne Manor began like any other. Alfred served a breakfast of poached eggs, toast, and fruit in the atrium as Bruce read the news online. After that, a swim, then some business deals before working out in the gym & sparring with Dick Grayson. ...
... Just after 3 p.m., the doorbell rang. Odd. Who could this be? Visitors were supposed to buzz in at the gate & security was tight on the grounds, yet whoever was at the door evaded all of it to get there. If this person went to the trouble of surveilling & evading security...
...then why bother ringing the doorbell? Obviously, this was someone rather special and out of the ordinary. Alfred looked at Bruce, brow furrowed in puzzlement & concern, then went to the security room to see who was at the door. ...
... The security room was a bank of monitors and alarm indicators & controls, with a few nasty surprises for anyone who entered the grounds without authorization. Alfred found the security guard at the desk on his phone, posting something on Facebook. Alfred was NOT pleased. ...
... He seized the phone from the hapless & complacent guard and carefully examined his account to ensure that nothing had been posted that could have led to this intrusion. After satisfying himself this was not the case, he summarily fired the guard, making a note to tell Bruce.
... The doorbell rang again. Alfred looked at the front door monitor. There, on the stoop, was a quite ordinary-looking man, if a little ragged. Somewhat thin & frail, his suit hung on him like a raincoat carelessly tossed on a rack. His hair was pure white, with traces of ...
...brown; his face gaunt, sunken & grizzled. He hadn't shaved in several days. Indeed, if it weren't for the man's extraordinary presence here, at the door of Wayne Manor, having evaded some of the best security on the planet, Alfred would have sworn he was a drunken beggar. ...
Alfred judged his age to be about 60-64, near retirement. This man should be collecting a check now. Who was he? What was he doing here? Alfred watched him carefully on the monitor, observing his body language. At an opportune monent, as the man paced languidly back & forth... front of the door, he took a screenshot of the man's face and ran it through the facial recognition software Dick had developed, which scoured all known online resources, such as the DMV and criminal justice records, looking for a match. ...
...but came up blank. The man was a mystery. This wasn't necessarily strange, as not all jurisdictions post their records online. Alfred thought for a moment. Obviously, the man had to be dealt with, the mystery solved and any threat eliminated. He would have to answer the door.
Alfred left the security room and strode purposefully toward the front door. As he walked down the hall, he heard a noise behind him. Turning to look, he saw a large shape lunging at him. The security guard he had just fired! The man brandished a small knife. He swung at Alfred.
Alfred stood his ground & followed the man's hand as the knife came at him. Alfred grabbed his forearm, pulled & twisted, jerking the man's arm up behind his back. He heard a dull tearing sound in the man's shoulder & saw it bulge as tendons gave way and the socket dislocated.
The man screamed in pain and anger. Alfred pushed and kicked, sending him stumbling and crashing against a wall. Thoroughly enraged now, the ex-guard would not be deterred. With his other, still usable arm, he pulled a semi-automatic pistol from his waistband and took aim... Alfred's chest. Alfred froze. As the man raised his gun to fire, a swift roundhouse kick to the head took him down hard. He wouldn't get up for awhile. The doorbell rang again. Bruce looked at the body on the floor, then at Alfred, who was still shaken by the encounter.
"Get the door, Alfred. I'll take care of this."

"As you wish, sir."

As Alfred turned to get the door, he turned back for a moment and looked at Bruce as he lifted the body off the floor. "Thank you, sir."

Bruce said nothing, but fixed Alfred with a look of ... What? ...
... Alfred couldn't read it. They locked eyes for a second, then Bruce turned away, carrying the former security guard to a secure room, to hold him for police.

Alfred turned and continued to the living room foyer as the bell rang several times in quick succession. ...
Their mystery visitor was getting impatient. Finally reaching the front door, he took a moment to compose himself, then opened it. Immediately, a number of things assaulted his senses; the smell of cheap colgne, applied too generously, and of old liquor & cigarettes. ...
The man looked rough on the monitor, but didn't tell the whole tale. In person, he looked like a scarecrow; just sticks for bones and straw for hair. The man stopped pacing, faced Alfred and removed his hat, revealing a balding pate with brownish liver spots abounding. ...
The man's hair, sticking out in all directions, reminded Alfred of a porcupine with a bad hangover after a days-long binge. Been there, done that, got past it. Memories. Not good ones. So, here he was and there HE was, this mysterious visitor. Alfred regarded the man coolly...
...and curiously. "Good afternoon, sir. May I help you?"

The man stood firmly, holding his hat idn his hands, and looked Alfred directly in the eye. "Good day. I'm sorry to bother you, but I would like to speak to Mr. Wayne. It's rather important." ....
Alfred fixed the man with a withering gaze. "I'm sorry, sir, but Mr. Wayne is --"

"Please, don't hand me that 'Mr. Wayne is busy' crap. I know he's home. I have something to say to him. It's very important. I know this is unusual and, again, I'm sorry for the interruption...
...but I came here to tell him something and I won't leave until I do. It's of vital importance, or I wouldn't be here. I MUST talk to him. Today! Please, just go get him."

Alfred was not moved by his pleas. "I'm sorry, sir, but I'll have to ask you t--"

"Fetch Batman."
Alfred stopped cold and looked at the mystery man sharply. When he spoke again, his response was cool and measured, but his hostility was unmistakable.

"Batman, sir, is not here. I do not know where you can find him. If you wish to speak to him, I suggest you rob a bank."
The man wasn't fazed. He looked at Alfred with a mix of amusement, annoyance and determination. Alfred stared at the man, willing him to go away and the man stared back with equal intensity. They stayed this way for several seconds. Finally, the man broke gaze. ...
He spoke softly, politely, not quite begging, but not quite demanding, either.

"Look. Sir. I know what you're thinking, what I look like. I'm not here to beg for money and I don't want to hurt anyone. I only want to talk. That's all. I'm only asking for a minute of his time...
...after which, I will never bother you again. That's the truth. I've wanted to do this for a long time. Years. Decades. It's something I have to do, for my peace ... and his."

Alfred did not waver.

"Please. Just get him. I only need a minute. He'll want to hear this."
Alfred looked at the man and thought. He seemed determined and, as far as he could tell, posed no obvious threat. After all, the man somehow defeated all of Wayne, Inc.'s security to get to this door. If he wanted to do harm, he can likely do so, yet here he was merely asking...
...for a moment of time.

After careful consideration, he relented. He let out a heavy sigh. "Very well, sir. Follow me, please."
The man seemed relieved. "Thank you. I'm sorry for this, but it's something I've gotta do."

Alfred said nothing as he led the man to the drawing room and showed him to a hard chair in the corner, facing away from the door. "Please have a seat. I shall inform Mr. Wayne of your..
...presence. May I ask your name, sir?"

"Oh, I'm sorry", he said with a nervous laugh. "My name is Alan Waltrip."

"Very well, sir. Wait here and I shall see if Mr. Wayne is available."

"Thank you."

Alfred left and Alan sat, looking around the room. Bruce Wayne, he thought...
...had done well for himself, despite the tragedy that befell him all those years ago, when his parents were murdered during a robbery. So long ago. It seemed like another lifetime, yet Alan was all too aware of what a lifetime it had been. And whose. From that one tragic act... much had issued. That night, Batman was born; a little boy grieving the loss of his parents, angry, determined that no one would ever again suffer as he had; hellbent on making Gotham City safe for people to walk in, even down dark alleys. That was where Batman spent...
...most of his time and energy, fighting common criminals, like the one who had killed his parents. Criminals like him. Like Alan.

But that was another lifetime, one he'd left behind over 30 years ago now, since that tragic night when the crazy train he had been riding since...
...he was 12 had finally taken him too far. Since the night when his habits finally caught up with him.

Further reverie was interrupted when Bruce Wayne entered the room and greeted him.
"Good afternoon, Mr. ... Waltrip, was it?"

Alan stood and offered his hand. "Yes, sir. Alan Waltrip. I'm glad to finally meet you, Bruce. I've waited a very long time for this."

Bruce shook Alan's hand. "Yes, so you told Alfred, my butler. May I ask what this is regarding?"
"Oh, yes. Yes. I only need a minute or two of your time and I'll bother you no more."

Bruce sat in a high-backed leather reading chair across from Alan, who followed suit. "Here, have a seat on something more comfortable", he said, pointing to a similar chair closer to his own.
Alan politely declined. "No, that's OK, Bruce. This will do fine." And he kept his seat.

"May I offer you some refreshment? Coffee? Tea? Something stronger?"

Bruce noticed a light flicker briefly behind Alan's eyes at the mention of "stronger". In a heartbeat, it was gone.
That flicker spoke volumes to Bruce. In that instant, he saw craving, satisfaction and pain. An alcoholic. Maybe more.

"No, sir. Thank you. I won't be long."

"OK, then. Alfred said you had something to tell me, something important? What's on your mind, Mr. Waltrip?"
Alan fidgeted for a few seconds, unsure of how to proceed, but absolutely certain that he must. Finally, he gathered his resolve and made up his mind to simply forge ahead and damn all.

"Mr. Wayne, Bruce, I have a secret. It's been eating at me for years. Decades, now."
Bruce looked at Alan, somewhat nonplussed by the familiarity, but let it pass. He waited patiently for Alan to continue.

"I'm not sure how to say this, Bruce, so I'll just spit it out."

Bruce nodded. "OK, go on. I'm listening."

"Many years ago, I was a wreck. I was an ...
...alcoholic. A junkie. A petty thief, doing whatever I had to do to get my fix. I'd been that way for years. Stealing, robbing, 'borrowing'" - he made the air quotes sign - "knowing I'd never pay it back, knowing I'd either drink it, smoke it, or shoot it up."
Bruce was getting suspicious and beginning to grow impatient. "Mr. Waltrip --"

Alan interrupted him. "Alan. Please."

"Fine. Alan, is there a point to this? If you need therapy, I can..."

"OK. OK. I'll get to the point. Bruce, I am, in a way, your father."

Bruce glared.
He turned his head slightly and looked askance at Alan. "What do you mean you're my father? If this is a joke, I'll have you hauled out of here in irons! I won't put up with --"


Bruce was visibly angry now. "What?"

Alan looked at him, a sadness clouding his face.

"So, first, you say you're my father and, now, you're saying you're Batman? ALFRED!!"

Alan would not be deterred. "Bruce Wayne, you are Batman. Your parents were murdered by a robber 34 years ago in an alley. In Hogan's Alley, in fact, off 54th Street, October 1984."
Bruce stopped talking and looked at him, his face flushing. "What are you saying? What does that have to do with you?"

"That's the night Batman was born. The night you started to become who you are today. And I'm to blame. Or thank, depending."

"What are you saying?"
"Bruce, I was there that night, in that alley. I watched as you and your parents came down that alleyway, probably coming from the theatre, there on 54th."

Bruce just stared.

"Bruce, I killed your parents that night. I was the robber in that alley. I was a junkie looking...
...for a fix. I was itching. I was desperate. I saw you coming down the alley, with your fine suits, fur coat and jewels. You were easy marks, so I stepped up and put a gun to your father's head. I demanded money and jewels, but your dad refused. I got mad and started shooting.
I didn't notice you at the time, or I'd have probably shot you, too. I took your parents' wallets and some jewellery from your mother and ran off. I fenced the jewellery, then went to my dealer."

Bruce was stunned, his face unreadable. Alfred walked in as Alan continued.
"I got a good dose that night, more than usual. OD'd, in fact. I came to in another alley the next day, covered in shit and piss, rats and roaches gnawing on me, needle stuck in my arm and tourniquet on the ground. Puked a few times. Nothing but bile. Empty stomach. ...
"Getting high was more important than eating that night. When my head quit swimming, I tried to remember where I'd been, what I'd done. Bruce, I had done some awful, ugly things to get my fix, but, until that night, I had never really hurt anyone."

Alfred looked at Bruce.
"I'll get some drinks, sir. It looks like you'll be needing it."

Bruce snapped out of his daze. "What? Oh, yes. Thank you, Alfred."

He turned back to Alan, whose face was blank, lost in the memories of a night he'd tried and failed to forget.

"Yes, Mr. Waltrip?"

"If it's no trouble, may I bother you for a Scotch, neat?"

"Certainly", he said, and walked out, reluctantly, leaving the two men alone.

They sat in silence for some minutes, until Alfred returned with drinks. Bruce put some ice cubes on his glass...
...and poured himself 3 fingers of Dewar's, then poured one for Alan, neat, as he requested. They sat in silence, drinking, until Bruce spoke up.

"Alan, tell me: Why are you here? What do you want? What do you expect me to do? Should I call the police? Should I kill you?"
"You don't have it in you, Bruce, to kill another human being, though I'm sure you've been tempted many times. As for what I want, I don't want anything from you. Nothing. And I wouldn't blame you for calling police. God knows I deserve that and more."
"Then what?" Bruce asked.

"I'm old, Bruce. My time is coming. Soon. I can feel it. This has been eating at me since that day, when I sobered up and figured out what I'd done. I made up my mind then to get clean. I had wrecked too many lives along with my own and didn't want... wreck any more. I was tired, sick of it. That night in the alley, I realized I had become something I never wanted to be. I was a monster. And it scared me. So, I sobered up and I've lived a clean life since. But I never forgot that night. Eventually, I began to wonder.
I remembered the little boy, you, and I wondered what ever became of you. One day, I decided to find you. I scoured old news articles & dug through police records. Then, one day, I read an article, a biography, that told about how you'd lost your parents & I realized it was you.
"So, I did some digging, looking for a way to get in touch with you. But as I dug, I began to notice something, a pattern. The first anyone heard of Batman was about 15 years later. And, in time, I noticed that you and Batman were never in the same place at the same time.
"With a little more research and a few more details, I was convinced that you and Batman were the same person. You became Batman because of me, because of what I did that night in the alley. In that sense, I am your - or, more accurately, Batman's - father, for better or worse."
Bruce sat silently, his emotions roiling inside of him. Amidst the turmoil, he didn't trust himself to speak. Alan had gone silent. They sat for a long minute, neither one saying anything as Bruce refreshed his drink. He reached for Alan's glass and refilled it: 3 fingers, neat.
They sat, nursing their drinks in silence for what seemed an eternity. Finally, Alan spoke.

"Bruce, Mr. Wayne, this has been eating away at my soul for 34 years now. It only gets worse as I get older. I had to get it off my chest. I'll be dead soon and I'd rather die in peace.
"I came here today, not looking for forgiveness - I don't expect or deserve it - but to finally confess and clear my comscience. I would offer you my apologies, but nothing I can ever say would be adequate. I AM sorry, in more ways than one and more than you can possibly know."
With that, Alan finished his drink in one gulp and got up to leave.

"That's all I came to say. I've done the most horrible thing a man can possibly do and there's no way I can make it right. The best I can do is try to atone for it in some way."

Bruce rose to meet Alan and...
...walk him to the front door. He kept his emotions carefully in check, like he'd trained himself to do all these years, and spoke in measured tones.

"Well, Alan. Um, I'm not sure what to say, except that, umm... I'm glad you turned your life around. I'm sorry that it took ... murdering someone to do it, but if something good came out of it, then perhaps their lives weren't wasted. Maybe they didn't die in vain."

They reached the door. Bruce opened it and walked with Alan onto the stoop. He fished a business card out of his wallet & gave it... Alan, along with a small handful of bills.

"If there's anything I can do for you, feel free to call. My personal number is on there. I wish you all the best in your future endeavors."

Alan faced him, a look of unspeakable sadness & grief clouding his face.
"Thank you", he said, "but no. I appreciate your offer, but I can't take it. I'm done here, Bruce. Good day." A pregnant pause as he started down the walk, then, "Goodbye."

With that, he pulled a small pistol from his breast pocket and put it to his head. Bruce realized...
...what was about to happen and started running towards Alan as fast as his well-trained legs would carry him. He could hold his own against even the best Olympic sprinter, but...

"No. No! NO! NOOO!"


...he was too late, as Alan's body slumped to the sidewalk..
...blood pooling around his head. Bruce stopped cold and dropped to his knees, staring at the body in disbelief. Finally, he hung his head. Alfredl, hearing the commotion, ran out to see what was wrong as security guards, alerted by the noise, rushed in from all sides, guns drawn
...and radios blaring with constant chatter as they slowly realized what had happened & called 911. Soon, EMS arrived, but, of course, it was too late to do anything. Alan David Waltrip, age 61, was declared dead on the scene & his body removed. He was buried in a potter's grave.
Several months later, on the anniversary of his parents' murder, Bruce went to visit their graves, as he usually did, and reminisce. As he approached the vaults, he noticed there was something on them. Flowers? Odd. From whom?

They appeared to be fresh. There was a card. ...
... Bruce picked it up and read it:

"For what I have done, I now pay, for all eternity. May you know peace the rest of your days. - Al."

For the first time in many years, Bruce wept.

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