Gotham: Knight's End
From the desk of reporter Jack Ryder, submitted for editorial review and publishing. I suggest we run this as a front page editorial, or at least a human interest peace, as a sort of follow up for the events 5 years ago.
Draft is as follows:
I turned to watch the light of the hallway disappear as the door of the blackgate visitation cell slid shut and was locked by my guard and escort. I wondered at this, as it was the first time I had been allowed outside the view of the guards, especially in the high-security wing of Blackgate, where the worst of the worst were kept. Then again, the room was almost certainly being monitored.
Sitting down at the small table, I wondered at my luck. I, the bold and brave Jack Ryder, warrior of truth and reporter of facts, had been chosen to give the first ever exclusive interview with Jackie Carlisle. The very same man made infamous 5 years ago due to his revealed involvement in the tragedies surrounding the confluence. He was scheduled for release in several days, a 5 year stint startlingly short, considering the scope of the events in question. Then again, he was given official consideration in closed-door hearings during his trial. Most certainly he received a reduced sentence due to his cooperation and instances of what some would call heroism.
As soon as my tape recorder had been set up, Jackie was lead through another door by 2 guards and seated at the chair opposite me, his chains clinking against the steel chair. This man, around whom countless theories and conspiracies revolve, seemed so much more mundane than I had expected. For someone who had been connected with such world-changing events, he was a surprisingly simple individual. If I had passed this man on the street, naught but his danger-orange, standard-issue blackgate jumper would give him away. Nothing about his clean cut, salt-and-pepper hair, or his surprisingly well shined shoes, or his gentle way of speaking belied that this was a man of power and influence. In fact, there was nothing about him that made him seem dissimilar from a thousand other white collar criminals in Gotham’s prisons, except maybe a sleek, black tie that he wore under his jumper. So dark and matte that it seemed to eat the light.
I clicked the tape recorder on.
(Ryder) R “Hello Jackie, you’re looking surprisingly well dressed for an inmate.”
(Carlisle) C “Of course. I do have appearances to keep up, after all. I assume you wanted to talk to me about more than my dress code?”
I found myself struck by the fact that he spoke in a voice barely over a gentle whisper, but it seemed as though it came from all sides, as though the very darkness of the room echoed his words.
R “Ha, definitely. The people of Gotham have questions for you.”
C “I imagine so.”
R “Firstly, why did you agree to an interview now, after all these years. After so many opportunities?”
C “Because I want to set the record straight.”
R “About what happened 5 years ago? About the confluence?”
C “Is that what they’re calling it? No, actually. I think your esteemed periodical has ran quite enough theories about that to bore even the most interested of reader. I want to speak about something more important.”
R “That being?”
C “About me, of course.”
A wry smile shone in the stark light of the single lamp above the table. Somehow Jackie seemed more comfortable as an inmate in Blackgate than I did as a visitor.
R “Ok, I’ll bite. What do you want to say?”
C “I want to tell your readers who I really am and why I’ve done what I’ve done.”
R “Everyone seems to have their pet theories. There is no shortage of information out there about you. At least now.”
C “And almost all of it is wrong. I know you came here to hear about The Shade, but the start of my story goes a bit farther back. Back to the streets of Gotham, to the stoops of the homes your very readers inhabit. You see, despite my success and power, I was once a poor boy of Gotham, back before the Bat was a household name.
My mother was a caring woman, if prone to periods of anxiety and paranoia. I’m sure if she were around today, the shrinks would give her some fancy diagnosis.”
R “My condolences”
He seems genuinely confused by my overture of empathy.
C "Hmm? Oh, yes, I see, well, no great loss there. Though I miss her much more than my father, who unfortunately still lives, though he is dead to me.
I, like so many men, learned about the world from my parents and my upbringing. For most of my life, we were destitute, but it hadn’t always been that way. Early on, we did quite well. My father was a made man, you see, working for the local toughs and thugs. Made an honest living for dishonest men; it hardly matters now for whom. My mother and I were cared for, and in exchange we didn’t ask about where the money came from; we didn’t need to; we didn’t want to.
However, as I said, this was before the Bat had made a name for himself, and apparently he decided he’d make one for himself by starting a gang war and sweeping in to clean up whatever was left."
R "Allegedly. The “War Games” theories haven’t been proven."
I receive nothing but a cold stare. It says enough.
C "*Regardless*, a city-wide gang war ensued, and my father found himself out of a job. Before the year was out, our whole borough had been ‘cleansed’ by violence, a mix of what had been dispensed by rivals, the police, and the Bat. I guess I should’ve been thankful that my father had been spared, but sometimes I think it would’ve been easier if he’d been one of the casualties. You see, he flipped on his superiors, spent a year in low-security prison and was released on good behavior.
Despite what Gordan and the Bat claimed, the neighborhood was far from ‘safe’ now. In fact, it was the reverse. Maybe the mob was filled with bad men, but they kept the peace. Innocents weren’t targeted. It was a more civilized time. Now, my father returned to streets tagged with gang signs, druggies in the streets, and prostitutes on the corners. Removing the powers that be simply created a vacuum for the scum to thrive. My mother’s health suffered in my father’s absence. Maybe it was the secretary job she took at ACE chemicals, maybe it was the worry in her eyes every day when she watched me leave to go to school, wondering if that was the day I’d be gunned down in the streets. Despite the supposed ousting of the mob, there were those that still remembered what my father had done.
The city had said my father was a ‘hero’ for turning on his previous brethren. Apparently that heroism didn’t come with a paycheck. Between his jail time, history, and the state of our neighborhood, he couldn’t get much work. What he did get turned directly into booze and disappeared down his worthless throat. A year of that and my mother passed away. By the end she couldn’t do much more than sit in her chair and jump at every noise she heard. I don’t like to remember her that way.
Needless to say, I didn’t see much use staying in that home, so I left. Everything I owned had already been sold, so it was pretty easy to pack. School was just a kind of prison, and after seeing how my father had returned, I wanted nothing more to do with any institution based around the removal of freedom. I traveled the streets, getting my true education. Quickly, I learned I had a skill for acquisition."
R “Acquisition? You mean stealing?”
C “Stealing? How vulgar. Theft implies something of value was taken from someone of importance. No. I re-appropriated illegal goods. You might even say I was saving lives. The local drug dealers were sometimes a bit careless with their drugs and cash. I simply aquired it and put it to better use.”
R “Like Robin Hood?”
C “More or less. I took from the powerful poor and gave to the powerless poor.”
R “And you didn’t keep any for yourself?”
C "I didn’t say that. After all, I was one of those poor. Needless to say, after a couple years, I was able to go where I want, do what I want. When I wore the right clothes, I found I was able to fit in in any part of society. I even met Bruce Wayne a couple times at the galas he threw. I found that a nice suit and well placed compliment was much more powerful than a lead pipe or gun; and much less likely to attract police.
I amassed money, contacts, power. I used that power to build more contacts, pick marks, run cons. I was reinvesting what I earned into my business to stimulate growth."
R “Ha, growth? Business? Reinvest? You make it sound like you were a banker or some honest businessman.”
C "Oh, and you don’t think I was? Where is the distinction? Read your own papers. The bankers are corrupt and steal from the common man, the politicians are crooked and do not represent them, the elite put on rubber masks and run around at night, beating people into comas. Are they somehow better than me? No. I am a businessman, and my business is making Gotham safe again.
Not the kind of “safe” that Gordan and the Bat offered. One of fear and violence. No, I offer order, opportunity, and self-sufficiency. The people of Gotham are tired of being trodden down by the powerful. If free, I would give them safe streets and certainty that the truly bad would be punished."
R “The TRULY bad? It seems a little self-rightous for a criminal to start saying he could do better than the police and Gotham elite. What about the violence of the mob, the yakuza, and other organized crime?”
C "Do you know how many people the police shoot every day in Gotham? It’d stagger you. More than the mob did on its worst day. Does it make the streets safe? No, crack heads still stab innocent people in the alleyways and prostitutes still OD in hotel rooms. They claim to be the shield of the people, but their bribes tell another story. The Gotham elite on the other hand, do you know how much money the steal and embezzle from the people? More than every petty crook on the streets of Gotham put together. They are the sins of Gotham writ large.
But because they do it in a suit, they are untouchable. That is the lesson they tought me. If you’re going to take from others, make sure you’re dressed well and speak with an educated cadence."
R “That’s a very cynical view, Mr Carlisle.”
C “Jackie, please. And I don’t see myself as cynical. I see myself as an embodiment of the will of the people. Their warrior, their flag, their banner man. I show them that the average person is the one who should have the power, not someone born into a name like Wayne or Cobblepot.”
R “Very interesting Jackie, but could you tell me what this has to do with The Shade? Its a name that has lost a lot of respect on the outside.”
C "When I did my job right, it was one no one knew. No one even knew of The Shade before the group I found myself entangled with. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Like I said, I earned as a young man the only resources that mattered, respect, knowledge, contacts. I used these to travel the world, leave Gotham behind.
Wherever I went, things went missing. I was good. I don’t say this out of an inflated sense of bravado but to give you context for when I say I was nothing before The Shade.
I spent no inconsiderable amount of resources on contacts, fences, runners, spies. A network that got me invaluable information about items of interest. One day a tip came from an unlikely source. A strange man in intricate robes and having a strange manner. He told me of the fabled 7 sided black diamond. A beautiful stone with no peer. Believed by some to have mystical significance, and apparently a local collector had it amongst his cache.
I didn’t trust the man, but I pursued the information anyway, as it was too precious to ignore. Through subterfuge, infiltration, and charm, I learned that the information was solid. I spent 2 years building and executing my masterpiece plan; I won’t bore you with the details, trade secrets and all that. However, the moment I entered the pitch black vault the diamond was kept in, I was attacked. I didn’t see who it was, but when I awoke, I was back in my apartment, holding a huge, but undeniably clear diamond. It was as though someone had created a perfect replica of the real thing, or had somehow drained the darkness out of the real one.
Strangely, no one ever reported the theft, and in the years since, I haven’t been able to find any information on the person who owned it. However, after that, I found I had a new affinity for darkness. At first, it was seeing and hearing what happened in shadows, later the ability to control them, further still, I found I could cloak myself in them and move about unseen. I took on the persona of the Shade.
As The Shade, I had a part in several of the most infamous thefts this century. At least infamous amongst international thieves."
R "I thought you said you were simply in "Aquisitions""
C A wide smile “Too true.”
R “Why did you stop, why come back to Gotham?”
C "Honestly? It was too easy. There was no point anymore. Plus, the farther I traveled from home, the more I was reminded of the streets of Gotham. I remembered why I started this adventure in the first place. I was a man of the people.
So, I came back, investing my new wealth into Gotham, creating jobs for enterprising young men and women, freeing up neighborhood after neighborhood from the thugs and pushers on the corners."
R “What do you say to the allegations that you’re still running a criminal network from within prison?”
C “Why Jack, I engage in only the most wholesome and legal business ventures. Its true that areas over which I have sway seem to become cleaner and safer, but I don’t believe anyone has proven a connection to my enterprises.”
R “What about the group you used to be seen with, the others involved in the Confluence? Are you bitter that you’re in jail while they roam the streets, free?”
C “Of course not. As you’ll remember, I turned myself in after all. We didn’t always see eye to eye about what would make Gotham’s streets safe again, but we did believe in a future where the common man could walk in Gotham at night without fear.”
Seeing that I had gotten all the juiciest bits I was going to, I decided to wrap up my interview. However, upon asking my final question, something very upsetting happened. All my faithful readers know I am a fearless man, that I fought alongside Batman countless times, even saving his life a time or two. So you’ll appreciate that when I say I was afraid, it means something.
R “Are you bitter that you are no longer The Shade? That you lost your abilities in the confluence?”
C “Bitter? No, prison has given me time to meditate on my failures and missed opportunities.”
R “Now that you’re a reformed man, a normal citizen of Gotham, days away from being released, what is the first thing you plan on doing?”
The small light above our table swayed slightly, leaving Jackie’s face in shadow, making it tough for me to see. But I’m sure I saw his beautiful necktie grown, covering his jumper, and as the light on him dimmed, he was gone. I was alone in the interview chamber, but for darkness and an empty chair. However, I swore I heard a whisper from the darkness:
“Don’t worry about me, Jack. I’m going to pay some debts”
Needless to say, I boldly and self-assuredly left Blackgate as quickly as possible, that I might bring the truth to you, the people of Gotham. So, was Jackie Carlisle a bad man? A hero? A monster? I think Jackie would want the average person to decide that for their self.
- Jack Ryder