Batman arrives at the docks on the back of a white mare. The mare has a name: Ace. A cold wave has been sweeping over Gotham. It has cast a dense lair of fog into the city. Even though the moon is full, very little light is able to bleed through. No matter how faint the moonlight is, Ace's hair coat is silky enough to reflect it. The result is that she looks like a fantastical creature as she wades across the mist. It’s past midnight and any worker still left at the site is too drunk to either approach the mare and her rider, or scurry away. A couple of them do shout profanities but it’s not directed at anyone.
Batman rides to the side of the docks where Selina said she’d meet him. Instead, he is received by a boy who couldn’t be older than ten.
“Good lord, she wasn’t kidding,” the boy says. “It’s really you!”
Batman dismounts the horse and eyes the boat anchored behind the boy. A man is snoring in there. Whatever is left of the man’s hair is gravely disheveled. But he seems to be dressed in a newly tailored suit, a heavy contrast to the boy’s tattered shirt and trousers.
“Oh that’s Uncle Jimmy. Don’t worry, he’s not drunk. I mean… at least, I don’t think so.”
“He smells bad even from here,” Batman says. “Then again, that’s Old Jimmy. I’d pinch myself if he didn’t smell.”
The boy laughs out loud but it dies down as he contemplates what just happened. Did Batman crack a joke?
“It’s nice to finally meet you, Tim.”
Tim beams in joy. "Likewise, sir!"
Someone coughs as if to interrupt. “It’s great that you two are getting along but don’t even think about making a Robin out of him,” says Selina Kyle. Seeing she’s arrived, Tim runs to wake Old Jimmy up.
“I wasn’t,” Batman says, turning his head. “And you’re late.”
“Well, not everybody has a horse,” she says, removing the hood of her silver cloak. Ace shuffles around, recognizing her. The mare purrs as Selina pets her neck. “At least someone missed me.”
“I missed you too,” Batman thinks but doesn’t say.
“Alright, I’m up! I’m up! Dammit, kid!” Old Jimmy yells from the boat. He shrieks as he gets up and sees… “Batman? What’s the Bat doing here!? No, no, I’m not getting paid nearly enough for this!” Old Jimmy tells Selina.
“Jimmy, I’m going to start charging you instead if you don’t shut up,” Selina says, continuing to rub Ace’s mane, trying to keep the mare calm.
“You can’t do that!” Old Jimmy turns to Tim. “Can she?”
The man growls. “Alright, just… get on board!” Tim hops right in as Old Jimmy begins to undock the boat.
“You’re not coming with us, Tim,” Selina says.
“No, it’s fine!" Tim argues. "Uncle Jimmy and I will return right back here, right? Even if we didn’t, you know I’m more than capable of handling myself!”
“I'm not asking, kiddo.”
Tim frowns in frustration. He was so looking forward spending more time with Batman and maybe picking up a few things. “What do you want me to do then?”
"It's still important. You'll have to take care of Ace." She unties one end of the lead rope from Ace's halter and offers it to Tim. "Go on. Just like we practiced."
Tim relaxes his legs and slowly approaches the mare. The mare backs up at first, skeptical of this stranger but Tim maintains a contagious calmness. Accepting the lead rope, Tim stands to the mare's side and gently strokes her neck. "Hello, Ace," he whispers.
Selina leans on Batman and watches the mare and the boy bond.
"You've taught him well," Batman mutters.
Selina smiles at the remark. "You know the Kapelputs, right?"
"I do actually. Mrs. Kapelput has always been a friend of the family. The Wayne family, I mean."
"Well, they have a stable. I've been meaning to get Tim a job there. It'll pay well and... you know, they have nice accommodations for stable workers. I checked it out the last time I broke into Kapelput Manor."
Batman cocks his head back to process the last part.
"What? That Mrs. Kapelput of yours is too old to have all that bijouterie to herself."
Batman holds back a chuckle. "Maybe I can put in a good word for him. When all of this is over."
"I'd appreciate that, Bat."
“Be careful out there," Tim says to Selina as she and Batman board the sailboat. "Just looking at that place from afar gives me the creeps. I don’t want you to… die.”
“Come on, kiddo. I can’t die. Cats have nine lives, didn’t you know?”
“That’s just a myth and you’re not a cat!” Tim says emphatically. “Just be careful.”
Selina nods. "We will, Tim. We will."
“Where are we going again?” says Old Jimmy once everyone is comfortably sat, or as comfortably as one can amidst liquor odor, food crumbs and ants. "Just to check if I remember correctly. If you can’t tell, I’m a little drunk."
“North end of Amusement Mile,” says Batman.
Old Jimmy frowns. “Why the north end? What’s there?”
“Joker’s old safe house, if you need to know.”
Tim waves his newsboy cap at the three as they sail away. He has a concerned look on his face but it brushes away once he hears Ace neigh behind him.
Batman tinkers with his anemometer again and again, like checking repeatedly is going to have any effect on the weather at all. He is happy with the wind speed for now. The wind direction seems to be in their favor too as the sailboat glides across the Gotham River. The river separates Amusement Mile and a couple other islands from the mainland.
“I don’t understand,” says the boatman. “Why did you need a boat? Why not just use the arch-bridge? Granted, that bridge is older than me. It should still endure a carriage just fine.”
“For one thing,” says Selina, “the commissioner has set up checkpoints on all the bridges around Gotham. Nobody leaves the mainland, not even Batman.”
“For another thing,” says Batman, “we are far enough from the docks now that no one will hear you scream.”
“What the hell is that supposed to mean!?” Old Jimmy jumps to his feet and almost falls overboard.
“Don’t you mind Batman. He has a knack for being menacing.” Selina gestures for Batman to continue rowing in Old Jimmy’s stead. “But as I mentioned, all the bridges are swarming with patrolmen, making this the only safe route to the north end. The only route Joker could’ve taken without getting shot dead."
"So? What does that have to do wi—"
"As for what it has to do with you…” She runs her fingers behind his coat’s lapel, feeling the texture. “I didn’t know you could afford a tweed suit, Jimmy.”
“It’s none of your business, Selina!” Old Jimmy protests.
“You can either tell me everything voluntarily,” Selina says, drawing a lasso from inside her cloak, “or, I could have the lasso compel it out of you.”
Old Jimmy gulps seeing that Selina is unwinding the coil and yields. “Wait! Listen, so… believe me, I don’t remember much, and it's all really vague, because, well… I was a little drunk that night—”
“When are you not drunk, Jimmy? Just get to the point.”
“Okay! There was this man about a week ago. He offered me a lot of money, and I mean a lot of money, to lend him the boat for a night and go home. The fella paid in advance too. I didn’t see any more of him but the boat was back where it should’ve been the next morning. I swear by the lord that’s all.”
“Do you remember how he was dressed? Specifically, was he wearing a hat?” Batman asks.
“Yes! I mean, as far as I remember. I don't think he was wearing any clown makeup though.” Old Jimmy is sweating despite the cold breeze and foggy weather. “Trust me, I had no idea that fella had anything to do with Joker.”
Selina looks at Batman and he nods. It seems that they’re both satisfied with Old Jimmy’s explanation.
Selina, Batman and Old Jimmy took turns rowing. It has taken them a significant time to sail around the island. The bank and the subsequent warehouses of Amusement Mile’s north end are visible now. It’s Old Jimmy’s turn and he is rowing with rage, clearly displeased with how the journey has transpired.
“I heard a rumor,” Selina whispers to Batman. “About Batmobile parts being sold in the Narrows?”
“You heard right. It was Richard. I guess he was making some kind of a statement,” Batman says.
“I feel sorry for him. I can’t imagine what I’d do if I was in his place. Maybe if he stayed, we could’ve helped.”
“It would be uncharacteristic of him to stay after what happened. I mean, he outgrew Gotham a long time ago. Still he gave the city a second chance and what did he receive in return? Nothing but further trauma.”
“Have you spoken to Gordon yet?”
Batman shakes his head. “I don’t know if I can ever look him in the eyes again. I’ve failed him, Selina."
Selina rubs his back in consolation. The wind seems to be picking up, again in their favor, pushing them along faster toward the destination.
“We’ll find Joker,” Selina says. “He is too attached to that warehouse. Besides, we’ve gone through every other possible site. We’ll find him and make him pay for what he’s done.”
“Selina, there are lines we can’t cross…” Batman says.
“There are ways to make him suffer without necessarily crossing the line. But you knew that already. You’re Batman — practically, the master of torture. Joker shouldn’t get a pass just because he’s insane.”
“That’s not the point! It’s true that I’ve always used torture. It can be a useful tool for interrogation, but I never let it be an end in itself.”
“You’ll hate me for saying it but maybe you should reconsider your principles this one time.” Selina looks away and stares at the waves splashing and dissipating against the rocky shore. “The city is changing, Bat. Maybe it’s time our principles changed too.”
For the remainder of the journey they don’t speak. Once the boat hits the shore, they pay up Old Jimmy, instructing him to sail back to the town.
“I can stay, if you want. I’ll give you a discount on the waiting charge,” Old Jimmy proposes.
“You should leave for your own safety. We don’t know how Joker will react to being found,” says Batman.
“If you say so.” Old Jimmy sighs and pushes his boat around.
Selina puts her hood back on. “There it is,” she says, pointing to the two warehouses situated parallel to each other. There is weed growing on and around all of them. The roofs have almost broken down. But one of them stands out. In the moonlight, its walls look a rusted green. “I think we know the amateur who did the paintjob.”
Batman's eyes dart around the scene. The sand covering the shore has dampened because of the weather. There are clear footprints of one person roaming the area. The shore is also overflowing with pine cones — some of them whole and others dismantled to the core. "So, that's how he has been surviving," Batman thinks, staring into a semi-circle of dark and old pine trees that encloses the area. Batman kneels down to get a better look at one of the cones. He smirks. The cone looks fresh and green, and dented on one side. It has only recently been harvested. "We got him."