Barbarians at the Gate

April 15, 2015:

District Attorney van Dorn and Midnighter meet. Surprisingly, they don't hate each others' guts.

Gotham City


NPCs: None.


Mood Music: [* None.]

Fade In…

It's not the sort of neighborhood where you usually see high-powered politicians. The DA is known to be one of the most powerful people in the city — and also perhaps the only one known for being totally incorruptible, or at least not in anyone's pocket. There's very few reasons she'd be found in this neighborhood, but she has a trio of bodyguards — a plainclothes police escort, including the officer who drove her here.

She's here because the witness refused to come to City Hall. She's here because the witness also refused to talk to any other prosecutors. This was probably a sensible demand, because while Van Dorn cracks down with an iron fist when she finds bribery and graft in her office, she can't be everywhere or see everything, and she can't be totally certain that none of them can be bought.

She's here, in short, because she has to be. And because it's worth it.

She sits at a kitchen table, of all things, with the police right outside the door. Across from her is a young Hispanic man, eyes darting back and forth. He's clearly nervous as hell. Stool pigeons don't do well in Gotham, after all.

No, witnesses who talk don't do well in Gotham. Witnesses in general often don't do well if they're known to be witnesses. And even if they don't give an indication they're going to talk… Well, some like to make sure of it preemptively. Midnighter heard rumours that someone might be going to make sure this particular witness doesn't testify. To his surprise, he found DA van Dorn already here so maybe it's not so preemptive after all. Given the police keeping an eye on things, he hangs out just outside the window to listen and play guard as well.

"…protection. For my wife. For my kids. Outside of Gotham. I want you to guarantee that they're outta town before my name gets put on anything. Before anyone has any idea."

"I can make sure that they're protected to the best of my ability," van Dorn replies, "but only if I know what you have to give us. Before I can promise you anything, you need to tell me what it is you know. If you could help us pin something on Sollozzo for once, something he can't wiggle out of, I'll do all I can to ensure you and your family come out of it."

Outside, it's as quiet as it ever is in Gotham. It's rare for a police cruiser to pass by… but there goes one now. No lights on, just cruising on apparent patrol.

"Too late." Midnighter says. It's been one of the first nice days so the window's open a crack but he doesn't bother trying to go inside. "There's already a hit out on him so I suggest you get his family out tonight, van Dorn. If it's not already too late. Do you have a cruiser patrolling the street?" Because he doesn't assume any cop is clean and they just might be looking to see if the coast is clear before coming to kill the guy.

The voice brings instant panic, instant tension — the man goes pale and instantly darts away from the windows, pressing himself against the wall. He's not armed — Janet and the cops who came with her took care of that — but he might get creative with the broom nestled by the refrigerator.

Janet herself is on her feet in an instant — diminutive woman that she is, she stands so quickly she knocks her chair over and pulls out her own sidearm. She's licensed, luckily. But where she can hear a voice, she can't see its source. Just the window, and there doesn't seem to be anyone out there.

"Who are you?" she snaps. But the last question brings her up short. Her lips press together and she calls through the door: "Thompkins. Radio back to the precinct. There shouldn't be anyone else out here at this hour."

"Midnighter." he answers. "And if I wanted you dead, you can bet you'd be dead already so you can put the broom down and reholster the pistol." He has good hearing it seems. "Unless you don't trust your men outside the door. Do you?"

Carlos over in the corner doesn't look like he's going to give up his broom. Certainly no more now than before he heard it was Midnighter out there. If anything, he's clutching his broom even more tightly.

Janet, too, doesn't look particularly mollified by the vigilante's name. "What's to stop my men from arresting you right now?" she counters. "You're a vigilante, Midnighter. I'm willing to bet the Commissioner didn't invite you here and I sure didn't."

The door to the kitchen opens, and one of the officers begins to speak: "Precinct says nobody should be — "

The bullet speaks as eloquently as he does. He's down and bleeding before he has time to scream, and the second of the three cops is leveling his gun. There's a split second where he's judging whether he should shoot the armed DA or the unarmed witness first.

The third cop — a young red-haired kid, freckles and big ears and no more than twenty — draws on his (former?) colleague, snapping out: "Put it down, Thompkins! Slowly!" But his voice is shaking as much as his gun.

Midnighter's been arrested more times than he can count. He usually ignores the cop who's trying since he doesn't like to kill the good guys. Before the dead cop hits the ground, the 'vigilante' is crashing through the window and a shuriken embeds itself into the gun hand of the dirty cop who drops the pistol. A gloved hand then strikes the man's throat which makes an unpleasant noise right before he starts gasping and choking. "Put the gun down, son, before you hurt yourself."

Janet's jumping back from the window to avoid getting hit with flying glass; stepping back toward Carlos, she observes Midnighter… 'apprehending' the dirty cop and makes a split-second decision.

"Simmons," she barks. "Bring the car around. If you see a cruiser, get out of sight. Now!" Because either he'll succeed or he'll fail, and either way he won't be up against the man in black.

She's still guarding Carlos, standing in front of him with her gun still in her hand. "Handcuffs," she says sharply. "We arrest people in this city, when we can. Even when they try to kill us."

"Don't bother. He'll be dead in a few minutes." Midnighter tells Janet, moving over to the hallway door to first listen then look. "Do you know how to do a field tracheotomy? That's all that will save him." He could have killed him quickly but dirty cops deserve to suffer. "You can either take the time to do that or save your witness. Those cops in the patrol car are his backup and will be here soon."

She doesn't. And she can't say that she's unhappy — she does, deep down, agree with Midnighter. At least in that dirty cops deserve nothing better than this. But she lets out a sharp breath. Another.

"What are you doing here?" she snaps. Her other hand is moving back, though, catching Carlos's wrist. The man looks like he's about ready to bolt. Assuming, perhaps, that she's not going to get an answer to her question, she turns back to Carlos: "We're going to get you out of here. Keep cool."

It's just then that Simmons pulls up with the car, stopping in front of the building with a screech of his brakes. Janet gives one more withering look to Midnighter before dragging Carlos out by the wrist. He resists only long enough to realize that the only way out is the same way the DA's dragging him.

"He's worth a lot of money dead." Midnighter tells Janet without looking away from the street. "Which means I want him alive." When the police car pulls up, he steps out and into the shadows to keep an eye on things. "Where's his family?"

Janet's opening the back door and all but shoving Carlos inside. When Midnighter asks where the witness's family is, she turns a look on him poisonous enough to kill a bull elephant. She's about to snap something at him about not working with vigilantes, most likely, and why the hell does he want to know, when the gurgle of Thompkins melds with the revving of a car engine not more than a block away. A quick glance up the street confirms the obvious: the police cruiser is coming back, and it's no longer playing subtle.

"Simmons," she says, quickly looking away. "Get us to the Middle Street safehouse. We're getting this family out of Dodge." This is followed with a brief glance to Midnighter. If he really plays with the FBI, he knows where that is — or he can find it without much problem. Without another word, not even a thank you, she swings into the car and it takes off down the road.

Midnighter smiles at the look van Dorn gives him. He can almost write the monologue that's coming. The sound of the car though means that he's denied that pleasure. Which is okay since he gets to play. He watches the car pull away then waits a few moments for the second police car to start picking up speed. He starts running, everything of course perfectly timed so that his leap, feet first, takes him straight through the driver's side window. The glass shatters as does the driver's neck as Midnighter's boots meet it. The car veers to the side, smashing into the ones parked on the side of the street. A horn goes off and doesn't stop. A minute later, the windshield shatters and Midnighter climbs out onto the hood of the cruiser, brushing glass off of him. He hops down onto the ground and starts walking away, using his communicator to find out where that safe house is.

That's… that's a hell of a thing. Carlos is busily clinging to the seat and keeping his head down, but Janet takes the time to look back and observe the carnage in the car behind them. Just enough, at least, until their own car turns a quick corner. Then she's buckling herself in, glancing over to Carlos.
"Buckle up. It's the law."
The safehouse is on record with the FBI. It's actually used by both the FBI and the GCPD: this case is geared toward the latter, but because it's also used by the former it happens to be one of the safer safehouses in the city. Midnighter does have the right connections to find the place — and, depending on how he goes, even to get there before Janet and company. At the moment, it appears quiet — at least from the outside. The windows are covered with shades, the doors are off, and it seems the TV is on and playing an episode of the Simpsons.

Midnighter doesn't work for the FBI. But Stormwatch has their fingers in most databases. And there's always Oracle as well. As to how he goes? Over the rooftops, of course. It's quicker and less noticeable. But he's more concerned with keeping an eye on the cruiser van Dorn and the witness are in so that when it pulls up, he leaps off the roof and lands with a roll before wandering up to the car. "You weren't followed. I'll go in first and make sure no one beat us here."

Oracle would definitely know. Stormwatch could probably find out. As the car pulls up and Simmons parks it, as the three inside get out — Carlos more impatiently than the rest, as he's eager to see his family well — Janet is again the one anchoring the whole thing. She grabs Carlos's arm as he moves forward, her eyes narrowing at Midnighter.
"I appreciate that you're trying to help," she begins, but — "
"Lady, he's helped more than you have." Carlos shrugs her hand off his arm, looking grimly at Janet before turning his gaze back on Midnighter. "We'll hang back," he adds. "You. You make sure they're okay." Janet simmers, but she remains by the car. Her eyes never leave Midnighter, not for a second.

Midnighter wasn't really looking for permission. He's already checking out the house, looking for any deeper shadows outside, shadows in the windows, cars parked nearby that look out of place. Once he's satisfied, he moves toward the house, slipping into the shadows himself. Pausing at windows, he listens for voices then finds a good spot to leap up to the second story in search of a window to go through.

The second story is quiet apart from the sound of the television going downstairs. It's dark up here: Midnighter's entered into a child's bedroom, which appears to be slightly mussed and to have a backpack full of toys, but is otherwise empty. The hallway is similarly quiet and dim; apparently they don't have lights on except for in the living room. There's a lamp on in there; at least, that's about the right amount of light. The only real sound is a television turned up loud. It's one of the Halloween episodes of the Simpsons.

Midnighter looks over the room then pauses at the door to listen. When he's certain there's no one in the hall, he opens the door. Room after room is checked before he moves to the stairs to listens and sniff the air. Silently, he moves down enough to be able to get a look and confirm what he's heard.

Downstairs smells like chili mac-and-cheese. Downstairs looks like the glow of a TV and a mother and child fast asleep on the couch. For a moment, they're just not moving at all — that, or the apparent breathing could be the play of the television light on them — but the little boy cuddles up to his mother a bit more closely, clutching at her shirt, and she wraps her arms a bit more warmly around him. Police stand watch next to the front and back doors. These, at least, aren't dirty.

Midnighter leaves the house the same way he entered and walks back to the car. "They're fine." he tells Carlos. "Whatever she tells you, get them out of town before you testify. That way they'll be safe no matter what happens to you. If you live, you can meet up afterwards."

Carlos slumps in relief and has to be restrained from rushing up to the door. Janet, meanwhile, regards Midnighter with… well, if not actual warmth, perhaps a bit less chill. "Simmons. Go and let Carlos in," she says, nodding to the young officer. He seems all too pleased to get away from the darksome Midnighter and up to the door. Janet's the only one remaining back at the car, her arms firmly folded.
"Even if I called for backup," she says, "you'd be gone before I even finished dialing. You killed those men back there. Why are you here? You really care if we put Sollozzo away? You're not in the Bat Gang or with any other family I know of; what's this to you?"

"I'd prefer him dead, actually." Midnighter tells Janet. "But I don't have time to go around and kill everyone who needs it. I try to concentrate my efforts on the worst threats and the ones who manage to escape the legal system, the ones who slipped through or bought an innocent verdict. So if you can get him, go ahead. I just wanted to keep an innocent man alive." Pause. "And what, someone can't want to make the world a better place without being a bat or something?"

"I try to make the world a better place, too," Janet replies. "But I don't just murder my way through the 'bad' people and think I'm solving anything. There is always going to be someone else trying to crawl over the last dead bastard's body to take his place, and chances are he's worse. There's a system. And sometimes it works slowly, and sometimes not perfectly, but it works. Less well when wrecking balls come in to get things done quick and smashy."

"You do it your way and I'll do it mine. I'm good at it. Very, very good at it." Midnighter assures Janet then grins. "And it's fun too. But your argument is biased, District Attorney Janet van Dorn. If there will always be someone else trying to take his place, then that applies to when you lock someone away too. Except when I do it, it instills a little more fear in them than your way of doing things. And maybe one or two will think twice about filling that particular vacuum. Maybe not with the big bosses but the soldiers. But even if not, it makes sure the ones who would have been their victims are safe. If only for a little while longer."

"So might makes right? That's your answer? You're bigger and stronger and you can knock more heads together, so that means you deserve to be the guy who decides who lives and who dies? Carlos over there, he's not exactly innocent himself. This city — " Janet sucks in a deep breath. "It's sick, and I know it. But murdering people in the streets isn't going to make it better. People may fear a man, but if the law proves itself worthy of their respect, that's far more significant. If you really want to make people's lives better, there are countless better ways than killing people."

"If I thought might makes right, I'd be one of the ones preying on people." Midnighter points out. "Gotham is sick though, you have that right. I've been a lot of places and none are like this. I don't know why. I do know that in Gotham there are more dirty cops on the payroll than in just about any other city in the country. More corrupt district attorneys. More corrupt judges. Your legal system has a revolving door and it's greased with cash that comes from drugs and slavery." He shrugs. "Gotham needs me. Fix it so that it doesn't and I'll move on."

"You're preaching to the choir," Janet replies, her voice tense and grim. But she inclines her head at the last. She clearly doesn't like it, and she's not going to be firing up the Midnighter-Signal anytime soon, but there's at least a sense that she sees where he stands. Still: "I don't have the luxury to just cut through the criminals like a hot knife through butter. When it all goes down — when the bullets run out, when the people who prey on others are dead or in jail — there still has to be a city here to rebuild. If I did things your way, we might as well be cavemen."

She lifts her chin very slightly. "Backup will be here before long. You shouldn't be here when they arrive."

"I'm a big fan of civilization when it protects everyone equally from the strongest to the weakest. You work on strengthening the walls, I'll keep the barbarians from the gate." And enjoy every minute of it. That's job satisfaction. Midnighter nods to the suggestion. Cops always try to arrest him and sometime they get hurt in the process so he tries to avoid that. He studies the DA a moment then pulls a card from his coat pocket and offers it. Plain white, it has a phone number. "Ever want to reach me, call that and leave a message for me with the one who answers. It'll get to me within a couple hours."

She takes the card somewhat dubiously, tapping it against one finger. "Somehow I'm not seeing that as all that likely," Janet replies. "But I'll keep it. In case I get really, really desperate." Humorless as she is, the woman doesn't crack a smile as she tucks the card away. She doesn't thank him. She doesn't offer to shake his hand. But she does nod very slightly to him, because for someone who killed three people while she watched, that's about as polite as she can be. That done, she strides toward the house to check on the happy family reunion. There's still a long night ahead of her. Making sure these people survive their trip out of the city is going to have her up all night, but she'll do it — even if she has to commandeer a SWAT truck or the mayor's personal limo.

"Move them to a safehouse not known to the GCPD." Midnighter says to her back. A reminder that at least three cops have already been bought. Not waiting for an answer, he slips into the shadows and leaves. It's not his job to play guard.

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