Cat-Tales is a popular Dark Knight fan fiction
series that is also more than Dark Knight Fan Fiction.
I’ve been to too many funerals.
The priest’s words jumble together in my ears as I
stare down at the slowly lowering casket, his soft eulogy meaning little to
me. I barely hear his voice, my ears locked on other sounds: the
heart-wrenching squeak of a hand-cranked casket winch, the low groaning of
the nylon straps that strain under the weight of their load…
Maintaining a secret identity requires acting. Acting
requires an understanding of sense memory—a sight, sound, taste or smell
that not only triggers a memory but the emotions (and sometimes even the
physical responses) of an earlier time. Honestly, I never put much stock in
the theory when I first learned of it… until one night when the smell of
popcorn in a Princeton dorm room sent me stumbling into the hall, the
associations with a movie theatre and the alley that followed rising like a
flood in my brain.
Today I find myself unable to tear my mind from the
memories that come with each turn of that winch’s handle. I try to steady
my breathing as the images slam into my subconscious—similar scenes, now
all too familiar, play out behind my eyes. Clark. Oliver. Jason.
I’ve been to too many funerals.
I blink the memories away, trying to shake the unease
that’s settled over me. In my peripheral vision, I catch sight of the only
other person attending today’s ceremony except for the priest and the
cemetery caretakers. I wonder for the tenth time if he’s feeling the same
sense of unease, of incongruity with the day’s events that I am. Something
just doesn’t seem to fit here; somehow, this time around, it all feels
different. Maybe it’s the weather: sunny, bright, unseasonably warm.
There’s not a cloud in the sky, and the sun hangs like a shining beacon of
hope, mocking us, mocking this ceremony of sadness and loss…
I realize the priest has finished, as has the winch
operator. The other attendee and I spend a moment in quiet contemplation as
we both stare down at the polished mahogany box now sitting in its final
resting place. I hear myself offering words of condolence, praying they
don’t sound quite as hollow as they feel. We shake hands, grim countenances
offering each other little, and I realize at that moment that this is the
last time we’ll ever see each other. He offers a light, sorrowful smile as
if he’s just come to the same conclusion, then offers a quiet “Thank you”
before walking away.
For some reason I stay there, watching as the
caretakers toss shovelfuls of dirt onto the box below, and a wave of emotion
crashes down on me: sorrow, frustration, anger, and perhaps a small measure
of defeat. Over the years of doing what I do, I’ve come to believe that
nothing is more frustrating or disappointing for a detective than knowing
you may never find the answers.
The man we buried today may have been a man of little
consequence, another essentially nameless victim in a city that has claimed
many nameless victims.
Or he may have been the man that changed the world.
--More in Cat-Tales #50 Casefile
Cat-Tales is the real story, a metafiction series by Chris Dee set in the Gotham City, where the events depicted in
Batman and other comic books are understood to be the exaggerations, and sometimes
the outright fictions, of tabloid journalists at The Gotham Post - otherwise
known as DC Comics.