Post by Admin on Sept 9, 2016 16:17:28 GMT -5
Issue #18: “All the Way”
Story by Ellen Fleischer
Beta Read by Kathy, Debbie and PJ
Edited by Mark Bowers
Issue #18: “All the Way”
Story by Ellen Fleischer
Beta Read by Kathy, Debbie and PJ
Edited by Mark Bowers
Anything worth doin’ is worth doin’ all the way
Just know you’ll have to live with all the choices that you make
So make sure you’re always givin’ way more than you’re takin’…
—Danny Orton and Dennis Matkowski, “You’re Gonna Be”
Bruce held the pistol out before him and tried to bring it to bear on the youth facing him. The teen—Bruce pegged him at no more than seventeen—a skinny, gangly kid in jeans and an oversized basketball jersey grinned and pointed his Glock directly at him.
“Sir,” Bruce said, his voice firm and authoritative, in direct contrast to his sweating hands, “Drop your weapon, or I will fire.”
Still smiling broadly, the youth took a step forward. Bruce knew what he had to do next, but even so, the muzzle of his gun dipped, as he aimed for a spot in front of the kid’s feet. There was a loud bang. Then the simulator screen went dark and the room brightened as the lighting returned to normal. Bruce set the mock handgun back on its stand and lowered his head as the instructor stormed up.
“I hope your will is up to date,” Farnham snapped. “Because if that punk had been breathing, you wouldn’t be. What’s with you? I know you don’t think this is a game, so what gives? You’ve spent more time out on those streets than half the officers on the force; you know damned well those mooks don’t play pat-a-cake! If one of them pulls a weapon on you—if you even think they’re reaching for one—you fire. At them, not the ground in front of them. The last I looked, it was unarmed!”
Bruce endured the tongue-lashing silently, just as he had the other five times. He loathed guns, but he also loathed failure, and right at this moment, he knew that he was failing badly. He also knew that his written test score had made a positive impression on the firearms instructor. His simulator scores had eradicated that by now. He waited until Farnham was done. Then he squared his shoulders and took up his position before the screen again.
“Forget that,” Farnham snapped. “You’re done for the day.”
“Cadet,” Farnham sighed, “the purpose of this exercise was to see if you could already pass Firearms Handling without taking the regular course. I’ve seen enough to pass my verdict on that one.” He paused a beat. “In case it’s somehow unclear to you, I look forward to seeing you in class when the semester starts next week.” The simulator door opened automatically as he approached, and he gestured to Bruce to precede him out. “Enjoy the rest of your day.”
Bruce walked back to his car miserably, jamming his still-sweaty hands into his jacket pockets.
Jeremiah Arkham went over Cass’s latest essay with his usual frowns and intermittent grunts, his pen poised like a stiletto, ready to stab downward at the slightest provocation.
Cass tried to work on the civics review sheets, but flinched involuntarily each time that she saw the pen descend and scratch another mark on her page. She fought not to watch. Finally, she heard the scrape of his chair moving backward, as he rose and walked over to her seat. “You should review your semi-colons,” he said, the rasp that had once overshadowed his voice now audibly diminished. “You have a tendency to confuse them with commas and periods.” He sniffed. “A weakness that is sadly shared by an ever-increasing number of pupils. Are you familiar with the word ‘homonym’?”
Cass nodded. Even though she’d never encountered the word before, its definition surfaced the instant Jeremiah uttered it. “Words that sound the same, but meaning and… um… um… spelling different.” Her face fell. “I did those?”
Jeremiah’s expression softened for a moment. “If it’s any comfort to you,” he answered, “the errors that you are making now are scarcely uncommon.”
“But still… errors.”
Jeremiah sniffed. “Please, don’t tell me that you’re losing hope, just when you’re starting to show real improvement.”
Jeremiah set the pages down before her, covering the practice sheet. “This,” his pen jabbed down at her first paragraph, “is a clear thesis statement. It appears in your opening paragraph and,” he pushed aside the top sheet, “in your conclusion. You bring two supports for your argument and, while I think that you’re capable of going into greater detail and further depth, this would have earned you a passing mark, had you submitted it for your actual examination.” He frowned at her. “When do you plan to take the examination?” he asked. “I don’t believe you ever told me.”
“No,” Cass admitted. “I… don’t… When I decided, I… I didn’t know how much time to prepare. So…”
“So.” Jeremiah nodded sagely. “I took the liberty of doing some checking for you. Gotham County College offers GED testing twice monthly. The examinations are typically administered over two days, usually Friday and Saturday, with a mandatory orientation session the Wednesday prior. I believe that I saw one or two instances where the entire battery of tests is administered on one day. Were I you, I would opt not to torment myself to that degree.” He cleared his throat. “The end of February is fast approaching.” This time, his smile held none of its usual cynicism. “I would think… perhaps, six months from now. You are hoping to enter college?” he asked.
Cass hesitated. “Maybe?”
“Well,” Jeremiah harrumphed, “there’s time yet for you to decide. However, you should be aware that the priority deadline for applications for the fall semester is usually in February. To that end, I would suggest taking your test no later than September or October. That will ensure that you obtain your results in plenty of time.” He nodded slowly. “You should be ready by then.” As Cass began to smile, Jeremiah continued. “The testing center usually requires at least 60 days notice for disability accommodation. You need to determine what paperwork you’ll need to provide to the testing center and ensure that they receive everything by the beginning of May. That should accommodate the bureaucracy,” he sniffed, “and other petty annoyances.”
She remembered something that Barbara had said once. “Don’t annoyances… build character?”
“Young woman,” Jeremiah responded tartly, “while you may be a work in progress, I doubt your character requires quite as much additional construction as you seem to imply.” Despite his harsh tone, he couldn’t quite hide the twitch of his lips.
Instead of opening the main gate and driving up to the garage, Bruce took the BMW in through the Cave access. One advantage to Dick’s having moved most of the Batmobiles to the satellite caves was that Bruce didn’t have to worry about a parking spot. He pulled into an empty bay, parked, and emerged from the vehicle at a brisk trot, dropping his coat on the floor behind him and shedding his jacket and shirt, as he made his way to the training area of the cave.
He started with the speed bag, sending a flurry of short, powerful jabs to the belly of the bag. When his arms began to tire, he turned to the muay thai heavy bag, aiming kicks strong enough to shatter bone, had he been directing them at live opponents. He had switched back to his fists and was hammering away at the heavy bag when he realized that he wasn’t alone.
“I take it things did not go well,” Selina said softly when Bruce whirled to face her.
Bruce sighed. “Things went… as expected,” he admitted. “I just…”
Selina took a careful step closer. “The firearms training,” she prompted.
“The firearms training.” Bruce nodded. “I scored a perfect one hundred on the written test. And a perfect zero on the practical. And probably not much higher on the panel.”
“Well,” Selina said gamely, “you did score perfect on two out of three.”
She nodded. “You’re right. I’m sorry. Wait.” She frowned. “Should I be sorry? I mean, did you want to pass?”
Bruce made a face. “Gun handling? Not really,” he admitted. “Only… I didn’t want to fail either.” He sighed. “Not a second time.”
Selina’s jaw lowered slightly. “A second…?”
Bruce hesitated for a moment, considering. Then he removed his boxing gloves and undershirt, draped a towel over his shoulders, and took a bottle of water out of the supply locker. He took a long swig as he walked back to Selina.
“I don’t think I was much older than Tim,” he began. “And you need to understand… at that time, I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to do with my life. I’d spent over five years abroad, learning, training, studying; I… I thought that joining the FBI might be the answer. It was the answer to one question: could I create an alter ego so perfect that it would stand up to government scrutiny?” A brief smile crossed his face. “I did. In fact, years later,” he coughed, “I hacked the FBI databases to make certain that I really had fooled them, and they hadn’t merely allowed me to think they had, while they tried to determine my true objectives. I passed every test with flying colors,” he continued, “…except gun handling.”
Bruce nodded. “That was the major reason I never considered joining the police either. Until now. Except that now…”
“Now you have to.”
Bruce shook his head. “I don’t have to. I didn’t have GCPD sanction when I started. I can keep a low profile. Except,” he shook his head, “hating guns is one thing. Fearing them is something else. I need to work through this, or it’ll just be a matter of time before it trips me up on patrol. I can’t afford to fear something that...” he sighed. “Let’s be honest, Selina. The costumed contingent is a minority—albeit a highly dangerous one. Even taking them into consideration, how many patrols have you undertaken where you didn’t encounter a single adversary with a gun?”
She nodded. “I know. Even if the costumes themselves might not be carrying, you have to consider the flunkies. So that means…”
Bruce closed his eyes. “You’re going to make me say it, aren’t you?”
Selina slid her hand under the sweaty towel and rested it on his bare back. “I can’t make you do anything, Bruce,” she replied. “Least of all, face facts. Even when those facts indicate that…”
Bruce sighed. “…that I have to pass gun handling.” He reached up and squeezed her hand. “Like it or not, I have to face this—really face this—or else… I have to acknowledge that my time in the cowl is… well and truly over.” He slumped for a moment. Then, Selina felt his muscles tense as he straightened. “I don’t think I’m ready to do that,” he said, a new resolve coming into his voice. He sighed again, but this time, it wasn’t coming from hopelessness, but from acceptance. “I don’t honestly know how I’m going to pass this class, beat that simulator… but I know I have to.”
Selina grinned and stepped in front of him, ready to pull him into a hug. All at once, her nose wrinkled. “Um… Bruce? You know what else you have to do if you want me to hang around?” Her voice dropped to a stage whisper. “Shower!”
On the rooftop of a Neo-Gothic-style office building overlooking the warehouse district, two masked vigilantes stood watching the waterfront. “So…” Batgirl’s voice was dubious, “we look for people with… hats?”
Harrier sighed and leaned against the stone gargoyle. “I know, I know. Leaf in the forest time. Half the city’s got to be wearing some sort of head covering, and not because Hatter’s controlling them; because it’s Gotham in February and it’s sleeting right now. Still, we—” He broke off suddenly. “On the other hand… Batgirl, 35 degrees east, straight down. Do you see who I see?”
From her perch atop a second rooftop gargoyle, Batgirl turned to face him. Harrier imagined that she was frowning under the full face mask. “The… woman? Underdressed but…” She saw it. “Wait. She’s… sluggish but, the way she moves… I’ve seen before…” Her voice hardened. “Cheshire?”
“Yup.” His serious expression belied the lightness of his tone. “My guess is that if we get rid of her head scarf, she’ll lose that sluggishness. Only…”
Batgirl waited. “Well?”
“Cheshire’s an assassin,” Harrier pointed out with a sigh. “Hatter might be controlling her because he’s using her to get to Bruce. The thing is, if we free her, there’s a pretty good chance that she’ll still be after Bruce—right after she takes care of Hatter.”
Batgirl groaned. “Means we have to save Hatter, too.”
“I was hoping you wouldn’t think of that part.”
Harrier shook his head. “No. You’re right. We need to free her, keep her away from Hatter, keep her away from Bruce, and not get killed in the process.”
Batgirl nodded. “Okay. Now?”
Harrier considered. “Let me check something first. I’d hate to go to the trouble of bringing her in, only to find out that the cops have to release her.” He turned on his comm-link. “Oracle, you there?”
Barbara’s voice came through as clearly as though she were sitting next to them. “What’s up?”
“Cheshire’s in town. If we bring her in, are there any current outstanding warrants?”
Batgirl slid down from her gargoyle. “Harrier. She’s… assassin. How can there not be—?”
Harrier waved her to silence. “Just call it a hunch.”
An expletive seemed to explode in both their ears. “Sometimes,” Oracle snarled, “I really wish I hadn’t helped her so much in the early days.”
“Cheshire?” Batgirl asked, confused.
“Waller,” Tim stated, with only slightly less irritation than Oracle.
“Waller,” Oracle confirmed. “Cheshire was wanted in connection with over a dozen murders in six countries—and those were just the ones that the authorities could connect her to; she’s probably responsible for a lot more. Eighteen months ago, she was caught in Louisiana and sent to Belle Reve to await trial. Less than a week later, she vanished. A year ago, so did the outstanding warrants. I mean, the electronic copies are still in the databases, but every single one of them has since been revoked.”
“So she did a stint with the Suicide Squad,” Harrier nodded.
“And now she’s free.”
“Great. Thanks, Oracle.”
“Sorry I don’t have better news.” The link disconnected.
Harrier looked at Batgirl. “You got all that?”
Batgirl nodded. “Stinks.”
“Yeah. So we can’t really swoop down on her yet. What we can do is follow her; I’m betting that she didn’t come to Gotham to visit a sick friend. Maybe she’ll lead us to Hatter, but since murder’s a big part of her skill-set, I don’t think we can risk letting her roam free in the hope that she does. As soon as we spot her doing something illegal—littering and jaywalking both count, by the way—we move.”
They didn’t have to wait long. Cheshire made her way swiftly along the warehouses, stopping at a narrow building that looked like an oversized guardhouse and bore a brass sign-plate that read ‘Tweed Imports’.
“You… aren’t surprised.” Batgirl remarked.
Harrier shook his head as the two watched her pick the front door lock and step inside. “The Tweeds… or, if you prefer, ‘Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee’ recently used one of Hatter’s own mind control devices on him to force him to do their dirty work, and set him up to take the blame for their crimes. He’s using Cheshire for payback.” He frowned at the roof with distaste. There was no chimney, no weathervane, not even a rain gutter to snag.
Wordlessly, Batgirl pointed to a windowsill on the third floor of the Tweeds’ office, as a burglar alarm shattered the relative silence.
“May as well,” Harrier nodded, “since Cheshire just tripped the alarm.” He caught the sill with his grapnel and swung over, kicking in the glass of the second-floor window with armored boots. Batgirl followed a moment later. A scream from downstairs sent them racing for the staircase.
On the first level, they saw a terrified night watchman trying desperately to evade the assassin. On the floor, a large Rottweiler lay far too still, four bloody puncture wounds in its throat. Blood dripped from the long, pointed fingernails on Cheshire’s right hand.
In a panic, the man dashed for a supply closet. Cheshire smiled lazily. Then she leaped onto the desk, and executed a series of flips to land directly before the closet door, blocking his path.
The watchman skidded to a stop as Cheshire extended both hands, her fingernails claw-like.
“NO!” Batgirl lunged for the man, tackling him out of the way, as Harrier tossed a bolo at Cheshire.
The assassin leaped up, seized hold of an exposed pipe, and swung to safety. Then she lunged for Harrier. He got his bo staff up just in time to block her charge. Although his costume left very little of his skin exposed, he wasn’t sure he wanted to test its resilience against Cheshire’s razor-sharp, poison-coated green fingernails—particularly when either the poison or the fingernails had been enough to kill a 120-pound dog in seconds. Despite himself, his heart began to pound. It hadn’t been that many years ago that he’d weighed 120 pounds!
Cheshire smiled. “You’ve trained under Lady Shiva. I recognize the style. Well. Having beaten the teacher once, the student should be no challenge.”
Harrier ignored her taunt and quickly considered his options. The lenses and breathing filters in their cowls would protect him and Batgirl from his next countermove. It was too bad about the watchman, but at least, he’d recover... assuming they all lived so long. He lobbed the teargas grenade over Cheshire’s head, noting that Batgirl was back on her feet and moving into position behind her.
Involuntarily, the assassin’s eyes tracked its trajectory—and she missed Batgirl’s fist until it was almost too late. She dodged, receiving a glancing blow to her cheek, instead of the roundhouse punch that Batgirl had intended. Then her hand shot out, reaching for Batgirl’s throat. The younger woman barely had time to duck, grab her assailant’s outstretched arm, and flip Cheshire over one shoulder.
Snarling, Cheshire grabbed Batgirl’s sleeve with her free hand and jabbed at a critical pressure point on her upper arm.
A paralyzing pain made the cowled crime-fighter gasp in agony.
That was when Harrier lunged forward to snatch the green scarf off of the assassin’s head.
For a split second, the assassin reeled, seemingly disoriented. Then her eyes went flat. Spewing a flood of angry words in what Harrier assumed was Vietnamese, Cheshire released Batgirl and lunged—whether for Harrier or for the doorway behind him was uncertain, for in that instant, the teargas grenade exploded.
A dense cloud of choking smoke enveloped them. Cheshire cried out as it stung her eyes. The cry broke off as the heel of Batgirl’s good hand found the assassin’s forehead and she slumped, unmoving, to the ground.
“Get guard,” Batgirl directed. “I’ll take Cheshire.”
“You okay?” Harrier asked. “I saw her fingernails—”
Batgirl shook her head. “Fingers. Pressure point disabled my arm. But couldn’t… um…” she cast about, searching for the right word, “pierce costume.” Under her cowl, Harrier could hear a smile in her voice. It faded when she spoke again, as she gestured toward the dog’s body. “Not… poisoned.”
Harrier followed her gaze as it flickered to the Rottweiler’s body.“Yeah. Uh… can you cuff her? I mean, with only one good arm?”
Cass shook her head. “No need. I… also know pressure points.”
Harrier would have bet money that her smile was back, as she reached for Cheshire.
“You doing okay, Boss-man?”
Bruce looked up at Oracle’s face on the display for a long moment. Then, he pointedly directed his gaze back to his online study guide.
Barbara was undeterred. “I was just thinking,” she mused. “What ever happened to that simulator you put me through when I was just starting out? The one with the life-sized plywood cut-outs of Joker and Two-Face and…”
Bruce glowered. “After Bane, Azrael used them to set up a shooting gallery in the Cave. Those figures are no longer useable. Or wanted. Moreover, in the activity to which you’re referring, we didn’t fire back.”
“I know,” Barbara sighed. “But it’s the same principle. Bruce, knowing how to kill doesn’t stop you from choosing not to. You already know that.”
“It’s not…” He bit back the rest of his response angrily.
He shook his head. How could he explain it to her when it sounded so childish to his own mind? When he’d been framed for murder and held in Blackgate, the day-to-day treatment had steadily eroded the Bruce Wayne persona he’d built so painstakingly to safeguard his alter ego. The Bruce Wayne who might have paid a ransom to avoid being beaten by other inmates, or who would have taken the beating, rolling with punches and getting in a few “lucky” blows evaporated and Batman—costume or no costume, he’d been Batman that night—had sent his three attackers to the prison infirmary. At the time, he’d had no regrets. Later, he still hadn’t had many. But he’d learned one thing: in dehumanizing conditions, it was only a matter of time before his inner demons emerged. To withstand Arkham, he’d had to lock himself down before he’d ever entered the institution. If Dick and Alex hadn’t chipped away at that box, he might well still be inside it. The techniques used by the military—and by paramilitary organizations, like the GCPD—were designed to break down individuals and rebuild them as part of a team. But if they succeeded in breaking him down, what would be left?
Barbara would tell him that he was being silly. Alex would chalk it up to his fear of losing control. Dick would sympathize and point out that he hadn’t changed that much after his academy training. But Bruce couldn’t do anything about his concerns. And if his darker side got loose with a gun… He didn’t want to finish that thought.
“I have the situation in hand,” he lied. “Thank you for your concern.”
“We were looking in the wrong place,” Barbara said disgustedly, when Dick walked through the front door. “I know what happened to Hush.”
Dick gave her a quick embrace and kiss. “Oh?” He grabbed a handful of mixed nuts from the candy dish on the end table. “Hit me.”
“Don’t have too many of those,” Barbara warned. “You’ll spoil your supper.”
“Hey,” Dick grinned, “have I ever passed up your cooking?”
“No,” Barbara said, “but…” she shook her head. “On second thought, take another handful. After I tell you what’s going on, you’re probably going to want to head out. I can re-warm dinner later.”
Barbara nodded. “That bad. That security feed I was watching yesterday? The one where Hush just disappeared? It was recorded a couple of days earlier and deliberately substituted for a live feed. Hush had to know we’d be keeping tabs. He’s been a couple of steps ahead of us from the start.”
Dick grabbed another handful of nuts. “How did he make the switch?”
“Well,” Barbara tried to sound flippant, but failed, “I have good news and bad news.”
“How good is the good news?”
“I figured,” Dick said with a wry smile. “Okay. I can take it.”
“Tim and Cass nailed Cheshire last night. There was a mind control chip under her headscarf. The guy who made an attempt on Bruce had a similar chip under his cap. The guards at Blackgate also wear caps as part of their standard uniform. Jervis Tetch’s last known location was Blackgate, and he and Elliot seem to have left around the same time.”
Dick winced. “Okay. What’s the good news?”
Barbara looked away. “That was the good news. We know who, how, and probably, why.” She let out a long sigh that sounded almost like a laugh. “I feel like I’m coaching Cass on report writing again.”
“Nothing, sorry. The good news is that we have a pretty good idea of how Hush got out and who he’s working with. The bad news is, we don’t know where they’re holed up or what they’re planning next.”
Dick nodded. “What are the Titans up to?”
“They’re spread a bit thin right now,” Barbara replied. “At least they’ve pretty much gone back to their hometowns for a few days. You want them involved?”
“Not yet,” Dick answered. “But you know the signs. If it looks like we’re being run too ragged, don’t ask me if I want them helping out. Tell me when you’ve brought them in.”
He leaned down to give her another kiss. “I’ll take a spin around the city and see what I can find out. I’ll try not to make a late night of it.”
“Call when you’re heading back,” Barbara smiled. “I’ll put supper back in for you.”
Bruce looked at the silhouette target for a long time before he pressed the button to send it to the end of the shooting range. He could do this. He had to do it. He hesitated only a moment before loading the Beretta and donning a pair of ear muffs. The important thing, he knew, was to neutralize his opponents. He’d been doing that for years—using batarangs, martial arts, and other non-lethal methods. Just because a gun could kill didn’t mean it had to. He sighted the target, aimed for the right arm and pulled the trigger. The bullet barely clipped the edge of the cardstock. He scowled and adjusted his aim.
This time, the bullet pierced the bottom-most ring of the bulls-eye, almost dead center. Despite himself, Bruce shuddered. Had he hit a live target in that spot, the wound would almost definitely be fatal—but it wouldn’t be fast.
It took nearly all the will-power he possessed to force himself to unload the gun and put the remaining rounds away instead of running out of the range area and leaving as much distance between himself and the weapon as possible.
Derek Powers studied the gala seating chart with a practiced eye. Then he picked up the telephone and called the event coordinator. “Michelle? Derek Powers. I’m sorry to bother you,” he said smoothly, coaxing the faintest note of uncertainty into his tone. “I know it’s not really my place to say anything, but I was looking over the plans for the gala. I notice that you have Mr. Wayne seated by the door of the banquet hall.”
He nodded as Michelle replied. “I understand if he asked for that, but have you thought about how it might look? Our president emeritus and our current CEO shunted off to one side. Now Mr. Fox is a modest man and Mr. Wayne might be trying to keep a low profile, but have you considered how the press might spin it? ‘Bruce Wayne may have begun the foundation that bears his name,’” he said, pushing his voice to a slightly higher register, “‘but if the gala seating arrangements are anything to go by, it looks like today’s administration wants to help him to the exit.’” He smiled at the coordinator’s horrified gasp. “Yes, a central table would be much better for all concerned,” he agreed. “Thanks, I was hoping you’d see it my way. After all,” he smiled, “if Mr. Wayne wants to boost his public image, I think it’s important that we support his endeavors and ensure that he’s seen by the greatest possible number of people.” He hung up the phone and added under his breath, “At all times.”
“Thanks for stopping by, Dick,” Jim said, moving away from the cottage door to allow him entry. “You’re not going to be late for work?”
“Flexible hours, remember?” Dick grinned. “Besides, they have me doing coding right now. I’m not much good with that until the second cup of peppermint tea kicks in. What’s up?”
Jim chuckled. “‘Who’ might be a better question. I would’ve thought that Bruce might’ve overslept at least once by now, but he’s been off by 6:30 every morning since the evaluations started.” His expression turned serious. “You know the fun part really begins when he starts taking classes. Have you told him what to expect?”
Dick shook his head. “No. But thanks for the reminder.” He sank down onto the sofa and leaned back.
“Don’t thank me so fast.” Jim’s frown deepened. “And don’t volunteer anything unless he asks. Not vents,” he added, taking the adjacent armchair. “Asks.”
Dick frowned. “I thought we were going to be supportive.”
“Oh, we are,” Jim said. “But you have to understand—this isn’t about passing the test; it’s about making the grade.”
“I’m not sure I do,” Dick frowned. “Understand what you’re saying, I mean.”
Jim smiled. “Okay. Maury Chiarello and I go back a ways. After he interviewed me about Bruce, we went for coffee, did some catching up… Anyway,” he said, sitting up straighter as the nostalgic note faded from his voice, “I asked him about something Bruce had mentioned to me. Specifically, that Bruce offered Wonder Woman’s lasso as a more reliable means of getting at the truth than the usual polygraph. Maury turned it down. I was curious about why. I mean… I had my suspicions, but I wanted to hear him out.”
Dick nodded. “Okay. And?”
Jim smiled. “Maury told me that he wasn’t interested in knowing the actual truth. He was interested in knowing whether Bruce was going to tell it—freely and without coercion. The interview was about character, and you don’t find out if someone is going to be truthful about uncomfortable subjects by rendering them incapable of lying. For that reason, he preferred the polygraph and his own judgment.” He leaned forward and rested his clasped hands on his knee. “Cop culture isn’t something that Bruce needs to learn so he can spit back answers on an exam and forget once he’s in the field. It’s something he needs to absorb. We can, in broad terms, point out that the Department is a brotherhood…” He frowned. “Is it still okay to use that term or did they change it to siblinghood or something?”
“Beats me,” Dick admitted. “But I hear you. It’s not one test; it’s a constant.”
“Exactly. And I don’t think we’re doing him any favors by trying to explain what’s involved without his going through it, any more than you could probably teach someone to execute one of those flips using words only; no demonstration, no video links, no photos, no diagrams, nothing but text or the spoken word.”
Dick nodded. “I remember Babs telling me that someone tried an experiment like that; not with gymnastics—with step-by-step instructions on how to tie your shoes. And without images? Just by following the written instructions? Nobody got it right.”
Jim smiled. “Same thing. Now, that doesn’t mean we throw Bruce to the wolves. He comes to us to vent? He asks us for advice? We’re still his sounding board. We can still make suggestions. I guess it’s more… let him face his own challenges. A lot of instructors have specific styles and methodologies. Our trying to prepare Bruce in advance is likely to do one of two things: have the instructors see him as a know-it-all and make it their mission to take him down a peg or two—and there are enough of them out there already who are planning as much, I’ll bet, without making it worse, or messing him up more—because what we think the instructors are looking for might not be what they’re really looking for. Or… ever have a teacher who cared less about whether you got the answer right than whether you followed the process they outlined?”
Dick let out a short laugh. “Only every math teacher I ever had from grade three on.” He sighed. “No shortcuts. Got it.” He hesitated. “Do you really think he can do this?”
Jim nodded. “If his desire to get back in the cowl is greater than his aversion to working and playing well with others. What do you think?”
“I…” Dick shook his head. “I wish I knew.”
75. Which of the following does NOT apply to a “crime,” according to the constitution of this state, as outlined in the State Penal Code?
a) Authorized monetary fine in excess of $50,000.00.
b) Authorized sentence of imprisonment in excess of six months.
c) Designated as being of the first, second, third, or forth degree.
d) All of the above are correct.
Bruce frowned. It was either “a” or “d,” but he couldn’t remember which. He put a dot next to the question and moved on. Ten minutes later, he went back to it. Five minutes after that, he was still drawing a blank.
“Three more minutes,” the proctor called.
Bruce scowled. Harvey would have flipped a coin by now. No, Harvey probably had the penal code memorized in pre-law. With a sigh, he made his guess and rose to hand in his paper.
This was it. Six days. Twenty-two subjects—including the physical fitness components. And now it was all over but the waiting.
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