The night was idyllic- Gotham was adorned in lights and laughter. The opening of the Oriental Theater- paid for by the Wayne Foundation, of course- was a glittering success. Many of the crowd had never watched a "talkie" before and were enthralled by the technological progress of the modern age. The Wayne family was present, and central to the night's celebration. They were in rare form, standing together in the center of the lobby for interviews and photographs. Thomas Wayne, lifelong heir to the Wayne fortune, commanded attention with his booming voice and ready smile. Martha, ever by his side, was a glittering goddess- turning more than a few heads. Even little Bruce Wayne had been allowed to stay up late and attend. Dressed the same as his Father, down to the little white gloves, he was puffed up like a peacock grinning for the cameras.
"This is a night for the history books," Thomas was explaining to an eager group of journalists. "The Oriental Theater will be a cultural hub for Gotham for decades to come- it is a temple to the arts and to humanity. The Wayne Foundation hopes to build more such buildings to preserve and enrich the cultural heritage of Gotham."
Bruce was mouthing the words to his father's speech as it was given. He had spent a good portion of the day helping his father write and rehearse it. As Thomas's speech finished, Bruce nodded appreciatively. It had been delivered with just the right amount of sincerity and charm.
As his father often said, "Charisma is a science." His father was certainly practicing that science now, Bruce noted, as the Mayor and the Governor approached the Wayne family.
Bruce couldn't quite catch what the Governor whispered into his father's ear, but he didn't miss the slight widening of his father's smile and the triumphant gleam in his eye. Good news for the family, then.
The mayor turned to address the crowd. "On behalf of the city of Gotham, I'd like to extend our gratitude to the Wayne Foundation. Your continuous generosity is a great boon in this troubled time."
He shook Thomas's hand, and gave a bow to Martha, who laughed charmingly. Reporters jumped into the conversation.
"What's next for the Wayne Foundation?"
"Mrs. Wayne, who are you wearing?"
"Mr. Wayne, what do you have to say to the displaced people of this neighborhood?"
Thomas frowned quickly, but the governor stepped in, holding up two hands. "Folks, I think the Waynes answered enough questions before the movie. Why don't we leave the questions for next time."
He grabbed a glass of champagne from a passing waiter. "To the Waynes!" The crowd followed his lead, raising their glasses.
The night continued in this fashion- a never ending cycle of the rich congratulating the rich, the press and public watching every second, and young Bruce Wayne watching everything with the mien of an astounded child.
Thomas and Martha eventually gave their goodbyes, explaining that Bruce couldn't be out too late.
Martha wrapped herself in ermine and Thomas and Bruce donned their coats, and they stepped out into the night. The night was cold compared to the warmth of the theater. A crowd of forgotten press, chauffeurs, and attendants surrounded the doorway. Some reporters seemed to want more interviews from the Waynes, but Thomas warned them off with a good-natured wave and a dangerous glint in his eye. No more interviews would be given tonight.
Many cars idled before the spectacular theater, but the impressive Rolls Royce belonging to the Waynes was nowhere to be seen.
"Oh dear!" Martha exclaimed, "where has that chauffeur gotten to?"
Thomas swore under his breath. "This is the final straw, I am going to fire him first thing tomorrow."
Martha began to turn back. "Shall we send for Alfred, then? We can wait in the theater."
The man shook his head. "No need to wait so long. We'll just get a taxi."
Martha scoffed good naturedly. "Where are we going to find a taxi here? The whole street is a mad crush!"
Thomas set his top hat over his sleek hair. "Not to worry, love. We'll just walk a few blocks and get one by state street. We'll find loads there."
Martha looked wary, but she took her husband's outstretched hand. Bruce fell into step beside the both of them.
They hadn't walked but a few minutes when the mad throng of people dissipated. The rest of the city had likely gone to sleep at a sensible hour, and other than the occasional car horn or dog bark, Gotham was becoming quiet.
"So what did you think of your first adult party, Bruce?" Thomas asked his son.
"I liked it just fine. Though, I don't think champagne is all it's cracked up to be."
Martha gasped. "Bruce you didn't!"
Bruce smiled guiltily as his father laughed out loud. "Save the champagne for the adults, Bruce," he chuckled. "And what did you notice tonight?"
Bruce straightened up. Time for business. "The director of the actor's guild was in tears as the film finished- I'm guessing you rather saved the film industry in Gotham. He can't provide much to the foundation in the way of hard cash- but his sister is married to the head of the steel workers union. You'll need those connections if you are still planning on forgoing yearly bonuses."
His father nodded. Bruce continued, "The editor of the Gotham Times is probably going to resign soon. His asthma is getting worse, and I heard his wife say they should move to Florida. He didn't seem at all opposed to the idea. You have some pull with the board of directors, right? You can appoint someone on your payroll who won't cover the Oaken Slums buyout."
Thomas coughed in surprise, and he looked at his son. "How do you know about the buyout? I held that meeting in confidence."
Bruce pursed his lips, but Martha looked at Thomas reproachfully. "You are always asking him what he notices, Thomas. You can't be surprised when he notices more than you want."
Thomas shook his head, and ruffled Bruce's hair. "You may be too smart for your own good, sport. I wonder if it's too soon to appoint you to the board?"
Martha laughed like a bell. "You are not putting our nine year old on the… board."
Her words trailed off into silence. They had stepped into an alleyway, not far from State Street. Bruce could hear the traffic and distant voices. But a man barred their way. He was tall, dressed in black, and wearing a scarlet mask. Bruce tensed in alarm. He could see the lump in the man's pocket.
"Dad," Bruce whispered, "he has a gun."
Thomas Wayne was expressionless. He stared at the figure and asked in a low voice, "What do you want?"
The figure spoke with a hoarse voice. "Thomas Wayne, you and your family are a curse to this city. It's judgment day."
The man's arm moved quickly- too quickly for Bruce to see. But he saw a flash of light and heard the crack of a pistol. Bruce saw both his mother and father flinch, but it was his father who fell to his knees on the dirty cobblestones. His breath was torn out of his lungs with a gasp and he collapsed to the earth.
Martha screamed and pulled Bruce behind her. "Run!" she commanded. Hand in hand they made it a few steps before two more shots echoed behind them. Bruce felt his mother's hand leave his. He whipped around, and tried to catch her, but she was too heavy, and she fell to the dirty ground, her pretty white gloves stained with blood and dirt.
Bruce cradled his mother's head in his arms, and stared at the murderer, as if begging him to undo what he had just done.
The figure raised the gun again, but even as Bruce tensed for death, he noticed the man's hands shaking, almost uncontrollably.
Sirens sounded in the distance. Someone had heard the gunshots. Bruce briefly saw pale brown eyes behind the silver shadows of the mask. The figure turned, and ran out into the night.
Bruce struggled to breathe. He was alive. His parents were dead.
"Help me." He whispered in the silence.
"Help me, please!" He cried out, forcing the words out as loud as he could, unable to stop his own trembling. But the alleyway had become a graveyard, and there was no one there for the living.