I’m not scared of him. The Bat? No way. Lots of guys this side of Gotham City, yeah, they’re scared of the Bat. Not me. They’re a bunch of J-cat bitches. The Bat, he’s a maniac in a costume, is all. Or maybe he doesn’t really exist. Maybe it’s some government psychological-ops program. I read about those, in the Weekly World View. They’re screwing with our heads, using some guy in a bat outfit. That’s what it is. That’s what I told Skeev when I dropped the meth off for White Eyes, last time. Wish I was still dropping boof off instead of the hardware. Crystal meth is easier to hide than guns. Damn guns are so bulky. Makes me nervous we’ll get caught. With this armament, the feds could get involved. The feds, puppets of the Antichrist, could be following me right now. I sure as Hell feel like someone’s been watching me . . .
This old truck needs a tune-up. That’s Skeev’s new drop, over there, isn’t it? Hard to tell from here, in the dark, with all the streetlights shot out on Simpson. Corner of Courtney and Simpson, he said—one of the sleaziest blocks in town. What’d he say, Rankin’s Fish Depot, by the river? And there it is, rankin’s fish. Sign’s so old you can hardly read it. Fog’s murking it up, too.
Park the truck legal, Skeev said. Don’t give nobody an excuse to search it. We don’t own every cop in town. That Captain Gordon’s got his team, too. Can’t trust honest cops.
There’s that feeling again. Like somebody’s watching me. Watching from . . . up high somewhere. Like you can feel it on the back of your head. But when I look, can’t see them. Skeev might’ve put some dude on the rooftop with a rifle. Can’t see anybody up there . . .
Wait. Was that something? Like a shadow moving around.
No. Jumpy. Seeing shit.
Check the watch. 2:53 am. Skeev oughta be out here, watching for me, but I don’t see him, the bastard. Probably got a speed run on. White Eyes told him not to do the boof anymore himself. He don’t listen to White Eyes, going to find himself out in the country, spread- eagled under one of those harrow machines, like Harnie. I didn’t mind Harnie’s screaming so much—it was the whining before he started screaming, that’s what gets on your nerves.
So where are you, Skeev?
“Jeez, Skeev you made me jump outta my shoes! Why you sneak up on me like that?”
“What you so nervous about, Trask? You got a tail on you? A tail following you, right? That right?”
Skeev talking a mile a minute, combine that with his southern accent, makes it hard to figure what he’s saying sometimes. “I haven’t . . . I haven’t seen anybody, Skeev. Exactly.”
“What you mean, exactly? You don’t say exactly like you mean exactly. Some people say exactly but they don’t mean exactly they mean exactly. What the Hell you mean by—”
“Awright, awright—” Christ, Skeev’s buzzing on boof for sure. His little rat eyes darting around. Still overweight but he’s half as fat as he was before. Well, I known him for a long time, I’m not gonna tell the Big White, but Skeev better hope he don’t find out he’s taking the product himself. Being fat, he’s liable to have a heart attack on the shit. Stick to the steroids like the Big White does. “Chill, Skeev, I just—just had a feeling, that’s all. Nerves. Hey—you got a guy on that roof over there?”
“What, where, which roof, where, that roof, that one there?”
“Yeah, I thought I saw somebody just now . . .”
“No, fuck no, maybe it’s the Bat, man!”
“No, the Bat, man! It could be him! He hammered down on Joe Bliney last night. Joe’s whole crew, boom, slammed to mush.”
“The Bat killed ’em?”
“They’re alive, just busted up. I don’t know how the cops can take ’em in when they find ’em tied up to the stuff with those black ropes, that bat-shaped deal on ’em, I mean, what’s that, proof? But it’s good enough for that bitch DA, and they went down, man, they’re all in the city can, gonna go to the joint for sure, and for why? Because of the Bat. You better get this damn ugly-ass truck of yours outta here . . .”
“No can do, Skeev, White Eyes says I deliver no matter what. The Bat comes, I’ll be ready. Those other guys, Bliney’s crew . . . I dunno, I think it’s a put-up job, I think it’s all just a bullshit story about the Bat, the cops are gassing people, maybe, to knock ’em out, like something illegal, that’s what I heard—and they’re saying the Bat done it. Come on, one guy taking out five, more than five? No one man could do that, not without guns, and he don’t use guns . . . if he exists.”
“I seen him, man, you going to call me a liar, are you? That it, I’m a damn liar, right? I’m just running my mouth here?”
“What? No, Skeev, jeez, put away the piece, man, don’t wave that gun, if a cop drives by what ain’t one of ours, sees you waving that niner around—”
“I tell you I saw the Bat myself! About a year and a half ago, a little less, just when he started showing up, before I was working for the Brotherhood—we had a chop shop set up, ten new cars in there waiting to be stripped, and the window explodes and down he comes like black lightning, man, wham!, that fast, three guys go down before the Bat even lands on the floor, two more in the next second, he moved so fast—just like that!—and his face, man . . . he ain’t got a human face! He’s some kinda genetic crossbreeding thing, like a mutant—he’s half animal! He’s got bat genes, I figure, and he’s got this look in his eyes, make your blood run cold, dude, and I don’t ever wanna see that again . . . I ran for my life, and I was like half a block away, and whack! he shoots something or throws something and it hits me in the back of the head . . . Woke up cuffed to the wheel of one of those Jags. My lawyer got me off ’cause there was a witness says I went down on the street instead of in there with the cars, but I tell you what, I don’t ever want to see the Bat again. I know at least one guy died of a heart attack just looking in the Bat’s face!”
Pretty obvious Skeev was loaded that night and seeing things. Hallucinating on boof. Take enough, you get paranoia vision. On and on, rattling and tweakin’ at me, boofin’ out. Halitosis, too. Don’t wanna talk to him no more. We gotta get these guns moved in.
“White Eyes says we deliver, Skeev. You gotta get your boys out here, unload the stuff.”
“No, man, you move it around to the loading dock. I’ll tell ’em to get it in. But I ain’t sticking around. The Bat’s been hitting the Alley for a while now. This whole parta town’s his turf. Those chink whores that come in on the ship? The ones that didn’t die in the hold? They were supposed to work a good three years whorin’ for Venko, but the Bat kicks ass on the bodyguards, lets the trim go. Bitches run off into the streets. Guess he don’t care about enforcing the immigrant laws—but you chain up a whore, it makes him mad. He busted some arms on Venko’s boys when he found out they’d—”
“Skeev? I’m gonna move the truck. Get your boys around back.”
“Sure, sure. The Bat. The Bat. The Bat’s out there. I can’t stay for this. I can’t stay here, with the . . .”
Driving around the back. Pull up at the loading dock next to that fence. No choice: Gotta tell White Eyes about Skeev. He’s out of his gourd on the shit. Whoa, stinks back here. Pile of dead fish parts. So they really do ship fish through here, too. Good cover. What cop wants to look close at a place smells this bad? Rankin, for sure it’s rank, man, there’s maggots on that one, enough to make you—What was that? Was that something on the roof of the warehouse? Like a black shape with horns, in the fog?
No. Seeing things again. Nothing there. So who are these weasels with Skeev? I don’t know these guys.
“These guys down with White Eyes, Skeev?”
“Yeah, yeah, Trask, this is Sancho, this is Tar, this is Ronson, they’re gonna move the shit out, I gotta go, my nerves can’t take it, just put the gear in there . . .”
“You don’t even want to see the goods? I’m supposed to show you, you’re supposed to say yeah that’s the goods. Look here, the crate’s not even nailed shut. Check it out.”
“Looks like a damn machine gun—or a cannon—or both.”
“Shotgun-machinegun. Auto-shotgun, some call it. We got some other stuff you wouldn’t believe—it’s going to be the cutting edge of the revolution against the Legions of the Antichrist, man. Centrifugal gun—wait’ll you see that one. This one’s loaded. I’m gonna have it right here in my hands, standing guard. These things got hella range and power. I got this one loaded with flechette shells. The Bat shows, I’ll cut him in half.”
“Don’t mention him! You mentioned his name! Don’t say it! He’ll know, if you say his name, he’ll hear it and he’ll know and he’ll come!”
Excerpted from Batman(TM): Dead White by John Shirley. Copyright © 2006 by John Shirley. Excerpted by permission of Del Rey, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.