The most fascinating part of The Dark Knight Rises might be the way in which Batman's sacrifice at the end of The Dark Knight has spawned a whole new political landscape. The Harvey Dent Act has led to a new crackdown on Gotham's crime, and the wealthy and powerful are celebrating while Bruce Wayne hides away.
But why is this apparently strong new social order so easy for Bane to destabilize? Check out an exclusive excerpt from the novelization of The Dark Knight Rises by Greg Cox, which provides some great insights.
"Harvey Dent Day may not be our oldest public holiday," Mayor Anthony Garcia declared, "but we're here tonight because it's one of the most important. Harvey Dent's uncompromising stand against organized crime and, yes, ultimately, his sacrifice, have made Gotham a safer place than it was at the time of his death, eight years ago." Behind him stood a large mounted photo of Dent.
A fashionable crowd filled the moonlit grounds of the Wayne estate. Elegant men and women, representing the cream of Gotham society, listened politely to the mayor's speech as they mingled and chatted amongst themselves. Bright lights dispelled the shadow of the looming manor in all of its restored Gothic splendor, revealing not a hint that the entire edifice had burned to the ground several years before.
Expensive jewelry glittered on women in designer evening gowns, who were escorted by men in tailored silk suits and tuxedos. Champagne glasses clinked. Waiters wove through the party, offering fresh drinks and refreshments. It was a beautiful fall night, and the weather was perfect.
"This city has seen a historic turnaround," the mayor continued from his position at the podium. He was a lean man whose slick black hair and photogenic good looks had survived several years in office. "No city is without crime. But this city is without organized crime, because the Dent Act gave law enforcement teeth in its fight against the mob.
"Now people are talking about repealing the Dent Act. And to them I say...not on my watch!"
An enthusiastic round of applause greeted his words. Everyone in the crowd had benefited from the city's improved climate. One could confidently invest in Gotham again, and expect to reap a handsome profit. Small wonder the mayor had been re-elected to a third consecutive term.
"I want to thank the Wayne Foundation for hosting this event," he continued, humbly accepting the applause. "I'm told Mr. Wayne couldn't be with us tonight, but I'm sure he's with us in spirit."
Or maybe he's closer than we think, Jim Gordon thought. The commissioner sat alone at an open bar not far from the dais. He was an ex-Chicago cop in his late fifties, with graying brown hair and a mustache.
World-weary blue eyes gazed out from behind a pair of horn-rimmed glasses. Glancing up at the stately marble façade of the manor house, he spotted a solitary figure gazing down on the festivities from one of the upper balconies. The figure was so still and silent that he might have been mistaken for a chimney, or a gargoyle, but Gordon knew a lurker when he saw one. He suspected that this particular lurker owned everything in sight.
"Now I'm going to give way to an important voice," the mayor promised, snagging Gordon's attention away from the lonely shadow on the balcony. The commissioner's heart sank, and he wished he had time to fortify himself with another stiff drink. He fumbled unenthusiastically with the sheets of paper laid out in front of him, reviewing his handwritten speech one more time. He'd sweated blood over every word, but still wasn't sure he had the nerve to read them out loud.
Then he braced himself for what was to come.
Am I really going to go through with this? he asked himself. After all these years?
A hearty voice intruded on his reverie. Gordon looked up to see Congressman Byron Gilly muscling his way toward the bar. Judging from the man's ruddy complexion, Gordon guessed that Gilly had already tossed back a drink or two. . . or three. He was a stocky man, flush with prosperity. His haircut probably cost more than a beat cop's weekly salary.
Gilly glanced around the sprawling grounds. Manicured lawns and gardens, adorned with tasteful stone fountains and statuary, played host to the annual celebration.
"Ever lay eyes on Wayne at one of these things?"
Gordon chose not to mention the figure on the balcony. He shook his head.
"No one has," a third party cut in. "Not for years."
Peter Foley, Gordon's deputy commissioner, joined them at the bar. A real up-and-comer, he was half a decade younger than Gordon, but was already making a name for himself downtown. Dapper and well- groomed, with thick brown hair as yet untouched by gray, he wore his tailored suit more comfortably than Gordon, whose attire was already rumpled despite his halfhearted efforts to dress up for the occasion.
Gordon glanced down at his clothes and grimaced. There had been a time when his wife made sure he was presentable at these affairs. But, then again, times had changed.
The mayor's voice continued from the podium.
"He can tell you about the bad old days," he continued, apparently in no hurry to surrender the spotlight. "When the criminals and the corrupt ran this town with such a tight grasp that people put their faith in a murderous thug in a mask and cape. A thug who showed his true nature when he betrayed the trust of this great man." He turned toward the large color portrait of Dent. "And murdered him in cold blood."
Ignoring the mayor's speech, Gilly grinned as he spotted an attractive young server who breezed by bearing a tray of canapés. A black maid's uniform, complete with a pressed white apron, cuffs, and collar, flattered the brunette's slender figure. She froze as the congressman rudely grabbed her derrière.
"Sweetheart," he scolded her. "Not so fast with the chow."
She turned to face him, deftly extricating herself from his grasp. A tight smile belied the indignation lurking behind her large brown eyes. She held out a tray.
Gordon repressed a smirk.
The dig flew over Gilly's well-coifed head as he snatched a pair of the snacks and stuffed them into his mouth. The maid quickly made her escape, not that Gordon could blame her. Congressman or not, Gilly needed to keep his hands to himself.
"Jim Gordon," the mayor said, "can tell you the truth about Harvey Dent — "
Talking with his mouth full, Gilly nodded at the sheets of paper Gordon had been reviewing.
"Jesus, Gordon, is that your speech?" he said, spewing crumbs. "We're gonna be here all night." Gordon hastily covered the papers.
"Maybe the truth about Harvey isn't so simple, congressman."
" — so I'll let him tell you himself," the mayor concluded. He stepped away from the podium. "Commissioner Gordon?"
Another round of applause rose from the assembled partygoers.
That's my cue, Gordon thought glumly. He gulped down the last of his drink and made his way to the dais, feeling like a convicted felon approaching the gallows. He stepped up to the mike and took out his speech, even as a battery of doubts assailed him.
"The truth?" he began.
Unwanted, an ugly memory flashed before his mind's eye. He saw Harvey Dent as he truly remembered him. The left half of Dent's face had been burnt away, leaving behind a hideous expanse of charred muscle and scar tissue. A bloodshot eye, ablaze with madness, bulged from a naked socket. A ragged gap in his cheek offered a glimpse of exposed jawbone, while a strip of raw gristle stretched vertically across what remained of Harvey's smile.
By contrast, the right side of his face remained just as handsome as ever.
No longer the crusading district attorney, Harvey menaced a small boy with a loaded handgun. The boy, Gordon's own precious son, trembled in the madman's clutches, trying bravely not to cry, even as Gordon pleaded desperately for his child's life.
Unmoved, Dent flipped a coin...
Gordon forced the ghastly memory from his mind.
He gazed out at the audience, wondering if they were finally ready to hear what he had to say. Harvey's portrait, the portrait of a hero, loomed silently behind him. Gordon pondered his options — and his motives. Was clearing his own conscience worth risking all that had been accomplished in Harvey's name?
"I have written a speech telling the truth about Harvey Dent," Gordon admitted, making up his mind. He folded up his papers and stuffed them inside his jacket, close to his chest. "But maybe the time isn't right."
"Thank Christ for that," Gilly muttered at the bar, a tad too loudly.
"Maybe all you need to know," Gordon said, "is that there are a thousand inmates in Blackgate Prison as a direct result of the Dent Act. These are violent criminals, essential cogs in the organized crime machine that terrorized Gotham for so long. Maybe for now all I should say about Harvey Dent's death is this — it has not been for nothing."
The crowd clapped enthusiastically — all except for the figure on the balcony, who silently turned away and disappeared into the upper reaches of the mansion. Watching him out of the corner of his eye, Gordon saw him vanish.
Can't blame him, Gordon thought. I didn't say anything worth hearing.
Feeling like a coward, he retreated from the dais. Doubts followed him, as they had every day for eight long years. Had he done the right thing? Or had he simply chickened out?
He found Foley at the bar.
"The second shift reports in?" Gordon asked.
"On your desk," Foley assured him. "But you should put in more time with the mayor."
"That's your department." Foley was better at working City Hall, and stroking the egos of politicians. Gordon preferred the nuts-and-bolts of old-fashioned police work.
With one last, rueful glance at the portrait on the dais, he decided he'd done his part for Harvey Dent Day this year. So he headed for the gravel driveway in front of the mansion, where a long row of spotless town cars waited for their powerful and/or affluent passengers. He couldn't wait to get out of here.
This got harder every year.
Back at the bar, the congressman shook his head at Gordon's abrupt departure. He couldn't believe the dumb schmuck was actually abandoning this fancy spread to go back to work, especially now that the war against crime had already been won.
"Anyone shown him the crime stats?" he said.
"He goes by his gut, and it's been bothering him lately, whatever the numbers."
"Must be popular with the wife," Gilly cracked. His own ball-and-chain was conveniently home with a migraine.
"Not really," Foley replied. "She took the kids and moved to Cleveland."
"Well, he'll have plenty of time for visits soon." Gilly lowered his voice to a conspiratorial whisper. He leaned in toward the younger man. "Mayor's dumping him in the spring."
"Really?" Foley was surprised by the revelation — or at least seemed to be. "He's a hero."
"War hero," Gilly said. "This is peacetime." He poked Foley in the chest. "Stay smart, the job's yours."
While he let Foley mull that over, Gilly glanced around the party. It was picking up, now that the speeches were finally over and done with. Unlike Gordon, he had better things to do than burn the midnight oil.
Say, the congressman thought, whatever happened to that cute piece of ass in the maid outfit?
She could still feel the congressman's grabby fingers on her butt. Her ire rose at the memory. He's lucky I didn't teach him a painful lesson in manners.
The mansion's kitchen offered a temporary refuge from the demanding partygoers out on the lawn. A small army of waiters, caterers, and cooks were deployed throughout the spacious area, working overtime to keep the guests lavishly fed and watered. Discarding her empty tray, she dived into the bustling activity, blending in with the rest of the wait staff. Nobody gave her a second look.
Forget the congressman for now, she reminded herself. Focus.
She overheard a small cluster of maids gossiping in the corner.
"They say he never leaves the east wing."
"I heard he had an accident, that he's disfigured."
Another maid hurriedly signaled them to shut up. All chatter died as a distinguished older gentleman in a butler's uniform entered the kitchen. His silvery hair complemented his gentle, careworn features.
Alfred Pennyworth, she identified him. The faithful family retainer.
"Mr. Till," he said, addressing the chief caterer. A cultured British accent betrayed his roots. "Why are your people using the main stairs?"
Mr. Till murmured an apology that she didn't bother to hear. Instead she watched carefully as Pennyworth placed a glass of fresh water on a tray beside an assortment of covered plates and dishes. The butler glanced around the kitchen.
"Where's Mrs. Bolton?"
Briskly the maid stepped forward.
"She's at the bar, sir," she said. "Can I help?"
He sighed, as though not entirely happy with the situation, but handed her the tray and an old-fashioned brass key.
"The east drawing room," he instructed. "Unlock the door, place the tray on the table, lock the door again." He paused for emphasis. "Nothing more."
She nodded meekly, keeping her head down, and accepted the key.
Slipping out of the kitchen before anything could go awry, she made her way through the gigantic mansion toward the east wing. Austere white walls and heavy draperies gave the house a cold, unwelcoming feel. The hubbub of the party gradually died away as she left the celebration behind. She couldn't help noticing the valuable antiques, tapestries, and paintings gracing the halls, as well as how hushed and lifeless the place seemed. Less like a home than a museum.
A large oak door barred the entrance to the wing. She tried the key, and the door swung open before her, revealing a richly appointed drawing room that was probably twice the size of her crummy apartment back in Old Town. Hand-turned mahogany furniture had begun life as trees in the Wayne plantations in Belize, she knew. Pricy china, vases, and other knick-knacks adorned the mantle of a large unlit fireplace. Despite its opulence, the room was dimly lit and quiet as a tomb.
Not exactly the Playboy Mansion, she noted. All this tired old money — just going to waste.
She glanced around, but didn't see anybody, not even the famously reclusive master of the house. Placing the tray down on a polished walnut table, she did not exit the chamber as instructed. Instead her eyes locked on an inner door at the other side of the room. It had conveniently been left ajar.
She grinned mischievously.
How perfect was that?
The Dark Knight Rises: The Official Novelization by Greg Cox is out today.