Writing Prompt - Bruce Wayne is killed alongside his parents on that fateful night. Describe Gotham decades later, with no Batman to protect it.
What, you think they left anything in the will for the butler?
Alfred is cleaning a wine glass, at his bar four blocks down from where Wayne Enterprises used to be. It's 9:56pm. Everyone's gone home, if they weren't mugged on the way back. The bar is quiet save for the occasional squeak of cloth against glass.
The door swings open. The bell above it would ring if it didn't break months ago.
"Bar's closing." Alfred dropped the classy act a long time ago. "Come back Monday." There's no response. Alfred finally looks up, then a little bit down, and sees a disheveled child before him. Sure Alfred doesn't card people, but this is ridiculous.
"Can I help you?"
Kid doesn't say anything. Alfred keeps wiping the glass. He's seen the kid somewhere before. That blonde hair, those green eyes, the purple patched-up jacket... and why was he wearing a bandana over his mouth? It hits Alfred. He's seen this kid in a photo, in a wallet, that's been absent-mindedly left in his bar many times. This kid is the son of one of his way-too-regular customers, Mr. Kerr. He was a violent drunk. He was a loyal drunk. Mr. Kerr had come into Alfred's bar every day for the past year except... today.
Alfred stops cleaning.
Kid pulls out a gun, and levels it at Alfred's head.
Kid pulls down his bandana, and reveals two cheeks sliced all the way up to his ears.
Alfred puts down the wine glass and washcloth. He knew this day would come. He says just two words.
Then two more.
The kid's gun bounces off the hardwood floor. No bullets fired. Alfred sighs with relief, then sighs in disappointment. You'd never survive in this city if you don't have the guts to kill. Alfred sure does. Kid falls to his knees, tears streaming down half of his cheeks. The way his mouth is cut up, upwards like a grin, you'd almost think his sobbing sounded like laughter.
Neither of them say anything for a while.
Kid picks himself up. He stumbles silently towards the exit. Poor kid. Alfred would later find out that Mrs. Kerr had her skull caved in by Mr. Kerr, who blew his brains out after carving his kid's face like a Jack O'Lantern. Corpses don't make good parents. And someone had to look after this unfortunate child.
"Wait." Alfred calls out. Kid stops, but doesn't look around.
"I once knew a young boy like you. Bruce Wayne. He was strong. He survived two whole weeks in the hospital after he and his parents were shot. And in those final moments, on that small hospital bed... I couldn't be there for him. Only family were allowed to visit. And politicians. And the media.
Harvey Dent. Long time friends of the Wayne family. Longer time friend to himself. He used Bruce's prolonged death to further his political agenda. Bruce should have died peacefully. Not surrounded 24/7 by cameras and microphones, broadcasting his suffering until his very last breath, literally his last breath, all the news outlets rerunning the same damn clip of his heart monitor going beep. beep. beep beep beep beep beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep.
This is what happens when you get soft on crime. Vote Harvey Dent."
The kid turns around. Almost self-consciously, he put his bandana back around his disfigured mouth.
"The Bruce Wayne Memorial Act. What a joke. All that did was get the police to spend all their time chasing jaywalkers and shoplifters, not the real threats, like a psychotic doctor and a homicidal florist. Who are still roaming free, by the way. I know. I served them margaritas last week.
For better or for worse, the people of Gotham did not passively accept all this. Citizens organized a protest. Cops shot into the crowd. Teenage girl died. Protests turn violent. Gotham burns."
Alfred comes out from behind the counter. "On the upside, all this has been good for my business. My other business, that is." He walks towards the kid. "What's your name, little boy?"
The kid muffles. "J... Joey."
"Remember this, Joey." Alfred puts his hand on the kid's shoulder. "Vengeance. Is not. Justice. Criminals and the courts, not that they're mutually exclusive, have fooled themselves into believing otherwise. But today, Joey, you have shown me something I haven't seen in a long, long time. Forgiveness." Alfred smiles. "Maybe that's what this city needs to be reminded of again. And you can lead the way."
The kid wipes his eyes dry. "But... how?"
"You see... there's two things I've learnt in my time serving as a butler for the Waynes."
Alfred picks the wine glass up from the counter.
"How to handle money..."
He wipes the last of the stains out.
"...And how to make dirty things clean."
He places the glass in the far back of the second-topmost shelf, activating a pressure pad, causing the wall behind him to swing outwards. The kid stares in awe. Before his eyes, a hidden room lined wall-to-wall with stacks of green so high you'd think it was a vertical meadow.
Alfred laughs. "What, you think they left anything in the will for the butler?"
The two of them step into the room. "Call it guilt, or a selfish desire to do something worthwhile with my life, but I would like to give all this... to you, Joey." The kid is too stunned to react. "Think about all the good we could do with this! We could travel this fallen city, secretly giving away gifts, saving people from debts, performing random acts of kindness. No one will know who's responsible, so they'll have to share their gratitude with the rest of the world."
The kid grins with his eyes.
"Joey Kerr, let's save the people of Gotham. Let's put a smile on their face."
Misc Notes to Self: - Realized I'm no good at writing a variety of voices. Couldn't do the normal Alfred Pennyworth voice, and did the above flippant prose style above instead. - Written in 3 hours. - I was late to the Writing Prompt party, but still got quite a few upvotes, I guess. - I really like this line: "How to handle money..." "and how to make dirty things clean."