It looked kinda like Sid, the possessed dummy from the talent show, but had a nasty scar on its wooden face and carried a sawed off double barreled shotgun under one arm. The ventriloquist was standing next to him of course. He was a schlubby looking guy with small round glasses and a cheap suit. The dummy's suit and top hat were much nicer actually. Bruce had finished unlocking the skylight and lifted a pane carefully so we could hear what they were talking about.
"...no excuse!" the dummy was shouting. "You idiots are makin' me angry and when I get angry, people gleed! Gaxter!" he yelled at sledgehammer.
"Uh, yes Mister Scarface?"
"I called this meetin' gecause three of my goy Dodd's..." he waived at a guy with heavily pomaded hair and a expensive but tacky looking suit, "people, including you Gaxter, got themselves hurt collecting on my debts. The getting hurt I'm okay with actually. This is a tough gusiness. You were hired gecause your tough. You were not... hired to fail though! Gaxter, Smith, and Wallace took the hits t'try t'keep th'goolah. D'at's their jog, so I know d'at even though they got geat. They tried. I don't like it, gut I know they tried! And then there's Murphy...Gring him in goys!"
The fourth guy, the one with the knife, was dragged in by a rope around his ankles. and dumped on the frloor in front of Dodd, Baxter, and Scarface the Dummy.
"So Gaxter. Tell us all what happened last night."
"Well Mister Scarface, me an my crew got our orders from Mister Dodd to pull in a marker from a welcher. We had tried friendly persuasion, but the guy went all sob story about needin' food for his family and th'like. That cuts no mustard as Mister Dodd always says."
Dodd puffed up proudly.
"Wise words Mister Dodd," Scarface added. Dodd almost preened.
"Anyway, this time we were goin' in hard. T'show the lousy welcher that ya don't get somethin' for nothin' you unnerstand Mister Scarface."
The dummy nodded.
"So we find th'lousy thief and escort him t'a more private place for a little conversation about his future. He played the dunce and wouldn't cough up th'boodle. So I get's me hammer ready and tell Smith t'pull off his boots. While Murphy and Wallace held him fast. Then this kid shows up out of nowhere."
"Yessir. Couldn't have been more than five foot, wearing all black and a plug topper, high pitched voice. Really skinny. Yeah yeah I know. Hold on..." there was muttering in the assembled goons when they heard my description. Also I was taller than five foot by at least two inches! "This kid asked us what we was doin'. I told him t'beat it if he didn't want t'get hurt. He told me no, then said we'd better stop and t'tell our boss that he should stop makin' loans. I told him that if he didn't leave, when we was done we'd start on him next. Then he threatened t'break all th'fingers on our left hands. We was gettin' kind of fed up so Smith and I started towards him."
He took a breath.
"After that it's kind of a blur cause th'kid moved like greased lightnin', he broke my hammer handle with a kick and popped Smith with a nasty jab in th'gut while keeping from getting cut by his knife. I tried taking him down, but he broke my ankle. Wallace left the welcher with Murphy and stepped in. You all know Wallace? 3rd runner-up t'th'Gotham Boxing Cup of 1885? This kid took him down in less than a second, and damn near gelded him in th'process. Th'kid broke Smith's knee, then told Murphy th'thing about breakin' fingers again. That's when Murphy took off. Th'rest of us were in no condition t'do anythin' t'stop him."
"Thank you Gaxter. So ya see I have a proglem which means you have a proglem. Gaxter, Smith, and Wallace did what they were paid to. They lost...gut they tried. Now agout this kid. He is ogviously not th'Gat. So who is he?" Scarface turned his head to survey the room. "While we ponder d'at there's one more order of business. Mister Dodd. I don't think d'at Murphy here has th'right sort of character for employment. Do you agree?"
Dodd looked over and nodded, "You're th'Boss Scarface."
"I am indeed," the shotgun fired and blew a hole in Murphy's gut as he lay there squirming on the floor. Bruce and shuddered and looked at each other. There were too many of them to take on.
"Murphy," Scarface said, "I used number 4 shot. D'at means ya get t'gleed out as ya consider yer sins," Scarface turned to the ventriloquist, "Let's go dummy. I got plans t'cook."
"Yessir Mister Scarface." the pair headed out and towards the wharf where we saw them get on to a small boat.
After the place had cleared we lowered ourselves in and checked out Murphy.
"He's a dead man. His intestine is shredded and his liver is lacerated," Bruce said. "He's bleeding fast and there's no way to staunch the wounds."
"The Bat an' the kid..." Murphy gasped. "I told him like you said t'kid an' this is what happens..."
"Who is the ventriloquist?" Bruce asked.
"Some guy the boss found. Like his servant or somethin'."
Bruce and I simply stared at each other.
"Where does Scarface live?"
Murphy shook his head weakly, "How would I know. I mean he's th'real bossssss...." he sobbed and died.
I was numb. I was the reason that this guy was dead. Simply because I was treating all this like it was a game. Like I had in Sunnydale. I knew real people died, but I had tried to put it out of my head; made a big production of let's pretend. The Initiative had taught me that humans can be way more monstrous than any demon. This incident right here reminded me of that, and also that these were the rules in the world I was now living in.
No antibiotics or emergency medicine, firearms are common and unregulated, he has the gold makes all the rules...Golden Age my Slayer butt. Anyplace that can create such squalor and marginalize so many for profit needs people like me and Bruce, just to even the odds.
"We should go," Bruce said quietly. I nodded.
On the carriage ride back to the manor I began to speak, "I've killed humans before. They were trying to kill my sister and I had to defend her, but I did kill them. I didn't do it in cold blood, that's the difference and right now I feel more responsible for a guy named Murphy's death than any of the guys that went after Dawn. Something I said got him killed."
"That ventriloquist is suffering from a psychopathic malady. It manifests as violent urges through his doll," Bruce said thoughtfully. "My friend, Herr Doctor Freud, he's a Viennese physician of the mind, an alienist is the new term I believe. He had a lot to say about factors of the thought processes causing undue influence upon irrational behavior."
"You've heard of him and his theories?"
"Uh, yes," I had been a psych major after all...at least briefly. "So the ventriloquist's unconscious desires motivated the creation of 'Scarface'?"
"Exactly!" Bruce looked at me as if I had suddenly turned blue. "Where did you study?"
"A small university in California. It had some modern ideas."
"Buffy. I have seen men die before, and I know I was a precipitator of at least one death. Murphy would have gleefully killed that poor soul if ordered and never felt a moment's regret. You did what you could to preserve life. I've seen you fight. You could have killed all four of the rascals before they even knew you were there and don't deny it."
I nodded. It was the truth.
"But I'm certain that, until I spoke, had never crossed your mind."
I nodded again.
"You understand my mission now. To preserve what I can of this city. From what I have heard from you, your mission is to defend humanity from the restless dead and other factors I certainly do not even try to comprehend. I could kill, but I don't. Civilization is driven by law and justice. If I attempt to take the role of judge and jury and even executioner, I would be as base as the the man that pulled the trigger of that shotgun. A man which was certainly not you."
"Where I'm from, it's a lot simpler..." I began.
"But you're here now."
"Yeah I am. I still feel like hell."
"Language Miss Summers," Bruce said with a slight smile.
"I'm from the frontier...I'm entitled," I gave him a slight smile back, "Thank you Bruce. For everything."
"Thank you. This Scarface needs to be dealt with and you gave us the leads to follow."
He said us.
"Well yes, Gotham is a big city. I can't protect it all by myself."
"Am I going to need a catchy name and outfit?"
"Unless you want them to call you 'kid' all the time."
"I'll think on it," by this time we were home and Alfred and I put the horses and carriage away.
"I have killed considerably more than once. It doesn't get easier if you're lucky. It's when it does get easy...that's when you are in considerable danger."
"Thanks," I washed up and went to bed.