The phone didn’t so much ring as bleat, a shrilling electronic honking accompanied by a steady pulse of light. Emergency. Come quick. Pick up the phone. In daylight, or on a clear night, it meant as much as a night-time projection on the clouds.
Bruce Wayne sighed and picked up the glass cloche covering the phone. In another house, that might look suspicious, but Wayne Manor was full of eccentric details. A red phone under a cloche. A bust of Shakespeare quite clearly glued back together around the throat. A butler a man of Wayne’s reduced financial status could clearly no longer afford to pay.
“Commissioner?” he stared into the distance as the Commissioner of Police explained that a man dressed as a clown was threatening to release thousands of carnivorous chattering teeth toys into the streets of Gotham. Or whatever bullshit the idiot criminal element of this town had come up with today. “I’ll be right on it.” He lied.
An hour later, Alfred appeared at the door of the drawing room. “Master Bruce?” his voice was quiet, and full of concern. Wayne was sprawled on a sofa, half in and half out of costume. He’d tried, but couldn’t work up the enthusiasm for the fight. Not today.
“They hate me,” Bruce moaned and sat up. “They don’t appreciate the work I do for them. They just think I’m some ridiculous trust fund brat, or worse – WORSE! – they think I’m a vigilante! A brute! A…” Alfred let him rage. He was deep in a hole of his own making. After all, he cultivated both images – one to keep his identity secret, the other to strike fear into the hearts of cowardly, superstitious criminals. Periodically, though, Alfred knew it would become too much, that Master Bruce required time to vent. He was a complex man. But this time, he said something Alfred had never heard before.
“And they never call for anything nice!” The phrase hung in the air. Alfred turned to look at the cloched telephone. “Just once, Alfred. Just once… I’d like someone to call to say…”