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"Devil's Bargain": While walking the streets of Gotham City, Bruce Wayne checks in with Alfred Pennyworth regarding the owner of the land on which he discovered the abandoned van the night before, while pursuing the [[Jervis Tetch

Quote1.png You can be whoever you want to be beneath that mask. That's why we stay hidden, isn't it? So we're safe and armored. So we're accountable to no one. So we can do... anything. we. want. Isn't that what we're about, you and me? Above all else...? Not being known? Quote2.png

Batman: The Dark Knight (Volume 2) #18 is an issue of the series Batman: The Dark Knight (Volume 2) with a cover date of May, 2013.

Synopsis for "Devil's Bargain"

While walking the streets of Gotham City, Bruce Wayne checks in with Alfred Pennyworth regarding the owner of the land on which he discovered the abandoned van the night before, while pursuing the Mad Hatter. While Alfred explains via phone that the land is, of course, owned by one of the many sub corporations owned ostensibly by the Mad Hatter, Bruce spots his ex-girlfriend Natalya having lunch with another man, and is shaken for a moment. After Bruce recovers, Alfred adds that the subsidiary that owns that land also owns a stake in a night club in Devil's Square called the Wild Hare.

That evening, Batman breaks into the club after hours, where he finds Deever Tweed, the manager, counting cash. Bitterly, Tweedle-Dee looks up at him and reminds him that they met before, when he was working a bank job as lookout. Batman had kicked him right in the face, fracturing his palate, sinus bones, orbital sockets, the bridge of his nose, and cracked his skull at the temples. It had taken eleven hours to fix it in surgery, which required seven titanium plates, thirty-two screws, and forced his jaw wired shut for two months. Hearing this, Batman regards the man blankly before adopting an angry tone, reminding that two tellers were shot and killed during the robbery, and warning that if he ever catches Tweedle-Dee on the wrong side of the law again, he will break his jaw clean off.

Despite having palmed Tweed's cellphone during his outburst, the criminal managed to wipe it before Batman could learn anymore than that the G.P.S. had been near a cell-tower next to an abandoned factory - which certainly is one of the nerve centres for Hatter's operations. After ambushing the workers there, he discovers some high-power weapons, and tea. Analysis finds that the tea contains a number of hallucinogenics, poisons, and mood enhancers, which, if ingested could cause preternatural strength, heightened pain tolerance, and violent hallucinations. The Hatter obviously combines certain teas in order to suit his mood or needs - a dangerous version of Batman's own utility belt. In his investigation, Batman fails to notice that the Hatter is there, and he is taken quite by surprise when the madman clocks him upside the head with a steel pipe.

Too slow to catch Tetch after his escape, Batman resolves to have the warehouse scoured by the Gotham City Police Department, but as he is making his way back to the Batmobile, he gets knocked in the head again, this time by Catwoman, whose weapon of choice happens to be a hubcap from the Batmobile itself, embarrassing as it is to be caught red-handed. She attempts to seduce him, but he remains cold, prompting her to deduce that he has another woman in his life - though she doesn't care who. He denies it, and she explains that whatever he might think, their relationship is about not having to be responsible for their actions - that's why they wear the masks. They can do anything they want. Even so, he drives off, leaving her unsatisfied.

Meanwhile, the Mad Hatter checks in on the progress of his plans, with sets painted, costumes made, and casting completed. With all of that done, all that remains to be done is to find the woman for the most important role; the role of Alice.

Years ago, the school dance was approaching, and Jervis Tetch was worried that the fact that his friends were outgrowing him quickly was going to make him undesirable. His parents attempted to help him by giving him platform shoes and a top-hat to wear, but in the end, he decided that he would have faith in his friends' ability to accept him as he is. However, when he asked Alice to the dance, she responded that they would all be going together as a group. Feeling rejected, he begged his parents to take him to the doctor to see if something could be done about his height. The doctor explained that his stature was in part caused by a testosterone deficiency, and after some prodding, he agreed to test some experimental testosterone enhancers on Jervis - but, he warned, it might not work. Worse, it might have permanent negative effects on mental stability. Jervis insisted on getting the treatment, and that night, his father took him aside to ask that he think long and hard about the decision, reminding that he and Jervis' mother loved him for who he was, not how tall he was. At the dance, Jervis approached Alice and tried to hold her hand, but she pulled it away, explaining that she didn't like him in that way, and he spent the dance alone and dejected.

Now, Jervis makes his way to Alice's house, where she now lives with her husband and children in middle-age. Jervis offers her jaded husband just $100 dollars for the opportunity to speak with Alice alone, and gleefully, the man runs off with the children. When he sees her, she is older. A smoker now, she has bags under her eyes, and her figure has changed. Jervis reminds her that, once upon a time, she was perfect. She responds that that was until she grew up - something they had all done, except him. Disappointed with her, and knowing he will not get to have her back the way she was, he resolves to put her out of her misery, and beats her to death with an iron.

Bruce, meanwhile, is missing Natalya terribly. He recalls how, as a boy, he had been given an assignment to describe what his parents want for his future. Martha Wayne told him, then, that what she wanted most for him was for him to be really known by another person. In order for that to happen, he would have to overcome the fear that prevents people from showing all of their vulnerable parts of themselves to another person. But, she assured him, when that happens, it is the most wonderful thing in the world. He had not done that for Natalya, but he would, now.

Though it is late, Bruce rushes to Natalya's door and though she warns him that she doesn't want to play the game with him anymore, he assures her that he wants to show her who he really is. Though he can't have a do-over, he wants to do things differently. This catches Natalya's attention, and he drags her to the window, and leaps right out of it onto the waiting Batplane. As he leads her inside it, and flies her back to the Batcave, he explains that this is who he is, finally stopping at the Batsuit, so that she knows it all.

Having killed the woman he intended for the role, the Mad Hatter holds auditions for the part of Alice, and finds them all wanting.

Back when he was younger, he had struggled with whether or not to risk mental instability for the sake of gaining adulthood. In tears, he eventually took the first pill.

Appearing in "Devil's Bargain"

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