This is the first part of a two-part story.
It wasn't his old face.
It wasn't even his old body.
These were thoughts which occurred to the formerly dead man, and would continue to do so, every so often, in the years since his return to life.
A month previously, the angel Zauriel, who sometimes played superhero, had paid a visit to the Swamp Thing, to ask a favor of the spirit of the Earth: the Spectre, representative of God's Wrath, had a new host, and the test that had been planned for him had the possibility of wiping out all life on Earth. Zauriel wished to assure the spirit of the Earth that it would only be temporarily, and asked that the Swamp Thing not interfere. The Swamp Thing granted the request despite his reluctance, though he also kept an eye on the proceedings and made sure that everything was restored just as it had been afterwards.
Zauriel also had a second message to deliver, asking that the Swamp Thing visit the Western Slopes of Heaven, after the Spectre's test was complete, as there was someone who wished to speak to him. That someone was Jim Corrigan, who had been host to the Spectre before Hal Jordan and who had his concerns about how Jordan would handle being the Wrath of God. (Having previously been a superhero, Jordan considered killing to be a no-no, only having done so himself while in the depths of madness, for which he still carried a great deal of guilt. Jordan would waste a lot of his legendary willpower trying to stay the Wrath's bloody hand, which would, in turn, frustrate the Wrath's ability to do the Spectre's job.)
"I give it five, maybe six years -- ten, tops," Corrigan had said, "before the Wrath tries to make some move, give Hal an out, even if it means that the Wrath itself has to return to Limbo for lack of a host."
Of greater concern was what would happen once such an event happened. Jordan's bonding with the Spectre had been a desperate gamble in the midst of a minor crisis that made all too evident not only the level of the Wrath's power, but also how it could be manipulated when it was without a host. Corrigan could take the job back, having worked past the anger that had suited him for it at the time, but he saw the need for a less haphazard plan to ensure that a new host was ready (much as the Swamp Thing's predecessor elementals used to do, whenever their previous champion had retired and the Earth had needed another), and he was willing to risk damnation to ensure it.
Corrigan was asking the Swamp Thing for help for a couple of reasons. The first was that the affairs of elementals were of an order apart from the divine, and thus, the Spectre had no authority to give him any trouble. (Corrigan had discovered this first-hand, to his chagrin, some years back when the Swamp Thing's progression to become the world's spirit had seemed to be an insane attempt to destroy the world.)
The second was that Corrigan needed a quiet way back to the land of the living, without the drawbacks of the usual reincarnation (aging vs. Corrigan's expected timetable, and also not being able to remember his past life would obviate the purpose). Instead, what Corrigan was looking for was something like what the Swamp Thing had done for his former nemesis, Anton Arcane, who, having repented his evil past, had been summoned from Hell in an attempt, late in the game, to convince the elemental to turn back from his stated path of destruction. He'd failed, but his long-time foe had granted a final indulgence, using the powers of the elements he'd already acquired to fashion Arcane a new, nearly human body in which to house his demonic essence.
After the Swamp Thing had achieved his final apotheosis, coming to his senses and realizing that he couldn't destroy the world, he'd used his powers to make Arcane's body fully human and otherwise arrange the right information in the right places to provide him with a legal identity. It struck the Swamp Thing that there was a certain humor in having been asked this favor first by a damned man turned to good, and then by a righteous man looking to sin.
Less funny had been when Corrigan had told him the rest of the plan. While he didn't quite know yet who his target was going to be, he'd come up with a pool of candidates, and they, like he had once been, were all police officers... and they all lived in Gotham, or would soon, as that city worked on rebuilding from having been an earthquake-ravaged No Man's Land for the past year.
On the one hand, the remaining chaos would make it easier to slip in the falsified records. On the other hand, he was insisting on using his real name and face, -- and on getting a job in the Gotham City Police Department, in order to keep a closer eye on his candidates -- all of which meant a high likelihood of scrutiny by the Batman and his team. Ultimately, the Swamp Thing had insisted on a compromise, when it came to what he provided. The first thing was that while he could always go to the dead man's remains and create a body from their genetic pattern, Corrigan would be going into a profession where DNA testing was becoming increasingly prevalent, and leaving traces of a man thought dead several times over would cause problems. Thus, as he did for Anton Arcane a few years previous, what the Swamp Thing crafted from the elements was a body which, though fit and entirely human, was beholden to no particular other person in the world.
Under such circumstances, even a visually identical appearance would technically only be a very close resemblance. As he shaped the body, the Swamp Thing finally managed to convince Corrigan that too close a resemblance, at least at first, would bring him too much scrutiny from Gotham's foremost vigilante and the resources at his disposal. Thus, when Jim Corrigan arrived in Gotham -- now his hometown of record, from which he had fled for the duration of the No Man's Land -- the shape of his face was more like that of a distant relative, and his hair was a dark brown bordering on black.
The Gotham City Police Department had had its losses from the earthquake itself, the departure of those who chose to evacuate when the American government cut the ravaged city off, and the struggles of those who stayed to survive. There were therefore a number of openings on the force in the wake of the recent rebuilding efforts. The road was a bit rocky, with some disputes between those who claimed to represent "OGs" (Original Gothamites) versus "DeeZees" ("deserters" who were returning from evacuation) in matters of who had more of a right to jobs in the city, but between the experience of his previous life, further knowledge gained both from watching the world and talking with others in Heaven, and the efforts that the Swamp Thing had gone to -- which, even within the limits he was comfortable doing so, was still quite a lot -- to provide a background and references that could stand up to scrutiny, Corrigan made it through the hiring process to start as an entry-level Crime Scene Unit technician, working in the Western division.
He kept his nose clean for a while. He knew that amidst the large influx of new police -- most of whom would fall into the corruption which was so rampant that not even the Batman could clean it all up -- his name would probably nonetheless stand out, so he was careful to do his job, do it well, occasionally go to Finnigan's for a beer with the boys, and just generally be as much a distinct person from the old Jim Corrigan as he could without making it seem like he was trying to do so. Fortunately, the Swamp Thing had ways to communicate that didn't register in the surveillance being performed by Gotham's vigilantes, and he was able to keep Corrigan up to date both on the investigations of his background and anything else he needed to know, particularly when it came to any news of the goings-on of the Spectre.
It took a little over a year before the intense scrutiny had passed and he started only being watched as much as any other potentially dirty cop in the city. But by then, he'd also worked his way up the ladder a little bit, and gotten to know a lot of faces, so it wasn't time entirely wasted. Slowly, then, with the information he'd already picked up, he started looking more intently for not only who was on the take and how, but also how he could get in on the action. The Swamp Thing had initially questioned this course of action, but Corrigan insisted that it was part of the plan.
Even without the benefit of his previous experience with dirty cops, it would still almost have been too easy. Hints turned to favors, bribes, alliances, until within a few short years, he was more or less the top CSU tech in the Western division, and a nearly indispensable figure in the flow of graft within the GCPD. He knew that he'd picked up a bit of a reputation for evidence going missing, but he was careful in not getting caught, not doing anything that could be provably traced back to him. No, while all of the corruption that Corrigan came into contact with was well-documented, the hand that did so was his own, and he was also careful never to let slip that he was doing so.
The progress of years had also changed Corrigan physically. Actually, it had been the Swamp Thing that was doing that, tweaking his appearance so gradually that no one who knew him on a regular basis would notice any change. The facial structure had been first, and then the hair, which had lightened from nearly-black through brown to almost auburn and would, if allowed to continue, range into red. Eventually, ideally in time for Corrigan to make his final selection, he would be as close to his old appearance as he would get.
It wasn't his old face.
It wasn't even his old body.
But it was close enough.
Jim Corrigan sat at the bar in Finnigan's and considered his options. Finnigan's was a bit of a dive, as ambience went, but its proximity to the Western division precinct house made it the watering hole of choice for those many cops who were not above lining their pockets by whatever means presented themselves. In that respect, Corrigan had done quite well for himself. People occasionally paid him to either "fail" to find evidence or to make sure it "disappeared" from the chain of custody. He then occasionally sold some of those things in online auctions, which was a double pay-day. Even when he had to spend some of that on keeping the gears of his operation well-oiled, he still made a pretty good haul.
On the other hand, he knew what he had really come back for, and on that score, things were much more uncertain. He wasn't surprised to find that out of the Gotham City PD as a whole, he'd had to keep his candidates narrowed to the Major Crimes Unit, which were both the cream of the crop and as close to incorruptible as cops came in Gotham. He observed them, both on the job and off, when he could manage it, and every so often, he... tested them. Small miscarriages of justice, blended into the overall mix of corrupt police work, to see how one or another of them reacted. He made sure they were small; anything involving a major freak -- like Mr. Freeze's plans to attack Gotham State Univeristy's commencement, or the Joker playing sniper all over town -- got the best actual work that he and his people could do, and sometimes those real cases told him as much as any of his tests might. Of course, he himself wasn't immune to complications... like Josie Mac, for instance.
Detective Josephine "Josie Mac" MacDonald was a recent addition to the MCU. He'd handled evidence for some of her cases before, from her previous assignment in Missing Persons. From what he could tell, she was good police, who gave the job her all as if she were making up for something. Missing Persons didn't have the same level of scuttlebutt as MCU, so she apparently hadn't heard the rumors about him until a month or so ago, and the word he'd been hearing since was that she'd defended him so strongly that new rumors started up, that they were sleeping together. He wouldn't necessarily have minded if they were -- MacDonald was smart, and she was attractive ("for a colored," piped up some small corner of his mind that was still stuck in the 1930s) -- but the fact was that he was already in an increasingly-on-again relationship with Officer Rebecca Mulcahey, and the rumors were putting a bit of a crimp on that. It'd boggled him for a while, until the Swamp Thing informed him that Josie Mac had a low-level super-power -- an empathic sense for where things belonged. Then it made sense, that maybe she could tell that he had "belonged" in Heaven, even if she didn't recognize what that meant. It was still inconvenient, but at least he didn't have to wonder about the whys.
Corrigan wasn't entirely sure just what he was looking for, but he knew when he did or didn't find it, or even found what he didn't want. For example, a glance in the bar's mirror and an overheard grumble of "MCU dyke" told him that Detective Renee Montoya had come in and was headed his way. He'd made a miscalculation with her, a couple of years back, by "losing" the knife that Marty Lipari tried to stab her with while arresting him for the Easley rape case. On its own, it would've been fine, except that it'd allowed Two-Face, last year, to use Lipari as part of a scheme to frame Montoya for murder. Her name had been cleared, but the incident had left her more prone to anger and violence than she had been before -- more so than was really healthy, which made her unsuitable for Corrigan's purposes. That probably wasn't what she was doing here, though...
"Corrigan," she said, sounding not at all happy to be there.
"Detective Montoya," Corrigan replied, not turning from the bar to face her. "You get lost or something? I thought you MCU types were to good to drink with the working class." He took a pull from his bottle of beer.
"I've got some questions for you about the LaMonica crime scene." Johnny LaMonica, a.k.a. the Black Spider, was a costumed freak who, word was, had been hired by the Penguin to make some hits for the mob. A rival group of gangs, the Burnley Town Massive, took exception and had gotten some people together to hunt LaMonica down and kill him. Montoya and her partner, Detective Crispus Allen, had happened to spot the BTM crew storming the building where LaMonica was holed up, and after calling for backup and putting on bulletproof vests, went in after them. LaMonica had managed to take down most of the BTM boys, but Montoya and Allen got the last two survivors first, disarming and cuffing them. They then went to investigate the sound of someone else in the building, which turned out to be LaMonica with a pair of submachine guns. According to the reports Allen and Montoya had filed, LaMonica had shot Montoya several times -- though her vest protected her from anything worse than some cracked ribs and being knocked down -- and was going to finish her off by shooting her in the head, if Allen hadn't appeared just then and emptied his gun into LaMonica.
Corrigan took a drag off of the cigarette he had in his other hand. "You can read my report."
Montoya leaned over his shoulder, one hand on the bar. "Your report has some holes in it. Bullet-sized ones."
At this, Corrigan finally turned to look at Montoya, then back and around to instead look at the guy sitting on his opposite side. "Oh, wow, that's clever. Bullet-sized ones." His tone was amused yet derisive, as though an accusation spoken in such a cheesy manner didn't deserve an answer.
Montoya wasn't having any of it. "There are rounds unaccounted for. Your report says you recovered thirty-three from the scene. But Ballistics only has thirty-two of them." Which, to be fair to Montoya's suspicions, was, indeed, his fault; one of Allen's shots had been a through-and-through, embedding itself in the wall rather than remaining in LaMonica's body, and when he'd heard that one of the two surviving BTM punks had accused Allen of shooting him -- rather than having been winged by one of LaMonica's shots at Montoya, which was much more likely but left no living target for a lawsuit -- Corrigan had quietly absconded with the bullet, throwing Allen's account of the incident into question and simultaneously lining his pockets with the bullet's sale on iBid.
Corrigan looked at Montoya, cigarette in mouth, his face nonchalant. "I miscounted."
"Right," Montoya retorted, arms crossed. "So I guess that means you're not only crooked, you're stupid, as well."
That finally got Corrigan up off the bar stool to fully face Montoya, gathering a small crowd in the process. "I'd be careful what you're saying, Detective. What with you having cracked ribs and no backup."
"You want to take this outside, Jimmy?" Montoya smiled grimly. "I'd be glad to take this outside."
An hour and a half later...
Jim Corrigan hauled himself into his apartment, staggering first to the kitchen for some ice and a bottle of JD, then to the bathroom for the towels, bandages, and other first aid implements. As he got himself patched up as best he could, he reflected on just how long it'd been since the last time he'd been in this much pain. Probably, he concluded, not since sometime in his original life.
That Montoya had confronted him, physically forced him to give up the name of his buyer, wasn't surprising. If there was one worthwhile thing to be had from his earlier mistake with her, it was the predictability that if Allen kept to the moral high road, trusting the rest of the case to make up for the missing round, she would take the violent initiative. That she'd do so in front of witnesses testified to either her certainty that he'd never file an assault charge just to fuck with her, or that she just didn't care.
Of course, he'd actually wanted her to find out. The goal wasn't to kill Allen's career; just give him some trouble and see how he took it. Still, he couldn't just give it up, especially not with everyone watching. So he'd talked a good game, figured he'd put up a good but ultimately token fight... and found himself doing everything he could to keep his head attached to his shoulders. She mightn't have been trying to kill him, but it definitely wouldn't have broken her heart for him to have needed to be in the hospital for a while.
His first aid complete, such as it was, Corrigan closed the medicine cabinet, got a good look at himself in the mirror, and had to laugh, just a little, despite how much it hurt. "Shit. She utterly kicked my ass. I'm gonna be feeling this for days."
Days turned out to actually be a couple of weeks, but on the whole, as far as Corrigan was concerned, it could've been worse. On the one hand, he had a while of lingering pain and a slight setback in his standing among the hierarchy of GCPD corruption. On the other hand, he'd heal, he was still needed enough to do certain deeds that he was able to readily regain his standing, and he still had the ten grand he made from selling the bullet in the first place. Also, it got Allen out of the jackpot and back on the job where he really belonged -- regardless of Corrigan's shenanigans -- and he appeared to have taken the temporary setback much better than Montoya had, which was promising.
Most importantly, Corrigan had became nearly untouchable, since he'd found out that Montoya had been working with someone from Internal Affairs on clearing Allen's name, which meant that Montoya beating him up for information -- a clear case of confession "under duress" -- tainted any evidence that she or IA might level against him. He couldn't actually be any less careful, because certain other people might still be keeping some kind of an eye on him, but it was still good to have IA off of his back.
The lock on the door rattled for a good half-minute before the doorknob turned, letting Jim Corrigan into his apartment. Recognizing that he'd had more to drink than he'd expected to, he stumbled into the kitchen, pouring one glass of water that he downed immediately and then pouring another that, a little steadier now, he took to the living room to work on while he sat and thought.
A couple of the Western division's finest, Officers Tim Munroe and Roger DeCarlo, had been roughing up a pusher for their share of protection money in an alley off of Park Row. Among the stores whose back doors opened to that alley was a bookstore, in whose dumpster a teenage girl was scavenging old issues of National Geographic while this was going on. She was discovered, and in trying to stop her from running away, one of the cops knocked her head into a protruding part of the dumpster, killing her.
As is standard Dirty Cop procedure for cases of accidental killing, they called in "discovering the dead body while on patrol," which neatly explains why they were in the area and gives an out for any pre-existing evidence of their presence at the scene. Ordinarily, everything after that would be easy; they'd get detectives from their division that they could pay off, and everything would be taken care of. Unfortunately, the guys who'd usually get put on the case were stuck out on a call elsewhere at the time, so instead Corrigan's favorites, Montoya and Allen, got called in from Central. They wouldn't get very far -- the "official" word among the Fraternity of Dirty Cops was already that the pusher had killed the girl, no one in the neighborhood was fool enough to step forward as a witness, and Munroe had, this evening, stopped by Corrigan's table at Finnigan's to negotiate the cost of the physical evidence "disappearing" -- but still, the very fact of their investigation would be inconvenient.
The girl. Young. Homeless, probably living on the streets. Park Row. Taken together, those things added up to a possibility, and much as he didn't like it, neither could he ignore it.
"Swamp Thing," he whispered quietly.
A hush fell over the room as the air shifted to accommodate the form that was taking shape. While vaguely man-shaped, it was tall and spindly, a white color almost like fog solidified, more sharp edges and corners than roundness. Red eyes glowed from within sockets sunken entirely into blackness. Once it had fully manifested, streaks of red, blue, green, and grey-brown faded in, tempering the air form with bits of the other elements.
"You called. I am here."
"Yeah. Look, I take it you know about that girl who was killed tonight by those two cops?"
"And about the bribe you took to lose the evidence, yes."
"Yes, yes, yes. You know what that's really about; don't start. Just, was the girl one of Ivy's kids or not?"
"Her name was Dee Dee. And yes, she was." Park Row was so named because it bordered Robinson Park on one side. The park had been taken over by Pamela "Poison Ivy" Isley during the No Man's Land, and, in spite of her usual disregard for and self-disassociation from humanity, took in orphaned and other homeless children, protecting them and otherwise providing them with a mother figure. An arrangement with the Batman had kept her territory secure, in exchange for providing food for the people of the struggling city. There'd been a bit of fuss shortly after the city was reconstructed, in which the mayor threatened to have the park blanketed with defoliant if she didn't give herself and the children up.
When she did, there remained some question of just what she could be charged with. There was still some outstanding jail time from before the quake, of course, but there was no legal jurisdiction in Gotham during NML, and Isley's lawyer had successfully managed to convince the court that she'd done nothing wrong since then other than lashing out at the cops who tried to remove her. Ultimately, Judge Plummer had taken an unorthodox approach, and ruled that if Isley wished, she could serve the remainder of her outstanding prison time in a sort of combined house arrest and community service: She was to remain in the park, and see to its health and maintenance. Visitors were to be allowed to use the park freely, without being attacked. (She would be allowed to eject vandals, but only with the minimum force necessary to do so, and no killing.) Judge Plummer's greatest surprise was in ruling that Isley would further be allowed to take in and care for homeless children in the park, as long as any of them who did so were free to leave again if when when they chose, and as long as they each made periodic check-ins with Child Protective Services to ensure their health and safety.
"Shit. Those two assholes are scum who deserve a messy death, but dirty or not, if Ivy goes out hunting to kill them, that creates a mess for a lot of people. It'd scarcely raise a ripple if they disappeared into the park, but..." Corrigan could tell that there was something in the Swamp Thing's facial expression, minimal as that could be, indicating disapproval. "And don't even start; if you were so sure that your prophesied grand advancement of mankind didn't need some pruning now and again, you wouldn't have agreed to bring me back in the first place."
The Swamp Thing raised his hand. "All right, fine. I think I know how to handle it. What's the bin number for Dee Dee's effects?"
"If you get paid to retrieve it, don't let on what case it really goes with. That's probably as much as you have to worry about."
With that, the Swamp Thing's form dissipated, leaving the apartment's air still once more. Corrigan finished his glass of water and staggered off to bed.
Detective Bill Kenzie was a dirty cop on the Narcotics detail in the Western division. Blond, bespectacled, and sporting a thin moustache leading to a goatee, he favored Hawaiian shirts and tailored slacks for his tall, thin frame. At the moment, that frame was squeezed in a booth at a nightclub on Finger Street, along with a woman he'd just met and, from how close they'd gotten already, figured he had a shot with tonight.
"What's your name, darlin'?" He grinned, mustering all the charm he could.
"Oh, I don't think that's really all that important," the woman said, caressing the side of Kenzie's face with one hand, letting him get the scent of the perfume on her wrist. "Do you?"
Kenzie's eyes defocused a little for a moment. "Nnnno. I guess not."
"Mmmm, that's right. Although... what would you say if I said--" She leaned in closer, until their lips met in a kiss. When she pulled back, he continued to sit there, a bit slack. "--that I was an agent for Black Mask, and had a job that needed to be done?"
Kenzie tried to put on a playful face, but his thoughts were feeling pretty fuzzed in at the edges, even beyond what he'd had to drink. Instead, he sounded more sleepy than anything else as he replied, "Awww, you seem like much too nice a girl for that."
"Well, that's sweet of you to say." The woman smiled. "In fact, I'm sure that I'm such a nice girl, that it'll be important to you to do whatever I ask you to. Isn't that right?"
"Mmmm... Uhhh... Yeah, baby. Whatever you need." He fought through the haze to put on a cheesy grin.
The smile on Poison Ivy's face, though, was anything but cheesy. Why the Swamp Thing, having gone to the trouble to approach her about Dee Dee's death, was not only giving her a pass on her seeking justice, but had even suggested this plan for doing so, she didn't know, but she wasn't about to overlook the opportunity.
Instead, sure that her control over him was secure, she started explaining to the Narcotics detective that she was hiring him to get some Black Mask goons' effects from evidence bin #4678, and that whether he knew it or not, he needed to find ways to both give the job to Officers Munroe and DeCarlo and let them be the ones to do the handoff in the park. That they'd never be heard from again would be no concern to him, since he'd get his money and any investigation into their whereabouts would only dredge up his indiscretions as well as the officers'. Soon, Dee Dee's death would be avenged.
"Wow. Will you look at that?"
Jim Corrigan was standing on the roof of his apartment building, looking out through binoculars at the chaos breaking out all over the city. There were fires and sirens sounding and gunfire everywhere, twinkling in the nighttime landscape.
"I've been watching it."
Corrigan had been alone on the rooftop before, but looking away from his binoculars and to his right, he saw the Swamp Thing there. "I'm sure you have." Returning to his binoculars, he continued, "Personally, I'm waiting for them to call in crime scene techs to help as riot cops or something. Just what happened, anyway?"
"Well, I assume you remember two weeks ago, when I told you that the Spectre had arranged to bring Hal Jordan back to life?"
"Five years, just like I told you. God, I'm good. And whoa! Big conflagration at Cathedral Square. You're sure you weren't putting me on, though, about Parallax really being some sort of giant yellow space bug of fear?"
"No, Jim, I wasn't kidding, though I wish I was. Anyway, two hours ago, a previously unknown-of black diamond appeared in one of the cells of Arkham Asylum."
Corrigan closed his eyes and groaned at this news. Black diamonds meant the involvement of Eclipso, who had been God's first agent of vengeance, until he overstepped his bounds and God cast him down, binding him into a black diamond and creating the Spectre to take Eclipso's place. The diamond had been discovered some years ago, and others popped up every so often in various places around the world. Any one of those black diamonds could, under certain circumstances, allow Eclipso to possess whoever was holding it, turning them into an emboidment of their anger and need for revenge. The enmity created by being shoved aside had caused Eclipso to clash with the Spectre on several occasions.
"I suppose it's too much to ask that this is just a coincidence, right? Eclipso resurfacing two weeks after the Spectre relinquished his mortal host and had to return to Limbo?"
The Swamp Thing continued to stare out over the city, looking out not just with those eyes but with an awareness that went beyond mere senses. "The Parliament of Trees once told me that coincidence was the pattern of the world's bark. At the time, they were referring more to how they engineered my creation, as they had those who came before me, but I've since found the saying to be true in the conventional sense as well. No, this is probably not a coincidence."
"Shit. Okay, so black diamond shows up in some psycho's cell... uh, just whose cell did it end up in?"
"Not the Joker's, if that's what you're dreading. No, instead, the diamond appeared in Jean Loring's cell." Loring had once been known as a high-powered lawyer and, for a few years, the wife of Dr. Ray "The Atom" Palmer. Last year, she'd suffered a mental breakdown and, using some of her ex-husband's size-changing technology, attacked and accidentally killed Sue Dibny, wife of Ralph "The Elongated Man" Dibny. Once the truth had come out, she'd been committed to Arkham Asylum; her doctors' prognosis was by no means optimistic.
"I... guess that's better. Anyway, she picks up the diamond, Eclipso possesses her, and together thay bust Arkham wide open on their way out the door. That about right?"
"More or less. Looking for anything in particular?"
"Yeah. Where are my two favorite cops?"
The Swamp Thing quirked a brow in thought. "They've just made it into Xenon."
Corrigan moved to a different part of the roof, looking out with his binoculars. They were high-quality gear, the best that crooked money could buy, with a variety of optical and digital tricks for high magnification and night-vision modes. His apartment building wasn't especially tall, but its location managed to provide a surprisingly wide view of the city.
"Y'know, I've considered trying that place out, but I'm afraid that Montoya's girlfriend would abuse her chef's privileges and poison my meal. Ah, yeah, there they are. Not looking so good, either. They're on foot?"
"Their regular car broke down, and then the patrol car they commandeered caught a grenade at Cathedral Square. After that, with all of the other emergency vehicles busy throughout the city, they had no choice but to walk."
"Man. Rough night for them, then."
"Oh, and you might like to know that Crispus found out, earlier this evening, about just how Renee got his name cleared. He's really not happy that she and Internal Affairs ruined their chances of a case against you just to save him."
"Well, shit. Guess I should keep an eye out, then, be ready to see how he responds to it. Oh, wait, he's coming out. Looks like Chef Hernandez gave him the keys to her car." Corrigan stood and watched as Detective Allen pulled out of the restaurant's parking lot and took off, making note of his direction, then turned back to the Swamp Thing. "Anything much going on north of here? Past 92nd Street, say?"
"No, it's fairly quiet. Why?"
Corrigan grinned. "I knew it. Enough of the city blows up to make it seem like the end of the world, and all he wants is to get home to his wife and kids." Letting the binoculars drop to hang on the strap around his neck, he started walking towards the door to the stairwell down from the roof. "I need to be there to see what happens. You'll be around, if I need to talk to you?"
The Swamp Thing had already dissipated his form, but his voice nonetheless carried where he needed it to. "Of course. I am everywhere in the world, after all."
The car that Crispus Allen had borrowed from his partner's girlfriend was a station wagon, big and boxy. It could go pretty fast, and indeed, Allen took it up into the nineties once the streets were empty enough. By comparison, though, for times like these, Jim Corrigan had a high-powered motorcycle, which was able to take him to those speeds and beyond far sooner. That, plus a bit of accumulated experience doing this very thing (albeit not usually at such speeds) allowed Corrigan to not only get to Allen's house and take up a hidden observing position before the other man arrived home, but do so on a different route for long enough to get sufficiently far ahead that Allen never even knew that he was in a race with anyone or anything other than his own anxieties.
Corrigan pulled out his binoculars again, focusing them on the windows in the Allen home. Inside, Crispus' family -- wife Dore, and their two sons, Jake and Mal -- had been watching the TV, and showed obvious concern for the possibility that he was out there, possibly injured or worse. Crispus arrived, the wagon's tires screeching a bit on the driveway with his sudden stop. He rushed into the house, where his family gathered to him quickly. Corrigan couldn't hear anything -- Hell of a night to forget the directional microphone, he thought to himself -- but it was obvious just from watching that the main order of the day was hugs and expressions of concern all around.
Once all of the hugging was done, the facial expressions of the Allen family made it apparent that they were asking one another what they should do, in the midst of all the chaos in the city. Dore took the initiative, holding her sons' hands and pulling them down with her to kneel in prayer. Crispus, however, stood there dumbfounded. Corrigan knew, from previous instances of spying on them, that Crispus and Dore had recently been having fights over his decision to stop attending church. It was never said out loud, but it was increasingly obvious that he was either having a crisis of faith or had abandoned it altogether.
Thus, it caught Corrigan rather by surprise when, a few seconds later, Crispus also got down onto his knees. Corrigan took his eyes from the lenses of his binoculars to eye the equipment itself skeptically, then looked through them again, as though disbelieving his first glance.
"Is he doing what I think he's doing?"
The Swamp Thing's voice was quiet, speaking from the tree that was part of Corrigan's cover. "He's praying, just as they are."
"Is he serious about it, or is he just humoring them?"
After a short pause, the Swamp Thing replied, "It sounds quite serious. He's made it home, safe and sound, and his family is unhurt. He's chosen to take it as a sign, and is thanking God accordingly."
Corrigan let the binoculars hang from their neck strap, gazing wonderingly at nothing in particular. "Well. Son of a bitch. He's still got some faith after all." He grinned, then, in grim satisfaction, at his bad task that would nonetheless be done well. "Perfect."
Notes for Part 1:
- Jordan's first test as the Spectre. "Legends of the DC Universe" #33-36 took place between the end of the "Day of Judgment" event and the beginning of "The Spectre" v4. It wasn't explicitly stated as a test, but it does involve a bad guy who, having first managed a distraction big enough to keep the Spectre locked away for a little while, goes on to wipe the world clean of life. My problems with how the story has Jordan win out go far beyond the scope of this note, so suffice to say that in Swampy-verse, Hal is called upon to be God's instrument of reconstruction, and the true test is whether he can avoid the hubris of Parallax and only restore the world to what it was, without going so far as he'd wanted to during "Zero Hour."
- Interestingly, the description of Corrigan's slowly-changing appearance mirrors events in the "Gotham Central" title. He starts out looking very like the old Jim Corrigan, except with brown hair that slowly becomes red over the course of the series. According to "Infinite Crisis", the new Corrigan was a Superboy-Prime time-punch side effect, but I think this is a much more interesting explanation, if I do say so myself.
- This whole scene, or at least the outward action of it, is directly lifted from GC #24. The cases involving Mr. Freeze and the Joker are actual cases that made up earlier GC storylines. Josie Mac, and the degree to which she defends Corrigan until his corruption finally comes to light, is a background element of the series that's never actually explained. It should come as no surprise that Corrigan's wanting Montoya to win and get the information from him is my own invention, though the immunity he gets from it isn't.
- The story of Dee Dee, the police corruption surrounding her death, and Poison Ivy killing the cops responsible come from GC #32. The post-NML fuss with making Ivy give up the park is from "Detective Comics" #751-752. How she returned to the park and caring for the children is my own invention, but I like the idea that she's invested herself in ways of caring for and nurturing life that don't involve lashing out at the world. (I like it enough, in fact, to declare the events of "Hush" and its follow-ups in "Gotham Knights" to not be part of Swampy-verse history, because they complicate things too much without giving enough in return. Anything Swampy knows about Hush comes from his job of observing other universes.) It's not explained in the comic just how Ivy arranges getting Kenzie to give those two cops a job that put them in the park with Dee Dee's stuff -- that's also my invention, and carries with it the idea that she's learned better control over her skin pigmentation and toxicity over the years (the latter especially, for the sake of the kids she lives with).
- The massive riots come more or less directly from GC's "Infinite Crisis" tie-in issue. Whereas that issue is part of the end of "Day of Vengeance" event, here, it's the beginning of same. Notable differences beyond that: Rather than Alex Luthor and the Psycho-Pirate putting it there, the black diamond instead manifests on its own (basically because Eclipso wants to fuck with the Spectre), and this version of the story doesn't mysteriously forget that there was already a team whose very purpose was to safeguard the best weapon against the Spectre and be ready to act if he ever went apeshit again. (Also, yes, unfortunately, I'm including at least some form of "Identity Crisis" in Swampy-verse history, if only because of the knock-on effects it has on more recent events, such as Jean Loring being in Arkham. Deathstroke does not get to pwn the JLA all on his own, though.)