Batman #5: "The Case Of The Honest Crook!"

Batman #5
"The Case Of The Honest Crook!"
(Spring, 1941)

Story: Bill Finger/Bob Kane
Art: Bob Kane & Jerry Robinson
Inks: George Roussos

There was a time when justice was blind, when the long arm of the law points its finger at an innocent man.  This is a story of a man who almost became a criminal, but for the Dynamic Duo.  For it was they who cleared him and found the true culprit in "The Case of The Honest Crook!"

A scream pierces through the darkness of midnight.  A petty thief flees the scene of the crime, when a costumed figure steps from the shadows.

The run is short, the tackle is low, and the caped figure brings down the fleeing thief.  As the Caped Crusader is about to punch the thief, something in the young man's eyes stays his fist, for they indicate a troubled soul.  The store owner tells how the crazy crook only took six dollars, and not one cent more.  Why would a crook only take six dollars?  It turns out that he's not really a crook and needed the money for his sick wife.  No sooner are the words spoken aloud, that the boy hides his face in his hands.  Two years ago, Joe Sands had a good job at a garage, and was engaged to be married.  His girl, Ann, didn't want to get married until they had a thousand dollars in the bank.  All was well until the night he was alone in the garage, and an automobile came racing up the ramp.

Three thugs came out of the auto, and one of them stepped over to Joe.  With the police on their tail, and their big job completed, they want to keep the hot car in the garage for the night.  If the attendant keeps his mouth shut, he'll be given two hundred dollars when they return for the car.  With the two hundred dollars, Joe and Ann could be married.  The next morning finds Sands telling his fiancee the good news.  When she is told the truth, Ann refuses the money.  Joe promises not to take the money, and when the gangster arrives for the car, the attendant promises to keep his mouth shut.  This was not the end.  After dropping off a customer, Joe's car is sideswiped, and he recognizes one of the men as the hood who had approached him earlier.  A bottle of liquor is poured over the dazed attendant, the gas is stepped on, and the automobile goes speeding through the streets.

With Joe unconscious, there is no one to stop the car, until it crashes into a store.  A policeman pulls the dazed driver from the wreckage.  The judge who tries the case decides to make an example of the drunk driver, and sentences the innocent man to two years in prison.  When he gets out of prison, Ann is waiting for him.  Their savings is gone from paying for the damage done to the car and to the store.  Joe Sands wants to get revenge on the hoodlum who framed him, but Ann wants none of that, and agrees to marry him.  Joe Sands and Ann Davis are married, with the former attendant finding himself a new job.  Their troubles were far from over.  Learning of Joe's prison record, his boss fires him.  With every job, once his past record was uncovered, he knew that he was fired.  Pretty soon, Joe couldn't hold any job for long, and the couple are almost broke.  The day came when Ann became sick and Joe needed money for the prescription medicine.

The doctor received their last two dollars.  Joe didn't know what he was going to do about the medicine.  When he learns that the cost was six dollars, he decides to shove his hand in his pocket, and pretend he has a gun.  Luckily for the young man, the store owner decides to forget about it.  Batman is interested in the hood named Matty.  His snakelike appearance and sleek clothings make him stand out in the underworld.  After giving Joe some money to tide him over, and getting his address, the Caped Crusader races through the city streets.  Matty Link is a member of the Smiley Sikes' Mob.  As a thug stands watch before Smiley's lair, he feels a steel grip encircling his throat.  The Batman pays a social call on Smiley Sikes.

Sikes is impressed that the costumed figure has decided to face him on his own turf.  Since Matty Link was the one who framed Joe Sands, it must have been Smiley who arranged the frame.  Sikes doesn't like questions and decides to have his boys put a stop to any further ones.  As the mob leader takes his seat, the boys raise their blackjacks to the head of the seated figure before them.  At the last moment, the Cowled Crusader moves his head to the left, and delivers a smashing kick to his assailant's jaw.  Now out of the chair, the Batman unleashes his fists upon the armed thugs.

One thug is taken for a ride through the air, and lands atop his boss.  The Caped Crusader apologizes for the damage and wishes them good night.  Minutes later, Matty Link arrives at Smiley's.  He learns that the Batman has been asking about him and Joe Sands.  Matty decides to get out of town for a while.

Once he has left, Smiley decides that Matty should take a permanent vacation.  The following morning finds Bruce Wayne reading about Matty Link's shooting.  The millionaire playboy wants his ward to search Link's room, and find something linking him with Smiley Sikes and Joe Sands.  Bruce plans on paying a visit to his good friend, Commissioner Gordon, at headquarters, and learn what he can.  That night, a small figure makes its way up the fire escape of Matty Link's room at the boarding house.  The Boy Wonder is not the only one searching the late Matty's room.  The two thugs are there to search for anything which links Smiley with the Sands kid.  When they see a shadow on the fire escape, the lights are turned off, and the two duck into a closet.  As Robin opens the window, he does not see the large figure about to hit him on the head with a gun butt.

At Wayne Manor, Bruce Wayne has been waiting for the Boy Wonder's return.  Donning his costume, the Caped Crusader drives the Batmobile through the city streets.  Now outside the door to Matty Link's room, he dreads opening the door.  A turn of the knob and the door swings open.  The light from the hall reveals the small figure on the floor.  The boy's head is all bloody.  He has been clubbed to death.  The Batman, a man who has faced many dangers, a man of great strength and willpower, now bends his head, and weeps.  The sound of anguished sobs are torn from him.  Slowly he straightens.  His features tighten.  His eyes burn.  His mouth a smooth line.  At this moment, the Caped Crusader knows rage, and woe to the underworld who are about to become the victims of his vengeance.

As he places the boy in the Batmobile, he sees that Robin is still alive, and must be taken to a doctor.  The persistent knocking on his front door wakes the doctor from his bed.  Seeing the injured boy, and hearing the insistent tone of the masked man, the doctor decides to operate.  Not because of threats, but because it is the sworn duty of his profession.  The Caped figure vows to return, but first, he's got to see a man named Smiley about a few things.  The roar of the Batmobile's motor is heard, as it makes its way through the streets.  At Smiley's lair, the mob boss hears about what his men have done to Robin.  As Sikes figures that the Batman will stay away, one of his boys sees the Batmobile pulling up outside.  Window glass breaks as a single bullet tears its way into the Caped Crusader's shoulder, but bullets will not be enough to stop the Batman.  Smiley Sikes frantically yells orders at his henchmen.  As soon as they see the door knob turn, they are to fire their guns through the door.

The Caped Crusader is not one to wait for doors.  The crash leaves splintering wood in its wake, as broad shoulders force their way through.  It is certain that Smiley's boys will not be forgetting this day anytime soon.  Another bullet finds its way into Batman's shoulder, but it is nothing to him now.  The crime fighter has discarded his bulletproof vest for greater freedom of movement.  Now, the Caped Crusader is fighting like mad.  Seizing one of the hapless hoods, the Batman uses him as a club against his crooked cronies.  A bullet hums past his ear, reminding the Cowled figure why he has come.

A bullet skids off of the Caped figure's ribs, but he does not slow his stride.  As Smiley Sikes laughs, the Batman is determined to wipe the smile from his face.  Seeing the grim figure before him, Sikes is unable to steady his aim, and fires hastily.  The mob boss is seized by the throat, and dragged to his feet.  The Caped Crusader delivers a vicious uppercut to Smiley's chin.  Smiley is no longer smiling when the Batman unleashes a riotous right cross.  The Dark Knight wants a written confession from Sikes about how Joe Sands was framed or else.  Not wanting to be hit again, Smiley complies.  With the confession in hand, the Caped Crusader drags Smiley Sikes along the floor of his office.  Not one man dares to intervene.  They have seen the fierce, unrelenting nature of the masked man in their midst.

At police headquarters, Smiley Sikes and his written confession are delivered simultaneously.  Even the authorities are unable to halt the Batman.  They, too, have seen the terrible determination driving him on.  When he learns from the doctor that the Boy Wonder will live, the Caped Crusader yields to his injuries, and faints.  As he extracts the three bullets from his unusual patient, the doctor notes his amazing stamina.  The following day finds the Dynamic Duo recovering from their injuries, and doing well in the doctor's care.  He had been tempted to peer beneath their masks, but did not.  Their identities are still a secret and their effectiveness as crimefighters remain unimpaired.  The two patients have visitors waiting outside.  Thanks to the Dynamic Duo, Joe Sands has been cleared of any wrongdoing, and Ann will recover.  The store owner has agreed to give the nice boy a job in his store.  Both the Batman and Robin smile at the end result of "The Case Of The Honest Crook!"

"The Case Of The Honest Crook!" was reprinted in Batman #241 (May, 1972).

Steve Chung
"The Case Of The Honest Review!"