Batman #20 - Story 2

"The Trial of Titus Keyes"

October 13, 1943

Based on the description on the splash page for this story, it sounds like we're getting the Batman version of Roshomon. It's a tale of a trial and we're getting various witnesses testimony and I have to wonder will their be discrepancies where we have to work out the truth. Let's get into it.

Titus Keyes doesn't look like much when you see the DA point to him and accuse him of being a safe robber and a gangster. The chief of detectives is called first to testify. He tells how it didn't matter the type of safe, Keyes was able to get into it. He points out the only clue they had was the unique form of entry to each point of robbery, the mark of Slick Fingers who had broke jail two days before the crimes began.

Next up is the night watchman at a factory that the two broke into. He caught them in the act, but they knocked him out and tied him up. When he came to, he saw they had the safe open and were emptying it. He managed to trip the alarm which alerted Batman and Robin. They are knocked out by one of the two and when they come to, the thieves are long gone. A quick inquiry reveals that they plan to illegally salvage the loot from the safe of a downed ship.

Next the night beat cop, Patrick Aloysius Michael O'Brien, (I love that name.) is called to the stand. He was by the waterfront of the night in question. There, he met Batman and Robin who asked for his help in taking on the crew of a nearby salvage boat. After rounding up the crooks there, Batman took a bathysphere down to Slick Fingers who was breaking into the safe in the downed ship in his own bathysphere. At first, it seems like the two were going to fight, but Batman manages to subdue the man by threatening him with an acetylene torch. In the effort to bring the two underwater devices aboard, the crooks get away save for one, a member of Slick's gang.

They call up Commissioner Gordon next as the defense attorney feels the trial is more about Slick than about his client. But Gordon relates how he spoke about the case with Batman and how was it the safe cracked never were damaged, as though the thief knew the combination. And then they realized all the safes were from the Titus Keyes company and that Keyes had already spent time in jail for theft of a safe he had installed at an insurance company. Gordon makes the assumption that Keyes hired Slick and his men to take the fall and then shared the proceeds with them.

And when Batman and Gordon go to Keyes place, they already find the chief of detectives arresting Keyes as there is evidence of some of the stolen loot. But it's too easy for Batman as it seems a little careless for Keyes to just leave stolen merchandise out for anyone to see. It explains his absence in the courtroom as he's out looking for evidence to prove Keyes' innocence.

The defense begins their questioning with Keyes himself. He explains how he stole the money that got him first arrested as he needed to money following the market crash of 1929. (Nice timely reference there.). Next, they call the owner of a laundry who laundered Noodle's shirts. He claims he knew nothing of Noodle's doings. Finally, Batman arrives with a young shoeshine kid who helped him capture two of Slick's gang which led Batman to a piece of paper with the combination numbers of all the safes.

It turns out the combinations were in Slick's possession. He got them when he was Keyes' roommate under his real name in disguise. He learned about the list when he was Keyes' cellmate. In the end, a great little story. Not Roshomon inspired as more as just a connect the dots story, but one that works.

What's next? We're on to story three, Citizens!

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