In the first three months of his self-imposed mission, Bruce learns there are three kinds of criminals in this city. The first kind are the most common; people who have no job and no money and no way to feed their kids. They steal to eat and he finds that he has more sympathy with them than he ever thought he would. They're desperate people for the most part, let down by their government and a system that doesn't help them.
The second type are career criminals. These mostly consist of kids who grew up in the families of the first type of crook, disillusioned with life and hooked into street gangs as a means to help support their family. Once within the ranks, they find an identity for themselves and a chance to make a name. It becomes a way of life and as they get deeper into it, the crimes worsen.
Bruce has less sympathy for this type of criminal.
His Chinese is rudimentary at best but one afternoon he notices something outside a school and he manages to ask a young woman (with the help of hand gestures and some miming) why there are so many people hanging around in cars who are quite clearly not parents. Drugs is the answer he was expecting and yes, he gets it in the form of the woman mimicking a needle in her arm. He nods once and turns to look at the waiting dealers when she says something else, something he doesn't understand. He looks back but she seems unwilling to help with sign language this time and just repeats what she said. Bruce looks at her helplessly until she taps him on the arm and points.
There's a group of girls in untidy uniforms leaving the school. One of them is called over by a man in a car with blacked out windows. She smiles and goes to talk to him; this is clearly someone she's met before. Just as clearly, he's trying to cajole her into the vehicle and she's laughing, thinking it's a game and eventually returning safely to her friends. But Bruce sees the look on the man's face as they leave and the way he bends to speak to a colleague in the back of the car. The next time some girls come from the school, the scene is repeated and this time, a girl does get in. She does not laugh or smile, she has no friends nearby to call her over and ask where she's going.
What gets Bruce is the way that underneath the fear on her face, there's a kind of resignation. It's obvious in the way her hand clutches the strap of her schoolbag across her chest as if trying to protect herself, but she doesn't try to argue about her fate for the rest of the day. Or night or next few days, for all Bruce knows. If a child is a prostitute to make money, he's guessing that the folks at home aren't going to be knocking the doors of the police station down to report her gone.
The gangs do what they want, mostly unchecked. It seems ironic to him that all these thousands of miles away from Gotham, nothing is really different. Which brings him to the third type of criminal; the ones who do it for fun.
He sees it the day he comes out of his cheap hostel and cuts through an alleyway, only to discover the mutilated body of a homeless man. No Triad symbols on him to mark this as a gang killing, it's simply gratuitous. He sees it in an abandoned warehouse near the docks, where men go to street fight and show off their martial arts prowess. The bets get larger whenever certain fighters appear because there are fewer willing opponents; when these men fight, they usually don't stop at a mere knockout. They just like the sound of breaking bones.
He sees it when he watches places where men in expensive leather jackets and dark glasses converge, with guns on open display as they protect the leaders entering restaurants, brothels, casinos. The bosses, the untouchables. The people who organise all this and sit back to reap the profits while everyone else suffers.
Night after night, Bruce returns to his filthy bunk and lies awake, muscles aching from the jujitsu he's learning and a day of trying to find ways to eat, wondering how he could come so far only to find things are exactly the same. But what was he expecting? He's not sure.
What he is sure about is that he can't sit back and watch forever. But also, that if he's not smart and just jumps in with two feet, he'll end up dead quicker than a person can blink. He has to remind himself that he's here to learn and that the idea is to go home eventually. He can't change the world when he doesn't even have a name.
There may be three types of criminal but there are many more ways to deal with them. The thing he has to figure out, once he's worked out how to move among them, is what to do afterwards. And already there's a nagging suspicion that that isn't going to be as straightforward as he'd hoped. Here, he's just a lost gweilo and a poor one at that. In Gotham, he's Bruce Wayne; rich, famous and with a past everyone knows...completely hamstrung by his position and the things that are expected of him.
There are nights when this whole thing seems impossible. But every time his thoughts turn defeatist, he hears that voice
(you always fear what you don't understand)
and feels the now instantaneous gorge of rebellion that flares in him at the thought of ever being afraid again. And then it's alright. Then he knows he's doing the right thing.
He just has to be patient.