Nightwing shoved Cly's bloody back and the cuffed man stumbled across the marble floor of the City Hall rotunda. A circle of cops broke apart to stare at the cut and bruised man. "Somebody lock this asshole up where he can't reach any more little girls." Two officers grabbed Cly's arms and pulled him away. "We think he killed a woman who died at the East Eighteenth Street Clinic with this gun." He set it into a third police officer's gloved hand. "Where's Commissioner Gordon?"
"He's in the Mayor's office, fourth floor."
He nodded and found the elevator. The Mayor's office was across from the elevator. Gordon, Stephens, and the precinct captains surrounded a table set up in the receptionist's waiting room. He knocked on the glass wall before leaning on the door jamb. "I just brought you Roger Cly. Ninety-nine percent sure he raped a little girl, and suspect he killed a woman who died at the East Eighteenth Street Clinic. Catwoman has the little girl. I know low priority compared to the rest of the city, but I couldn't leave him out on the streets."
"No point in saving the city from Bane to let the criminals take over again," Gordon said. "They closed Washington Tunnel again."
"What? Why? Aren't they tired of MREs yet?"
"Near as we can tell," the captain of the Fourteenth Precinct said, "the runners from Bane's Army cut off the citizens leaving, realized the National Guard was on the other bank of the North River, and panicked."
"Did anyone get hurt?" Nightwing asked as he moved to the table covered by the largest map of Gotham he had ever seen.
The captain shrugged. "The citizens scattered by the time we got a scout up there. The Blackgate Boys barricaded themselves in an apartment building in Grant with hostages and shoot at anyone approaching the tunnel."
"So how do we clear them out?"
Gordon adjusted his glasses. "Hopefully, you can help with that. We're out of bullets and the mercenaries looted all supplies in the city."
"Can't the feds airlift us supplies?"
Stephens snorted. "They aren't convinced we have control of the city."
"They've locked down Gotham Bridge and we don't have any boats. The people will run out of food before they sneak more Special Forces in or decide to invade." Gordon's mustache bristled. "The potential loss of life under those scenarios is unacceptable. We have to apprehend the Blackgate escapees and reopen the tunnel."
"With what, Commissioner? Police batons?" the captain of the Twenty-Seventh Precinct asked.
"What can you contribute, Nightwing?"
"I don't know." He never got an inventory list. "The Batpod and the Tumbler count for something, right?"
"I'd rather apprehend the criminals, not hospitalize them."
The communicator on Nightwing's belt beeped. "I'll see what I can find, Commissioner." He put it to his ear as he opened the glass-paneled door. "Nightwing here."
"Get back to the bunker now." Catwoman's voice was low and edged.
"She's like, four-years-old, and you're already in trouble?"
"No, Stephanie has been the biggest help fetching medical supplies for the lying jerk who won't stop bleeding who we need to get to a doctor now, but I can't get his bat butt into your car!"
"Okay, I'm on my way." He headed down and jumped into the Tumbler. Catwoman couldn't be saying what she said. No autopilot meant no coming back. He didn't think she would crack up, but he hadn't thought she'd beat a child molesting murderer nearly to death either. If she had... he couldn't finish that thought.
The cargo container doors opened before him and he flexed his fingers on the steering controls as the lift descended. The black SUV he had left parked in the shipping yard after he brought their luggage here was parked in the Tumbler's spot. He backed off the lift and parked. "Catwoman?"
"Get over here!"
He rounded the black SUV. The little girl from Cly's apartment sat in an office chair at the computer desk with Batman's cowl on her lap. Catwoman had tugged the air mattress from its spot on the far wall, but it was hung up against the long concrete table. And Bruce half-dressed as Batman lay on it. "What happened?" he asked.
"Don't know; we found him like this." Catwoman grunted as she pulled.
Nightwing ran around the table. She had wrapped gauze around Bruce's stomach and a thick pad on his right side. He pushed, the air mattress popped free, and he almost stumbled on top of Bruce. "He was non-responsive?"
"Yes, but his color is better than Holly's so I don't think he lost that much blood." The air mattress slid across the concrete floor now, and Catwoman stopped at the open back door. "But his pulse is too slow."
Nightwing opened the mattress' valve and air rushed out. "We'll get him to Doc Leslie. Hey kiddo."
"Stephanie, her name is Stephanie."
"Stephanie," Nightwing repeated, "come ride up here." He opened the front passenger side door. Stephanie carried the cowl to the car. He picked her up and buckled her into the seat.
Catwoman climbed into the back of the SUV. He passed her the end of the deflated air mattress with Bruce's head. She pulled while he lifted. Once Bruce was inside, he closed the back door and slid behind the wheel. "He's stable?"
"Breathing and his pulse are the same. Just drive." She lay next to Bruce.
Nightwing concentrated on driving this SUV across Midtown like it was the Tumbler. Stephanie plopped the cowl on her head as they made the turn onto Eighteenth Street. He pulled into the small parking lot behind the clinic and jumped out. The back door was always unlocked, just like the front door. He grabbed an empty gurney. "Doc Leslie! We got a patient for you!"
He heard her shout behind him as he pushed it to the SUV and opened the back door. Dr. Thorne reached him first. "What happened?"
Catwoman crawled to the back door as they slid Bruce out. "He was stabbed and we put a QuikClot on it. Chased the bomb which he flew out to the ocean and told us it was a suicide flight but we found him bleeding about an hour ago."
Dr. Thorne blinked down at Bruce before pushing the gurney to the door. Dr. Thompkins held it open for them. "How does that armor come off?"
"I'll help with that." Nightwing grabbed the other side of the gurney and pushed.
Catwoman shook herself as they disappeared into the clinic. She shut the back hatch and walked to Stephanie's door. "Come on, sweetie. Let's find the waiting room." She swung Stephanie onto her hip.
"The doctors gonna fix Batman?" The cowl slipped to the side of Stephanie's head.
"I hope so." She hadn't gone this far back in the clinic earlier. She followed the signs to surgery. A plastic garden bench waited in the hall outside the doors. She set Stephanie on it and sat next to her. "We have to wait her until they tell us what's going on."
"Okay." Stephanie pulled the cowl off and set it on the bench. "You're brave, Catwoman."
"You're the one who's brave. Everything's been so crazy and you've been a big help."
She crawled under Selina's arm. "I like helping."
Selina hugged her. Nightwing stumbled out of the swinging doors and made sure they shut. "What's happening?" she asked.
"They didn't tell me anything. I just got the armor off him." Nightwing raised his hand to wipe his face but dropped it when his fingers hit the mask. "How did he get stabbed like that?"
"He said Talia al Ghul did it. That must be who Miranda Tate really was." She didn't want to repeat the story Barsad had told them and what Bruce had shared of his history. If Bruce wanted Blake to know he had to survive and tell Blake himself.
Dr. Thorne pushed through the doors. "If we need a blood transfusion, you can't donate." He turned from Selina and faced Nightwing. "What's your blood type?"
"O positive." Nightwing straightened. "Does he need a transfusion?"
"Just gathering information in case." Dr. Thorne went back through the surgery doors.
Nightwing's nostrils flared. "Okay, I'm going to get some juice just in case then. Do you want some?"
"Yeah, bring us some."
He returned with three juice boxes and a lightweight plastic chair that he slumped into after setting it down next to the doors. It creaked under his weight. "Did you two have a plan?"
"Do you think I would have wasted so much time with Cly if I knew he was waiting?"
"Point. What was he thinking?" Selina shook her head at his question and finished her juice. Nightwing crushed his juice box. "Gordon needs weapons. The Blackgate Boys blocked the tunnel again and the feds don't believe Bane's gone."
She stared across the hallway at him. "Does he want me to tell them how I shot Bane?"
"You shot Bane?"
"Before he shot Batman."
He grimaced. "GCPD is out of bullets. I doubt your testimony will get the feds to drop off any."
"Then don't ask me to think right now."
"Right." They all fell silent until the surgery doors swung open. Dr. Thompkins and Dr. Thorne emerged, but their poker faces didn't look like they had bad news to give.
Stephanie squirmed. "Is Batman okay?"
Dr. Thompkins smiled. "Yes, dear, but we need to speak with his next of kin."
Selina swallowed. "That would be me. And he practically adopted him." She pointed to Nightwing.
The old lady's blue eyes flashed. "You are not Bruce Wayne's next of kin."
Selina stiffened, but Nightwing spoke before she screamed at the doctor. "Don't fight her over him. You can ask Bane how well it goes." He stood and offered his chair to the older doctor.
Dr. Thompkins sat down with a sigh. "The clot formed by the QuikClot jarred loose and he lost two units of blood. The knife missed his vital organs, but the wound needed internal and external sutures, and we'll have to watch for infection."
Dr. Thorne spoke up, "He suffered from another head injury since I last examined him. We put a back brace on his lower back just in case that injury was impacted."
"It wasn't dislocated again, was it?" Selina asked.
Dr. Thorne shook his head. "Just a precaution. But Wayne's medical condition makes a lot more sense now. He's been Batman all this time?"
Selina shifted from Stephanie and curled her fists. "And you don't know how much it has cost him. So if you think you can give his secrets away--"
"No, Catwoman, dear, nothing like that," Dr. Thompkins interrupted. "We don't betray confidences. But why? Why is Bruce Wayne Batman?"
Nightwing stared at Selina. "Gotham needed him," he finally said.
"And now it needs to eat you alive, young man?"
"Bruce needed Batman," Selina said, feeling like she was betraying him while trying to protect him. "If no one else suffered what he suffered, he succeeded. He just saved the entire city, so don't second guess his judgment. Not today."
Dr. Thompkins' blue eyes softened. "You can all sleep in his room. I suspect you haven't had enough rest for the past few days."
They followed the doctors down the hall and into a room equipped as a hospital room. Bruce lay on an adjustable bed not as fancy as the one in the bunker. His color looked good, and he didn't have any tubes helping him breathe. Selina grabbed a stool, set it on Bruce's left side, sat with Stephanie on her lap while Nightwing and Dr. Thorne brought in three cots. The copper wire ring was still on Bruce's left hand.
Stephanie looked up at her. "You okay?"
"Yeah, I'm more tired than I thought." Her smile didn't feel right. She wanted to crawl into the bed next to Bruce and hold him until he opened his eyes, but there was no room in the bed and too many people and she had to take care of everything.
Nightwing touched Selina's shoulder. "I'm going to get our clothes and bring back a case of food. You two got this?"
"We got this," Stephanie said.
"Okay. Make sure Catwoman takes a nap before I get back." He ducked out of the room before Selina found something to throw at his head.
"Catwoman." Dr. Thompkins carried a pile of towels and toiletries for the attached bathroom inside. "Is this the baby Holly tried to save?"
Selina nodded. "You need to check Stephanie over. Let's get it over with." She squeezed Bruce's hand before she stood.