Rebuilding Gotham City: Day 17
Selina took a deep breath and slipped off the armchair. Alfred and Bruce were bickering in the closet, loud enough to be heard in the master suite. "If you would just give me some perimeters, sir, I could start the preliminary research."
"It's a wedding, not a military operation."
"When have you not treated your socializing like a military operation, Master Wayne?"
Selina glanced at one of the wedding gown catalogues Alfred had found somewhere and placed on all the side tables where Selina liked to sit. She had not cracked one open yet. It wasn't that she didn't want to cooperate with the wedding Bruce had always wanted, but she had nothing to contribute and couldn't decide on anything when she was still in status unknown mode. Her cell phone buzzed against her hip. Meet at Thain St. Park within the hour. She recognized the number sending the text message. Maybe she could finally cross wanted felon/person-of-interest off her worries column. Alfred was detailing the work needed to entertain guests at the Manor, much less move into it. She crept out of the master suite and down the hall.
Stephanie pretended to cook at her kitchen. Her Cabbage Patch doll sat in a doll high chair. "Hey, would it ruin your meal to go to the park with me?" Selina asked.
She picked up the pan from the stove and put it in the over. "Nope. Let's go to the swings." She followed Selina's quiet lead to the coat closet and into the elevator. "Are we sneaking out?"
"We're sneaking away from wedding fights." Selina dialed Bruce's cell phone when the elevator reached the halfway point down the building. "Stephanie and I are going to Thain Street Park for a while."
"I'm working from home today. The stack of messages Alfred gave me yesterday? They're from tenants of my properties."
"I'll help you when we get back."
"Take your time. We'll still have to track down the tenants who contacted me."
Today was sunny without a cloud in the sky. The scheduled bus pulled away from the corner as Stephanie ran for the swing sets. Selina sat on a bench and watched the children swarm over the jungle gym. More people than usual were out today, but it was less than pre-Occupation. At least the children didn't look as haunted as the adults.
A heavy-set African-American woman sat on the bench next to Selina. "Hello again, Ms. Kyle."
"Hello, Dr. Waller. So I'm on the payroll?"
"Indeed, welcome to Cadmus." Dr. Waller handed Selina two thick accordion folders. "Oh, and congratulations on locating the CleanSlate program. We took the liberty of setting up new identities for you and your sister. I was surprised you hadn't done that for yourself after you wiped everything clean."
Selina opened the top accordion folder and pulled out a new driver's license, social security card, and passport. But she never ran CleanSlate on herself. She smiled; Bruce must have and then forgot to tell her. She was going to tease the hell out of him for that. "My pregnancy and impending marriage isn't an issue with this job offer, is it?"
Dr. Waller chuckled. "Frankly, we couldn't craft a cover so perfect for you than what your romantic entanglements have developed. Mr. Wayne will keep your secrets and we can trust him to save the day if it needs saving." She smiled slightly. "But it's best not to talk about that. Hopefully, you'll never have to lean on him like that."
"I'd rather not. It's my career after all."
"There is one complication from your previous career that we were unable to clear up. A FBI agent is investigating Congressman Gilly's kidnapping. He had already departed the office by the time we got into Gotham City."
Selina replaced her old driver's license with the new one and slid her wallet back into her jacket. "The charges have been dropped?"
"Yes, but he can detain you on suspicion or annoy Mr. Wayne into doing something foolish."
Selina's cell phone buzzed with an incoming text message. Hide. FBI looking for you.
"Like obstructing a federal investigation," Dr. Waller added.
"I'm new to the whole steady employment gig, but I really think I should invite you home for some tea."
"Before your fiancÚ assaults a federal agent? I'd be delighted to accept."
Bruce shifted the jewelry store catalogue off the legal pad while Henri the chef-owner of the Ocelot reached a new octave in the woes of the Occupation. Alfred needed to lay off the visual aids for his passive-aggressive reminders. It was hard enough keeping the paperwork straight without advertisements for wedding gowns and rings cluttering his library desk. "Of course, you weren't open during the Occupation and you don't have any revenue. I'm not going to enforce the lease consequences for late rent. Yes, I will get you something in writing. Thank you for calling." He made a note on the pad and looked up at Alfred in the doorway. "Five calls returned, and so far the tenants have two concerns: the property is ruined and how soon will you fix it or are you charging rent? I'm certain someone will have both issues at once or give me a third concern before I finish."
"I'm sorry to interrupt, sir, but an Agent Edward Nigma is here to see Miss Selina. Federal Bureau of Investigations."
Bruce pulled out his cell phone and texted a warning to Selina. "I had hoped they wouldn't come."
"It is just one, sir. Do you wish to see him up here?" Bruce shook his head and adjusted his shirt's cuffs. "Very well, sir."
He headed down the staircase and Alfred vanished elsewhere in the penthouse. The man in a cheap, navy suit turned from the window near the television area. He seemed about Bruce's age, but his blonde-streaked hair and the stubble goatee were both butting up to the limits of FBI regulations. "Hello Agent Nigma, I'm Bruce Wayne. How can I help you?"
Nigma sat in the armchair Bruce waved at. "Where is Ms. Kyle?"
"She took Stephanie out." Bruce sat on the couch. "I'm sorry; I thought you were here to ask about the reactor."
"Not my case, but it looks like Commissioner Gordon has that wrapped up." This was when other interrogators would pull out notes to consult. Agent Nigma's blue eyes focused through Bruce. "Back on September sixteenth of last year, you hosted a Wayne Foundation fundraiser at your mansion, but did not attend yourself."
His eyebrows knitted together behind his black-framed eyeglasses. "Why throw a party and not go to it?"
"I have no idea why the FBI needs to know that, but Harvey Dent was a friend and I don't approve of the politicizing of his death. But people feel generous on Dent Day and the Wayne Foundation can use that money for the city." Bruce leaned back.
Nigma blinked at him. "That doesn't explain your disappearing for seven years."
"Now I know the FBI isn't investigating that."
The agent frowned as he shook his head. "Congressman Gilly didn't return home from your event, but left with Ms. Kyle instead. She wasn't on the guest list and there was an extra maid the catering staff can't account for. Do you have any idea what she was doing in your mansion before she coerced the Congressman into leaving with her?"
"Would you believe we decided to play William Tell?"
"Maybe you don't take my investigation serious, Mr. Wayne." Nigma's hands clenched into fists on his thighs. "Or maybe associating with Selina Kyle is igniting all your wild-life passions. But her file is thick with victims, male victims. How long will you disappear after she makes a fool out of you?"
Bruce stared at Nigma, letting the good humor toleration bleed from his face. "We're done. I'm sorry I couldn't help you further, Agent Nigma."
"We're done when I say we're done, Mr. Wayne." He leaned back and relaxed his fingers. "First, there was your Dent Day event, second, you two were spotted at Miranda Tate's fundraiser on September eighteenth, third, the Stock Exchange Attack occurred and she was with you on your trip to Gotham First National Bank, fourth, Occupation derailed the city, and now the two of you emerge from hiding together and have been inseparable since. What are you trying to pull over the city?"
"So which am I, Selina's partner or Selina's victim?"
"I didn't say that."
"If you want to continue making insinuations like that, you'll do so with my attorney present." Bruce stood to pull his cell phone from his pocket when the main elevator's arrival dinged.
Alfred met the women as the door slid open. "Alfred, I invited Dr. Waller to tea." Selina passed him something with her coat before squatting to unbutton Stephanie's. "We got boring grown-up talking to do. Can you go play in your room?"
"Sure." She skipped to the second elevator without seeing Agent Nigma stand.
Bruce's hand tightened on his phone as he forced himself to breathe evenly. This wasn't hiding. He also didn't recognize the older African-American woman in a tweed dress and jacket who looked around the penthouse detachedly.
Selina smiled at him as she led her guest across the penthouse to the seats. "Bruce, I'd like you to meet Dr. Amanda Waller, director of the Cadmus Project. Dr. Waller, my fiancÚ Bruce Wayne."
"FiancÚ?" Nigma demanded as he glared at Bruce.
"You never asked why Selina and I were now inseparable." Bruce shook Dr. Waller's outstretched hand. "Pleased to meet you."
"Likewise, Mr. Wayne." Her handshake was firm.
Nigma moved to get around the armchairs should Selina run. "I'm Agent Edward Nigma and you are under arrest for the kidnapping of Congressman Byron Gilly."
Selina sighed like she felt sorry for the FBI agent and Bruce's hand went back into his pocket for his cell phone. "What's your security clearance, Agent Nigma?" she asked.
Dr. Waller sat in the armchair Nigma just vacated, forcing the agent to step further aside. "Ms. Kyle was deep undercover to infiltrate Bane's organization for Cadmus."
Nigma's eyes darted from each of them as his frown deepened.
Selina brushed against Bruce and tugged him to sit beside her on the couch. He released the cell phone and put his arm along the couch's back behind her. "They wanted a thief to steal Bruce's fingerprints," she explained. "Bruce nearly caught me in the job, so I had to make a quick getaway. Congressman Gilly wanted an adulterous assignation. He made an easy mark for a getaway and insurance if Bane's group turned on me. Which they did, and he was shot by them."
"Congressman Gilly is being briefed on the situation and the charges have been dropped," Dr. Waller said.
"But you ended up here with him," Nigma said. His head jerked to Bruce. "I suppose this is the first you've heard of Cadmus."
"It is," Bruce admitted. "But I knew Selina wasn't working for Bane when I hired her to help me get my shares back."
"A wanted thief?"
"Bane's group had targeted Bruce, so I thought staying with him would accomplish the goal," Selina said to Dr. Waller. "Unfortunately, Bane moved first."
"You did the best you could, Ms. Kyle. Is there anything else, Agent Nigma?" Dr. Waller looked at him.
"Not pertaining to the investigation, no." He answered as his hands curled into fists.
Alfred set a laden tea tray on the side table between Selina and Dr. Waller. "I'll show you out, sir."
Selina poured the steaming beverage as the elevator doors opened and shut. "I think I'm going to enjoy working for you, Dr. Waller." She passed her the first cup.
"Indeed, I'm most impressed with your improvisational skills." Dr. Waller sipped her tea.
"So Selina works for you now?" Bruce accepted the tea cup Selina passed to him. "What will her job duties entail?"
"Don't worry, Mr. Wayne. Any assignment we give Ms. Kyle will take into consideration her pregnancy and her marital status."
Bruce nodded. He didn't have an issue with whatever Selina had set up for her post life of crime career that she had alluded to.
"Of course, if Mr. Malone wanted to keep an eye on her, we could find a place for him." Dr. Waller's brown eyes peered over the teacup at Bruce.
How did she know about that? "Mr. Malone hasn't been heard from for many years."
"Lost touch with him after Bhutan? A pity, he would be a useful recruit." She set her teacup on the tray. "Keep it in mind if you see him again. Now I must go. Ms. Kyle, we'll be in touch."
Selina walked her to the elevator where Alfred waited with a black wool coat. "Of course, thank you for everything."
"And thank you for tea."
Alfred sighed as the elevator descended. "Should we expect any more federal officials to drop by unannounced?"
"Not on my account," Selina said as she rejoined Bruce. "Now maybe you'll believe me when I say I'm not worried about something, Mr. Wipe-away-my-existence-with-CleanSlate." She picked up a scone from the tray.
Bruce half smiled. "I meant to tell you, but you agreed to celebrate the baby, and then we've been busy ever since." Selina smirked at him while she chewed. He better spill something to make up for it. "Matches Malone was my alias when I got imprisoned in Bhutan."
"Because my temper always flared up."
The door at the top of the staircase opened. "Are you finished with grown-up talk?" Stephanie asked. "I want a cookie."
"We're done, come get a cookie." Selina held out a scone.
Stephanie scampered down the stairs with a large children's book. She held the book up after she snatched the scone from Selina's hand. "Read?"
"I will. Bruce needs to start calling people again." Selina took the book so Stephanie could climb into the armchair. Bruce reached around her for a scone. He needed it just thinking about those phone calls. "B is for Bulldozer," she read before turning to the first page.
He paused mid-chew as Selina read the entries for A and B. Of the phone calls he had made, more tenants had complained about the damages done to Bruce's buildings. "I need a construction company."
Selina looked up from the book. "What's working on all the bridges?"
"Those are Wayne Enterprises construction crews. I need a construction crew to repair the buildings I own." He stood, kissed Selina's lips, and dropped a kiss on the top Stephanie's head. "I've got calls to make."