Rebuilding Gotham City: Day 18
Alfred headed down the hallway to the master suite. Selina, wrapped in Bruce's robe, met him. Her color was healthy this morning. Taking Stephanie out to the park everyday was doing her good as well. "Good morning, Miss."
"Morning, Alfred. Bruce is shaving."
"Thank you, Miss." He turned to the master bathroom. Bruce had finished shaving and now brushed his teeth. "That was Mr. Lorry on the telephone. He said he was able to satisfactorily complete the project you dropped in his lap yesterday and the papers are ready for you to sign."
Bruce spat out the mouth foam. "That was accepted quicker than anticipated. Maybe my offer was too good."
Mr. Lorry hadn't been concerned about the business deal. "He also asked me to talk some sense into you about structuring the settlement with a pre-nuptial agreement."
The comb paused in Bruce's hair. "You didn't tell him...."
"I didn't have to." Alfred stared into the reflection's eyes. "Mr. Lorry is an intelligent man and Miss Selina has been your constant companion lately." Bruce nodded and turned to his clothing. "Why don't you take the opportunity and make a formal announcement of the engagement? Miss Selina's legal status is no longer a concern."
"I want to announce it after I get her a ring." He glanced at Alfred's frown. "I've been looking, but the jewelry stores were looted. Did Lorry say anything about the loan at Gotham First National?"
"He made sure it was paid off when he opened the new account, but they misplaced your collateral. The looters did not get into the safe deposit boxes, so the rest of the jewelry is still there. Including your mother's engagement ring."
Bruce's face darkened before he looked down and tucked his shirt into his pants. "I want something symbolic of us, no baggage. Shame about Aunt Helena's emeralds; I wanted to see Selina wear them."
That sounded reasonable, but Alfred was too accustomed to Bruce's rehearsed excuses. "Your parents had a lovely wedding ceremony at the Manor."
"If we move back to the Manor now, it will look like I'm giving up on Gotham again. That's not acceptable."
How convenient. Alfred didn't voice his dissent while he held up the grey suit jacket for Bruce to slide into. Selina's voice answered Stephanie's question from the walk-in closet around the north corner of the master suite. Alfred headed to the kitchen to finish breakfast preparations. Bruce continued to the library, which he was turning into his home office.
Alfred typed 'wedding venues in Gotham City' into his WayneTech tablet's search function while he readied their plates. They had to pick one so he could begin preparations, and time was running out. What if the venue had other obligations? Selina and Stephanie came down the elevator before the list was compiled. "What lovely matching outfits," Alfred said. They both wore purple sweaters with blue jeans.
"My idea," Stephanie said as she climbed onto a stool.
"A clever idea." Alfred set their plates before them. "What are the plans for today? Shopping for Miss Selina's trousseau, perhaps?"
Selina's eyes widened as her fork froze. "My what?"
Before Alfred could define the term, the elevator chimed that someone wanted to enter the penthouse. "I got it," Bruce called from the stairs. He set down his briefcase on the closest chaise lounge around the fireplace. One couldn't hear his conversation over the intercom and he stayed put until the elevator doors opened. "You caught us at breakfast, Dr. Thompkins." Bruce ushered the older woman to the kitchen area.
Alfred nearly dropped Bruce's plate seeing her again. "Leslie Thompkins?"
"Alfred Pennyworth," she laughed. "I should have guessed you were back when he didn't come to me to have his sutures out." She sat next to Bruce and pointed at him with her thumb.
"The external stitches were ready to come out, Doctor," he hastened to reassure her.
"And judging by his scar tissue, he's given you plenty of practice."
"He makes a mess of it every time he sews himself back together."
Bruce turned to Selina. "I'm less inclined to take it easy until the end of the month now."
"Yeah, no, I'm not dealing with you having internal hemorrhaging. Besides, aren't you offering Jessica a promotion today?"
"Among other things," Bruce said.
"Just coffee, thank you, Alfred. I've already eaten." He set the plate back down as Leslie turned to Bruce. "I saw your speech, the same day I got your ridiculously absurd check."
"Which you still haven't cashed. I asked Blake what your payment scale is."
"Don't change the subject," Leslie said. "Why didn't you answer the question about Selina?"
He drained his coffee cup, but Leslie didn't avert her stare. "I wasn't about to let my personal life overshadow Wayne Enterprises again. We'll put an announcement in the Gotham Times like normal people do."
"And when will that be?"
"I don't know. Selina hasn't even picked out a dress."
Leslie leaned around Bruce to hit the younger woman with her disapproving stare. "It's your wedding dress. Those stores weren't looted."
"I don't know what kind of dress to get," Selina answered while shooting eye daggers at Bruce. "It depends on what we do. You don't wear a ball gown to a beach."
"You want a beach wedding?" Alfred asked. The best beaches were south of Gotham City and Bludhaven or northeast in Martha's Vineyard, but it would be months before the weather would be preferable for an event.
"No, I was just giving an example."
"Honestly, you two are acting like you don't want to get married," Leslie said.
"That's not true," Bruce said.
"You're keeping her a secret and not planning anything for the wedding. You want to prove to Gotham you've changed?"
Bruce didn't say anything to Leslie as he got up from the dining bar and made sure his briefcase was packed. Selina bristled. "It's our wedding, not entertainment for Gotham City."
Alfred sighed. "It will be viewed that way regardless of how you and Master Wayne feel about the matter." Her face blanched as she stared at Alfred.
Leslie turned on the stool so Bruce couldn't miss what she said. "Your mother and father had their wedding planned and completed two months after they were engaged, and that was considered scandalously fast. But they also didn't have a child on the way that will need legal protection."
"We have at least twenty-one weeks before we have to worry about that," Selina answered.
"Which will be over before you know it if you don't at least pick a venue," Alfred said, letting his exasperation show.
"The most appropriate setting would be the top of Police Headquarters next to the Batsignal," Bruce said just as heatedly before the elevator doors slid shut on him.
"Good lord, what kind of dress would be appropriate for that?" Leslie asked.
"I never thought he would put his own wedding in the pile of things he doesn't give a damn about." Alfred shook his head as he picked up the dishes.
"It looks like he's leaving it all to you, Selina." Leslie cradled her coffee cup.
"Bruce didn't kiss you." Stephanie tugged on Selina's sleeve.
Alfred wiped his hands and passed Selina his tablet. "Just pick a venue, Miss, and we can work out the details from there."
She frowned at the selection the search showed. "These churches are huge."
"You have to accommodate everyone who will turn out for a Wayne wedding," Leslie said. "It's the closest thing America has to the Royal Family circus."
Selina's eyebrows shot up and Alfred started soothing. "We won't divide the guest list into bride or groom's side." Comments were made last night during supper how her sister couldn't return to Gotham because the commercial flights hadn't resumed yet.
"Bruce always kisses you bye-bye. Why didn't he kiss you just now?"
"We gotta go." Selina's eyes watered as she put the tablet down and lifted Stephanie off the stool. "Come on, sweetie."
"We're going shopping?" Selina didn't answer Stephanie as she got their coats.
"What time will you be back?" Alfred asked. Selina ignored that question too as she hustled Stephanie into the elevator. He sighed again as it descended. "Perhaps you're right and they don't see a point to being married." He poured more coffee in Leslie's cup.
"I suppose you could plan it like you did all his other parties and tell him to show up or else."
"I'm afraid lately he hasn't bothered with the attending part. I had hoped to keep him involved to counteract that." He shook his head. "Enough about that, how have you been? Still working at your clinic, I understand?"
Bruce dialed the phone number he had looked up on Selina's cell phone contact list. He leaned back in his office chair as it was answered. "Jen? This is Bruce Wayne."
"Bruce? Is Selina okay?"
"She's fine, nothing's wrong. I just wanted your help surprising her. Are you ready to come back to Gotham?"
"I'm on first name basis with everyone at the Munich airport I'm so ready to get back. Stupid rules on commercial flights."
Jessica entered his officer and set two folders on his desk. He waved at her to stay. "I have a private plane bringing in supplies for Wayne Enterprises. If you could pick up some Cocoa Puffs for Stephanie, she'll be your new best friend." He gave Jen the details for the airplane before saying good-bye and turning to the folders. "What is this?"
"Both from Legal," Jessica answered. "The green folder is the proposal and contract for the police department. The blue one is from Mr. Lorry. And I didn't schedule the private meeting he wants for today like he suggested."
Bruce opened that folder and slid a set of keys into his hand before signing the tagged pages. "Thank you for that. I have no idea how long the meeting with the Commissioner will last."
"You won't be able to hold him at bay forever, Mr. Wayne. He knows where you live and work."
"I will talk to him, but after I finish other business. Did you ever finish your degree in Human Resources?"
Jessica tilted her head. "I'm a few hours short from my Master's. Why?"
"Do you think you can finish it while working as Director of Operations?"
"That's the new position for Mr. Fredericks' successor." She sank into one of the visitor chairs in front of Bruce.
"Mr. Fredericks wants you, and I agree. Everyone says you were holding everything and everyone together during the Occupation. I want whoever eventually takes over as Vice-President of Operations to be promoted from Wayne Enterprises, not an outsider hired in." Bruce smiled. "Take some time to think about it, and talk to Mr. Fredericks. Lucius and I will need you to find suitable assistants to fill your place here."
"I will, Mr. Wayne, thank you."
Bruce continued to smile as she left his office in daze. He slipped both folders into his briefcase and bundled up against the cold. He pulled the address out of his pocket. It was on the way to City Hall. At least Blake's hints concerning the wedding had practical help.
The open sign was written on a piece of paper with a Sharpie and taped to the glass door of the showroom of Moench Jewelers. The smashed counter had been repaired with plywood so it could still function as a counter. The display cases hanging from the wall were at least three decades older in style, but were stocked with low-cost finery. The turquoise necklace hanging on the back wall was the exception. The bright blue stones were arranged in a long chain in pairs until it reached the horseshoe-shaped pendent. That piece was worthy of its price tag based on the size and quality of the stones.
"That is the best merchandise I have on display." An older, male Hasidic Jew stepped through the doorway behind the cash register. "It's one of a kind for Gotham City; I have an exclusive deal with the artist."
"Actually I need to buy an engagement ring, Mr. Moench," Bruce said.
"No diamonds until I hire a new buyer or the police find what was stolen by the looters."
"I don't think diamonds will impress her. She calls them traveling money."
Moench threw back his head as he roared with laughter. "I like your girlfriend. Sounds like she hasn't been brainwashed by De Beers. Wait here." He vanished into the back room and returned with a small tray of rings. "These are the rings the looters left me with."
Most were plain silver or gold bands with small colored stones. The largest stone was a turquoise carved into a rose, lovely, but not for Selina.
The second largest was a green cat's eye chrysoberyl with tiny diamonds clustered around it. The white luster stripe that gave the stone its name ran down the center and it was set in gold. Bruce removed it to get a closer look at the band.
"Very fine, old ring, 1890, fifteen thousand."
"I'm surprised the looters left it behind with the diamonds on it."
Moench snorted. "Amateurs with no idea what stones are really worth. Does it suit your girlfriend?"
"I think it does. No one knows what she's worth either." Bruce handed it over to the owner to box up. "And the turquoise necklace. It will look lovely on her."