Rebuilding Gotham City: Day 61
Alfred sipped his mug of coffee. Truth be told, he would have preferred a late start to the day after the wedding himself, but Bruce had an early morning and that meant coffee for Alfred's early day. The toaster raised the slices of bread and he added them to the plates. The phone rang. "Wayne Manor."
"Hi Alfred, it's John. I'm too tired to drive back so I'm crashing at the bunker today. Didn't want you to worry."
"Is everything all right, Master Blake?" Something else lurked in the young man's voice besides exhaustion.
"Gordon will call you within the hour, but it's a murder case. I ended up here with forensic evidence I don't trust around all that water in the Batcave."
"Go on to bed. We'll handle the daylight inquiries."
"Okay, Alfred. Bye."
The phone rang again as he poured the juices and milk. "Wayne Manor, Pennyworth speaking."
"This is Commissioner Gordon. Ms. Harriet Allnut was a guest at the wedding reception last night?"
"Yes, sir, I saw her out about ten o'clock last night."
"That tracks with what the driver said. Did she seem out of sorts or upset with anyone?"
"Not at all. Slightly intoxicated perhaps, but she seemed happy. Has something happened to her?"
Gordon sighed. "She was found murdered last night. Can you think of anything that would be a reason for her death? Anything strange going on with the Wayne Foundation?"
Alfred focused on the question to move past the pain of yet another young life cut down before his own. "I pushed for her hire because I have neither the time nor the training to run a nonprofit charitable foundation. My role as a director of the Wayne Foundation became more advisory since Ms. Allnut's hire."
"When is the last time you had to advise her?"
"Last year's Dent Day Celebration at the Manor. Since the end of the Occupation, Master Wayne has been in direct contact with her."
"I better talk to him then."
The Commissioner was fine with waiting, so Alfred moved the last breakfast tray into the dumbwaiter, sent it to the third floor, climbed up the stairs, took the cordless phone from its nook between the bedrooms, and set it on the tray for the master suite.
They were still asleep and Alfred frowned as he set the tray on the breakfast table. This city should have given him better news to bear. He carried the phone to the bed and touched Bruce's scarred arm. It released Selina as he turned and blinked. "Commissioner Gordon on the phone for you, sir."
Bruce sat up as fast as he could without jostling his wife. "Nightwing?"
"No, Harriet Allnut was found murdered last night." Alfred set the phone receiver in Bruce's outstretched hand before he turned to the trail of clothing the pair had left on the floor.
"What's going on, Jim?" Bruce leaned against the headboard. "No, it's fine considering the circumstances." Alfred carried their robes out of the dressing room and laid them on the foot of the bed. "I know she was at the reception, but if you need details, Alfred is the one to speak to. Oh you've already questioned him. Thank you for the notice and you'll have the full cooperation of the Wayne Foundation and Wayne Enterprises during the investigation." Bruce said good-bye and hung up the phone with a brooding expression.
"Why so early?" Selina asked with a yawn.
"Harriet Allnut was murdered last night," he answered.
"She's still coming to dinner and you need to be nice to the stressed-out lady giving your money away." She pulled the covers over her head.
"Stressed out?" Alfred asked. Ms. Allnut hadn't appeared stressed when he spoke with her, but that was at the end of the evening and more than one glass of champagne.
"Wake up, Selina. She won't be coming to dinner; someone killed her." He took the glass of green juice from Alfred and drained it before asking. "What did Blake say about it?"
"He took forensic evidence to the bunker and was too exhausted to safely drive back to the Manor. His report will be better read after your meeting with City Hall today."
"So I won't have details that only the police know dealing with them this morning."
"Someone really killed that poor woman?" Selina clutched the satin sheet to her bosom as she awkwardly sat up with added weight of her belly.
"I'm afraid so, Mrs. Wayne." Alfred handed her the small glass of orange juice from the tray. "You invited her to dinner?"
"We bumped into each other in the bathroom and she let her stress gush out. Nothing specific but she was having issues with your rules and not getting a meeting with you."
Bruce frowned. "Don't exaggerate when she's dead."
She pushed her messy hair back from her face. "I'm not exaggerating. She was asking for permission to steal you from the honeymoon without making it personal. So I told her to go enjoy the party, work up whatever she wanted to do that she's freaked out you won't like, and I'd meet with her next week to find out about your issues. Then I told her if we still needed to deal with you, I'd invite her to dinner for an ambush. The last time I saw her she was dancing with Blake, so I decided to invite her to dinner regardless of ambushing you."
"Something at the Foundation upset Harriet. It may have caused her murder or it may not, but I don't have time to look into it. Not right now." Bruce swung his legs out and pulled on his pajama pants before dropping to the floor for his push-ups.
Alfred handed Selina her robe when she reached for it. "Okay, I'll do it," she said.
That simple declaration brought Bruce onto his feet with the fewest repetitions of push-ups that Alfred had ever witnessed him perform. Consternation and trepidation flitted across his face. "You don't have to, not in your condition."
"I'm just gestating, which I can do just as well sitting in your office building as I can sitting in your mansion."
"Our," Bruce said.
"My point is you need someone to keep everything moving until you hire a replacement. Waller hasn't sent me a consulting job lately so I can fill in for you at the Foundation and dig around if the murder was rooted there." Alfred turned to the breakfast tray so Selina could stand and put on her robe. "I'm decent now, Alfred."
He turned around to see Bruce cross his arms. "You don't know anything about charitable finances."
"Even better for an investigation. Who are you? What do you do here? How does that help Gotham? Not to mention we don't have anyone else who can. You've got to go to City Hall today." Her hands landed on her hips as they stared across the rumpled bed at each other.
"Alfred is a Foundation director," Bruce said.
Selina rolled her eyes. "Alfred has cleaners to supervise today."
Consternation was winning the battle for Bruce's expression. "This isn't what we planned."
"If we start counting what hasn't gone to plan, we'll be here for the rest of the week. So when you've decided you've spent enough time on the metaphorical floor, you'll find me in the shower." She sauntered to the dressing room and the bathroom beyond it.
Bruce's brooding solidified. "Surely, you don't believe she will come to harm at Wayne Enterprises?" Alfred asked.
"No, she's safe there. I just...." His mouth quirked. "I wanted to make things easier for her, not pile on worries."
"Know your limits, Master Wayne. And tell your wife what your intentions are so I don't find you on the sofa again." Bruce shook his head as he headed to the bathroom. Alfred left them to their making-up and delivered the other two breakfast trays. He had to open the drapes to get a reaction from Miss Jen. Miss Stephanie was already awake, standing on the windowsill with her nose pressed against the glass. "Breakfast, Miss Stephanie." He set the tray on the low table.
She slid off the windowsill. "Do we live in a yard? Jerry called it a yard, but it's more like a park to me."
"Yards are private property attached to houses, so Master Jerry is correct." He poured the cereal into the bowl. "But the property attached to Wayne Manor is larger than any of the parks you've been to."
"Where's the playground?"
"We've never had one. We should, especially if you will have friends over."
"My friends could live here too." She shoved the loaded spoon into her mouth.
"I doubt we need to move anyone else in. Let's pick your outfit to wear today, shall we?" He headed to her closet.
Alfred and Stephanie dropped them off at the elevated train station in the Palisades, and Stephanie surprised Selina by not wanted to go with them. "Alfred said we need to find a spot for the playground. I have to help."
"We're putting in a playground?" Bruce looked at Alfred.
"It occurred to me that you and Miss Rachel might have caused less trouble if you had had a swing set."
They were the only commuters heading into the city. Jen sat facing them and focused on her phone with sips from her travel mug. Bruce sat on the aisle side next to Selina and talked on his phone. Selina watched the river and the city roll underneath them.
"Thank you." Bruce hung up. "A car will be waiting at the Red Hook station for us."
"It's only a couple of blocks. You do know walking is good for pregnancy, right?" Selina smirked.
Bruce's serious face didn't crack. "Not over sidewalk ice."
Selina let it go. He was determined to chafe over the necessity of her going to the Foundation to investigate in place of him. She thought they had settled this in the shower, but apparently not. "What shall we tell the media?"
"We have to tell them something, don't we? Shocked, saddened, she always wanted the best for Gotham."
"Okay, I'll make that pretty."
"Put that out from the Foundation. I'll talk to Harriet's next of kin this afternoon after the police contact them."
Jen laughed. "Somebody changed Cartier's Christmas decorations and put them up. Boy, are they pissed about a green bow." She held her phone out so Selina and Bruce saw the picture of the gift-wrapped building.
"I like the red better." Selina wrinkled her nose.
"Was anything stolen?" Bruce asked.
Jen looked at the phone again. "This story says no. Maybe someone was celebrating you two's wedding."
"They should have left the ribbon red then," Selina said.
They separated at the South Channel Island station, and more people joined Selina and Bruce on the Red Hook line. He read over his presentation notes in between assessing glances at the other passengers. The morning desk jockeys didn't alarm Selina. Most of them were in their own worlds. The car and driver waited on the street under the train station. Bruce had all his papers put away once they were seated behind the glass. "Blake must have had a busy night," she said.
"His report is unfinished, well, more like barely started," Bruce said in a low tone. "A list of addresses and the negative results of iodine fuming. The first address is Cartier's."
Selina nodded as they got out at Wayne Enterprises. Whatever evidence Blake was trying to fume for prints probably needed to go to the police not permanently marked by the other methods. The automatic glass doors opened for them. The black marble and the brassy metal accents reflected the lights and ghost versions of themselves crossed the lobby in the mirror-like sheen. The raven-haired woman in a cheap pantsuit waited at the security desk in front of the elevator bank. "Hello Detective Montoya," Selina said.
Bruce's eyes widened slightly as the other woman turned to face them. "Congratulations on your promotion. You're the detective assigned to Harriet Allnut's case?"
"Yes, Mr. Wayne, but the Commissioner will be watching right over my shoulder."
"We don't want to be the cause of any misunderstandings with the Commissioner." Bruce looked at the pair of security guards behind the desk. "Detective Montoya gets a VIP visitor's pass. And my wife has the same level access as myself and Mr. Fox."
"Yes, sir, Mr. Wayne. Everything is in order for Mrs. Wayne." The security guard flashed a nervous smile at all of them before pushing a digital signature pad at Montoya. "Sign here, please."
Montoya pinned the green plastic card to the lapel of her jacket and joined them in the elevator. "I don't expect special treatment, Mr. Wayne."
"That level gives you access to everything in the building except R&D. Security usually thinks Mr. Fox and I should remain undisturbed by anyone not employed here." The elevator stopped on the Foundation floor. Selina put her hand against his chest as he stepped forward and pressed the button up to his office floor. "I should go smooth--"
"I've got this. Everyone in the city knows who I am now. Knock their socks off at City Hall." She pecked a kiss on his lips before shoving him back into the elevator. "He's in over-protective ass mode," she explained to Montoya's raised eyebrow as the elevator left.
"You are stepping into Ms. Allnut's place at the Foundation, not your husband?"
"Revitalize Gotham Construction Company has to make a presentation at City Hall today. Bruce is the one who has to give it."
The receptionist looked at them as they opened the glass doors separating the waiting room lobby from the elevators. "Welcome to the Wayne Foundation, oh, you're Mrs. Wayne! How can I help you?"
"We need to call a meeting of everyone here at the Foundation," Selina said. "Is there a conference room on this floor?"
"Yes ma'am, right this way." She jumped up from the reception desk, trotted to the first door on the right down the short hallway behind the desk. This conference room was half the size of the board room outside of Fox's office, but the furniture was the same style and two walls were floor to ceiling windows. The receptionist fidgeted at the door as Montoya followed Selina to the head of the table in front of the narrower window wall. "A meeting with everyone; Ms. Allnut hasn't made it in yet."
"I know. Please gather everyone who is here. Thank you." The receptionist made a soundless oh before scurrying back to her desk.
Montoya sat on Selina's left and pulled out her notebook. Selina let her take notes, since she had to write up the press statement. That didn't take long, so she put it aside and consulted her own notes. Alfred had printed up (in between breakfast trays, putting out clothes, and making sure they got out the door on time) a Cliff Notes of what and who she needed to know at the Wayne Foundation.
The Wayne Foundation was the holding company for the Thomas Wayne Foundation and the Martha Wayne Foundation. They were all private foundations funded by shares of Wayne Enterprises that added to what Bruce personally owned to make him the majority shareholder. As a private foundation, it gave out grants and provided oversight for the charities doing the grunt work. Some had such a reliance on the Wayne Foundation they used the name as advertisement like the Wayne Foundation soup kitchens, which were actually run by various religious organizations.
She had gotten that far when the Wayne Foundation employees began to trickle in. She smiled at them. "Please find a seat." They circled around the table and lined along the walls, nearly thirty all together. The receptionist was the last one in. "Thank you for coming. I'm Selina Kyle Wayne and I have some upsetting news for all of you. Harriet Allnut was murdered last night."
The gasps and shocked expressions Selina saw were genuine enough. She wasn't a detective, but she knew how to read a room. Despite Bruce's worries, she didn't think Harriet's murderer was here.
"I know this is a bad shock, but I'm requesting that you stay until Detective Montoya has finished asking you questions. After that, if you need to take a personal day, I'll approve that as long as no one needs a check from the Foundation today."
A man about her age on the right side of the table shook his head. "Where's Mr. Wayne? I mean, why are you the one telling us?"
"And you are?"
"Daniel Cooper, chief financial officer."
"Bruce wanted to come, but he's running two companies now, and meetings with City Hall can't be rescheduled. So I'm stepping into Ms. Allnut's place until a replacement is hired. She wouldn't want the Foundation's work stopped because of this." That set off nodding and sniffling in her audience. "Thank you, everyone, I know I can count on all of you as we get through this."
Montoya stood as people stirred. "I'd like to see Ms. Allnut's executive assistant first please." She turned to Selina. "I also need a list of Foundation employees."
Selina handed over the list of names Alfred had included in her notes. So that's why he printed two copies of that page. Then she caught up with the receptionist whose eyes watered no match how much she blinked. "Here's the statement for the press when they start calling. Can you show me to Ms. Allnut's office?"
It was at the end of the short hallway beside the conference room. A low-walled cubicle was set next to the office door as the hallway turned to the left. The floor-to-ceiling window was on the west side of the building and looked over the shorter buildings across the street. This was a different side of the building and lower than Bruce's office. A white table with brown leather chairs was set against the glass so everyone could share the view. The computer desk was set against the door wall where one sitting behind it saw who entered the office. The white walls were bare. Artwork would compete with the view, but everything on this floor seemed so bare. She took out her phone and typed in a quick note about redecorating before going to the computer desk. Two file folders sat in the metal stand next to the monitor. One was labeled "Thomas Wayne Foundation: Current Projects," the other "Martha Wayne Foundation: Current Projects."
She lifted both folders and sat at the other table. If Montoya needed to search the computer desk, it would look better if Selina hadn't done it first. What bothered Harriet Allnut was probably in these folders.
The Thomas Wayne Foundation focused on medical interest. There was a list of candidates for an annual award for medical breakthroughs and lifelong commitment. It funded a scholarship to Hudson University's College of Physicians and Surgeons and one to School of Nursing. There was a note about creating a series of free clinics patterned after the East Eighteenth Street Clinic. A handwritten note had been added under the typed words: "partnership with universities providing hands-on medical training? Get firm numbers on operating costs."
The Martha Wayne Foundation supported arts, families, education, and tolerance. The soup kitchens had a note on increased food costs. The grants for artists had been temporarily frozen despite the unique opportunity to beautify the city during rebuilding. The list of learning disabilities specialist teachers needed updating. There was an inspection of St. Swithin's physical building and found woefully undersized for the amount of children it housed now. No suitable replacement building had been found yet. "Look for property suitable for building" was the note attached. A printed-out email from Bruce asked what to do about the system's aging children out at sixteen. "They haven't even finished high school yet and they are expected to support themselves?" It had worked out in Selina's favor after she escaped prison, but she also knew she was lucky in landing on her feet. Too many kids ended up as prey to the predators out there.
"Mrs. Wayne? Mrs. Wayne!" Selina looked at the door. A plump Asian woman with an accent straight from West Village flapped her hands. "Ms. Allnut has a lunch meeting today. I just got the email calendar alert. It says a possible donor at the Ocelot. It would have to be a Warren Buffet like donor, but I have no idea who that would be!" Her hands almost took off as she wailed the last.
Selina closed the folders and found her purse. "Who are you and what do you do here?"
"I'm Yin Bai, Ms. Allnut's executive assistant." Her red-scrubbed face and bloodshot eyes screwed up. "You probably want someone else to assist you--"
"Stop right there. I'm not hiring or firing anyone. Now call down for a car to meet me at the door so I can make this meeting."
Yin Bai nodded and reentered the cubicle outside the door while Selina headed to the elevators. She had no idea what a Warren Buffet like donor mean, but surely nothing would be derailed once Selina explained the circumstances. And if this mysterious donor did pitch a fit, well, they didn't want to do business with that type.
A doorman held open a taxi when she reached the sidewalk. "Sorry, Mrs. Wayne, all the company cars are in use."
"This is fine, thank you. The Ocelot as fast as you can."
The taxi driver was good and they reached the restaurant in fifteen minutes. The maître d' was a different road block. "There is no reservation for the Wayne Foundation or under Allnut, madam."
"Fine," Selina returned the haughty glare and stepped out of the line of people with reservations. She'd figure this out without using Bruce's influence. She dug into her purse as she moved closer to the outer door. Her arm stung as she found her cell phone.
Before she pulled up her contacts list, a wave of dizziness hit her. That hadn't happened in a while. Where was a seat? She reached for the wall, but a male arm supported her arm instead. "Let's get you some air, ma chérie." His other arm circled around her back and he guided her out the door while he eyes tried to blink away the fuzzy. His coat sleeve was green. Why? It wasn't St. Patrick's Day yet.
Phone, she need to find the donor's name. She moved it in front of her face. A purple gloved hand slid the phone from her slack fingers. "I procured us a taxi, dear. You'll feel better once your feet are up."
The dizziness hit harder as she sat on the back seat of the taxi. She closed her eyes so the world would stop spinning. It didn't help. A new male voice spoke. "I thought you said it was a guy."
"I'm not paying you to think," Green-coat man snapped beside her. Selina decided to look at his face, but her eyes didn't open and roaring covered her ears.