Bruce pressed the elevator button and reflected over the planning committee's reaction to Revitalize Gotham's presentation. Their price for repairing Gotham Stadium had shocked the committee, but they were the only company who hadn't decided to demolish the remaining structure and start over. The plans Daggett had worked up were structurally sound and the stadium remains were certified explosive-free, so the only thing Revitalize Gotham added was a memorial wall to name those who died during the Occupation. A proposed budget that low was bound to shock government officials.
The elevator door opened on his office's floor and Detective Montoya sat in his waiting room. "Detective, I do have something for you." She followed him into his office. He set down his briefcase and passed her the stack of printouts from his desk. "Emails between me and Harriet since the Occupation ended. Selina said Harriet was annoyed with me, but I didn't see it until I reread all of them."
"You missed that but your wife saw it?" Montoya took the papers.
"Apparently they had a talk about me last night." Bruce looked rueful as he sat behind his desk. "I only found out about it this morning."
"Where is your wife, Mr. Wayne?"
"I left her with you."
"She left for a lunch meeting while I was interviewing people. No one knew where, so I assumed it was code for you two to see each other."
"I wish; I just got back from City Hall." He picked up the phone and called Selina's cell phone. The call went straight to voice mail. "Selina, call back. Detective Montoya has questions for you." His next call was the speed dial to Harriet's office phone.
"Wayne Foundation, this is Julia, how can I help you?"
"Julia, hello, this is Bruce Wayne. Do you know where my wife is?"
"Oh, she still not back from the lunch meeting, Mr. Wayne. Ms. Bai was worried that it was taking so long, and called the restaurant, but they didn't know what she was talking about and she had to leave and pick up her kids, so that's why I'm answering her phone."
"Thank you, Julia. If you see Selina, tell her to check her voice mail." He hung up and booted up his computer. "Let's see what Harriet had planned for today."
Montoya moved around his desk so she could see the monitor as he opened up Harriet Allnut's email account. "Do you routinely hack into your employees emails?"
"Never had to before. But Harriet had a lunch appointment with a donor at the Ocelot. No name given for who the mysterious donor is or how they plan to donate to a private foundation." Bruce coaxed more detail from the computer. "Looks like the appointment was added from her home computer yesterday."
"Is there a time stamp?" Montoya leaned closer.
"10:15 p.m. according to this. You'd have to look at her home computer to be absolutely sure."
"And it came from her home computer? Not through her cell phone?"
Bruce frowned. "That's Harriet's home IP; I've seen it many times."
Montoya pulled out her own cell phone and retreated around his desk. "Ethan? Did you guys examine Allnut's computer yet? Someone was putting an appointment on her work email while she was coming home from the party."
A cold claw squeezed Bruce's lungs. He looked up the Ocelot reservation desk's number. "I'm trying to get a message to my wife. She'd be seated at the Allnut table."
"There is no reservation under Allnut. There has never been a reservation for Allnut today. Go bother another restaurant with this prank." The phone slammed down on the other end.
He scowled as he put down his receiver. "He must be new."
"The restaurant?" Montoya slipped her phone into her jacket pocket.
"Never had a reservation for Harriet Allnut." Bruce stood up. "I imagine you want to see the security footage as badly as I do now."
"It will take time to get a warrant."
"Not necessary when the owner gives you permission in exchange for a ride."
Montoya didn't press him for small talk in the unmarked police car, which worked for him because he needed to call Alfred. "Everyone accounted for?"
"Miss Stephanie and I just returned from collecting Miss Jen from the train station. I'm preparing afternoon tea while the young ladies begin homework."
"Secure the home front." It was ingrained too deeply not to lie to Alfred. "Selina's missing and it may be connected to Harriet Allnut's murder."
"Should I inform Miss Jen?"
"Use your judgment on that. It might be best to wait until after Stephanie's bedtime. I'd rather her not know."
"Very well, sir, don't worry about things here; just concentrate on finding the missus."
They hung up just as the car reached the Ocelot. The maître d' recognized his face when he saw it, and didn't hide his questioning look at Montoya who brought out her badge before he asked how many in their party. She pointed to the security camera mounted on the ceiling. "Detective Montoya, MCU, we need to see that security footage now."
"I've already given her permission," Bruce said.
"This is highly irregular."
"This stopped being highly irregular when a woman who came in for a non-existent reservation cannot be reached by anyone." Bruce leaned over the reservation desk. "Her disappearance may have been recognized hours earlier had you cooperated with her assistant." His fingers dug into the decorative trim of the podium. "Hanging up on her husband trying to find her is not the customer service I expect from a restaurant I own."
The maître d's Adam's apple bobbed over his black tie. "Your wife?"
"Is missing. Either handle this request or get someone out here that can," Bruce all but growled.
Montoya slipped her badge back into her jacket.
"Just one minute, just one." The maître d' scurried through the main dining room.
Henri, the chef-owner, came out of the back a few short minutes later. "Mr. Wayne, your wife came here for lunch? No one told me."
Bruce pulled his temper back under control. "We need to see your security footage to find out what happened. Selina left for a reservation here, but there's no reservation."
"Bien sûr, this way." The older man in the white chef's jacket led them through the swinging door into the kitchen. He took a sharp right turn before they went past the metal counters and opened a closet door. Only this closet held a desk, computer, and a stool. "Security footage is on this now." Henri perched on the stool and clicked with the mouse. "You want the lobby, oui?"
"Yes, around noon." Bruce and Montoya leaned over Henri's shoulders as he selected the file.
The resolution was a bit grainy, but the same maître d' was at the desk. Selina joined the line at 12:10 according to the time stamp. "Selina made it here," Bruce said through his tightening throat as she opened her black wool coat and adjusted her purse. They watched the silent argument take place which ended with Selina retreating from the desk, moving closer to the door as the tiny lobby filled with patrons, and opening her purse.
A man in a green coat and bowler moved behind her. Selina lurched for the wall, but the strange man with questionable fashion sense wrapped his arms around her. She continued to list as he steered them out the glass doors.
"Do you have outside cameras?" Montoya asked.
"No, there has never been a need," Henri answered. "Your wife, maybe faint because of the baby?"
"Everything was fine on her last check up and this morning," Bruce said. "And no hospital or doctor's office has contacted me or Alfred."
"Replay it again," Montoya said.
Bruce leaned back and pulled out his phone. Nightwing's user ID was logged into the bunker's computer. He typed in a text message to override whatever he was running. Search hospital emergency rooms for Selina's admittance.
Montoya muttered under her breath in Spanish. "There are no good shots of his face. He knows where the camera is."
Bruce looked at the footage again. How could Selina of all people be so careless to let a stranger touch her? "She's been drugged. If she was just pregnancy fatigued or dizzy, she wouldn't have walked out with him."
The text message alert beeped on his phone. Negative on hospital search. Selina's missing?
"There's green beside her arm before he moves behind her." Montoya straightened and looked Bruce in the eye. "I'm afraid this looks like a kidnapping."
"Married less than twenty-four hours before a kidnapping, that has to be a record." Bruce shook his head. "You better tell the Commissioner." He typed a response to Nightwing while Montoya turned away for her call. Selina kidnapped connected to Allnut murder.
"Forensics has to confirm the appointment was set up by someone other than Allnut, but Mrs. Wayne still hasn't returned Wayne's phone call." Montoya paused. "Yes, sir, I will." She turned around. "We need a copy of that file, she pointed to the computer. "The Commissioner wants to see you about this."
"Of course." He typed to Nightwing. Meet at Gordon's office.
The ride to City Hall was silent. Bruce consoled the coldness inside him that this kidnapper, even if he had murdered Harriet, didn't know who he had really kidnapped. Selina would school him thoroughly and bloodily. He refused to think about drug side effects on pregnancies.
Gordon had redecorated one of City Hall's conference rooms into an investigation room. Crime scene photographs from Harriet Allnut's condominium were tacked up on a wall along with photographs of Cartier's vandalism, a green card on a glass wall, a green card on a restaurant table, a green spray-painted question mark on a painted brick wall, and others. Bruce turned away and watched Nightwing lay plastic-shrouded green cards onto the conference table from his case. Montoya frowned at them. "What is the perp's fascination with green?"
"Why does he have a fascination with question marks?" Nightwing countered.
Gordon grunted as he plugged the laptop in at the far end of the conference table. "Let's see this kidnapping before we cover what else we know."
Bruce didn't watch it again. Instead he read the green poster board:
Cats fear water and have their own marksHe glanced up at the photographs on the wall. The poster had been taped to the side of a building.
Head here to make up for your lack of birthmarks.
"Kidnapping is exactly what it looks like," Gordon said. "And I don't know if the correspondence found at the crime scene counts as a ransom note." He waved his hand at the table before unplugging the flash drive. "Take it to Forensics and see if they can do anything to I.D. the bastard."
Montoya pressed her lips together as she took the flash drive. Her brown eyes flickered over Bruce and Nightwing. "Yes, sir." She resealed the evidence bag holding the drive and left.
Bruce held it in until the door shut behind her. "What the hell happened last night?"
"Everywhere I went last night had 'cat' in it," Nightwing said as he crossed his arms. "I should have guessed he'd target Selina next."
Gordon shook his head. "We all thought the trail led to Allnut's murder. And the note we found at the scene broke the cat trend." He forestalled Bruce's explosion by standing up and flipping over a white board. A timeline had been filled in on the opposite side. "The murderer set up his scavenger hunt as businesses closed for the night or in the case of the Fat Cat bar, used their reservation set up for his clue. Then he broke into Allnut's condo, set up the fake reservation in her work email, and killed her as soon as she returned home. Two bullets to the torso."
Nightwing picked up the report with a bitterly edged voice. "At that point, he turned on Cartier's altered outside decorations and went home to bed. Meanwhile, I followed the clues to Trillium Park Zoo, Katz's Deli, Fat Cat, sidetracked to the Algonquin, former location of the Gotham Book Mart, Stray Cat Tattoos, and finally to Allnut's condo."
"On Lyons Avenue," Bruce said as he moved to the end of the table. The clue that had been displayed on the LED gift tag had been typed up on a sheet of paper.
Behold the mighty panther!That led to the zoo. The front of the card had "So you might be smart enough to play along" and a smiley face printed on it in gold foil.
These jewelers co-opted the fearless beast
for an icon of all desires thanks to artiste.
Elegance and independence trapped in gems and gold.
Bah, who can be bothered with things so cold?
Not for me such classy bling,
I'd rather have the real thing.
"He doesn't have a high opinion of your brains, Nightwing," Bruce said knowing the other two men were waiting for a comment.
"He's justified," Nightwing answered.
Bruce held his hand up as he read the zoo clue.
Changed my mind, he's not petiteTwo different references to Katz's Deli, he noted as he moved to the next clue.
Out of house I'd be with how he'd eat.
Now I'm hungry, but I won't have what she's having.
Pastrami on rye with mustard, oh what a craving.
"The chase is on" was the outburst,Nightwing found the clue at the right bar. The fingerprints on the envelope all belonged to a bartender who Nightwing had spoken with.
Forgot mustard gives me quite the thirst.
So where do brainy kitties go for more games with their beer?
Everybody knows I like chess at Cheers.
"It is time to find congenial company."You thought this clue referred to Matilda?"
Wise men, notable women, words and cats accompany
Ideas contained in the most portable format.
So ponder does every writer own a literary cat?"
"Does everyone in the city know about that cat but me? Actually it was the bartender's idea; sounded like it fit. The concierge told me about Gotham Book Mart."
Bruce moved to the poster and read it again. That led to the tattoo parlor.
Home despite not being Pride Rock"Pride Rock?" he asked.
But with that name you expect a flock.
"Where the lions live in the Lion King," Nightwing explained.
Gordon's mustache twitched. "You'll be sucked into the cult of Disney soon enough."
Bruce locked down the panic that he wouldn't, not if something happened to Selina and the baby. They'd take Stephanie away too and be right to do so. Everything he wanted always died. He punched the thought further down. "What he left at Harriet's condo didn't match these six clues?"
"Seven," Nightwing corrected. The bitter was back in his voice. "He didn't start last night. The first message was left on the Tumbler six weeks ago." He went to his case and set a white piece of paper sheathed in plastic at the beginning end of the table.
Gordon and Bruce reached it at the same time. This poem was typed in green ink.
Some bluebirds told me,
They saw a puddykat,
In a concrete cage,
Made by Bane.
She wasn't alone tee-he,
She never named the bat,
But what acts they did engage,
Before boom went the plane.
Did anyone foresee,
That I found the puddykat,
In a gilded cage,
Owned by Wayne.
How could she agree
To forget the bat?
No grief to assuage,
__________ shows no pain.
"Why am I just now hearing about this? When the bolded letters spell out Kyle?" Bruce clenched his fists.
"It was the night of the Evermonds raid," Nightwing answered. His bitterness leached away and uncovered the pain. "I figured someone on the force made sense of all the rumors and chose a nutty way to warn us. I told Selina to scale back her City Hall visits."
"This lousy poet knows who Catwoman is, knows about Batman and Bane--" Bruce pulled a ragged breath. "Do I even what to know about the rumors?"
"Why kidnap her?" Gordon's mild voice refocused their attention on the case. "To prove he's right? Because this is not a ransom note." He tapped his fingers on the table next to the last plastic shrouded, green sheet of paper.
Bruce returned to the end of the table with the laptop and read the green sheet.
What name belongs on the record of birth?Bruce pulled out his cell phone to double-check definitions.
Loss of consortium leads to no mirth.
Come to your old tree house if benedict has any worth.
"Where was it?" Nightwing demanded after he read it.
"Taped under the green lamp he pointed out the window," Gordon answered. "Forensics found the riddle while they printed it."
"Benedict means bridegroom," Bruce read from his phone. "Loss of consortium is a legal term for the inability to have normal marital relations."
"Lack of sex does lead to no mirth," Nightwing said, "and doesn't require a dictionary."
"Marital relations, marriage, he planned on kidnapping me." Bruce closed his eyes as he imagined today with a difference. "I'm the head director over the Wayne Foundation. I ran it before Harriet's hire, so of course I'd step in during an emergency. And I would have run to keep Harriet's mysterious appointment for the Foundation's sake and to see if it was a lead on her murder. Just like Selina did."
"So it's Selina's tree house we have to find? That kind of information isn't in her police file, pre- or post-Cadmus hiring her." Gordon's forehead furrowed.
"Her sister probably knows," Nightwing suggested.
Selina diligently took Stephanie to the park. "My parents did it for me and I'm fine." So they never had a yard with a tree large enough for a tree house. "Willowwood. He knows about Willowwood." Bruce opened his eyes.
Gordon blanched. "Those girls were in there?"
Bruce nodded as he turned to the door.
Nightwing stepped in front of him. "You can't, Bruce." Bruce's snarl died in his throat with the younger man's next words. "I'll bring her back."
Gordon clamped Bruce's shoulder in a vice while Nightwing left the room. "Come on, son; let's go get your car while we wait."