Rebuilding Gotham City: Day 62
Bruce considered himself critically as he brushed his teeth. The circles under his eyes were nominal. Nobody should notice or comment on how exhausted he looked. He probably got more rest than he normally did after hours of adrenalized worry. He had lain in the bed holding Selina and Stephanie until they slept. Then he went down and helped Nightwing put his report into the computer. He studied what little evidence they had while Blake changed and then they went to bed.
That was when he finally dozed off only to wake up from the bottom of the well swarmed with green bats. He spat out his toothpaste. My subconscious can learn a new trick.
He reflected on what they knew about the Riddler as he dressed. Nightmares and little sleep hadn't given him any new insights. He was buttoning his shirt when he heard the breakfast tray land on the table.
"Morning, Alfred," Selina said with a yawn.
"Good morning, Missus Selina. Did Master Wayne go downstairs?"
"Wouldn't you have seen him?"
"Not if he went further downstairs," Alfred said darkly.
Bruce left the dressing room as he adjusted his cuffs. "I'm right here, Alfred." He picked up his green juice glass and drained it.
Alfred was not fooled, but decided to let it go. "Have plans changed overnight?"
"Mine haven't." Selina rolled out of bed from Bruce's side while Stephanie pulled the covers over her head.
"I have to go in for the meeting with R&D, but I should be back by mid-afternoon. Can you call Ms. Bai and tell her to bring whatever Selina needs to work on here?"
Selina moved her plate from the tray to the table. "The woman was a mess yesterday with her old boss murdered and her new boss Mrs. Bruce Wayne. And now you have Alfred calling instead of me. I'm going to spend half the day calming her down."
"Do you want a new assistant?" Bruce moved his chair to its accustomed spot.
"I just told her she wasn't going to lose her job. If she freaks out too badly, Alfred will know what to do. What's so important at R&D to keep you from hovering all day?"
"Science fair." Selina raised her eyebrows. "Okay, it's seeing which project should be green-lit for the next phase, but they always act like their grades depend on the presentation so I call it science fair."
Stephanie slid out of the bed. "Potty."
"This way, sweetie." Selina got up and ushered her through the dressing room.
Bruce made up his mind about what hadn't even become a full option in his mind while they were gone. He moved the chair from the window to the table for Stephanie. "I need to show you something before I go. Dress in non-skid shoes."
"You know how to set off my curiosity." She poured Stephanie's cereal.
They finished breakfast and dressing, and sent Stephanie to tell Alfred what kind of cookies she wanted with tea. Bruce led the way to the parlor beyond East Drawing Room. Alfred had cleaned up his depression nests for reading and astronomy and had the cabinet he always used for target practice repaired. Selina looked at the uncovered paintings on the wall above the row of floor lamps. "You have some beautiful pieces that you never unwrapped before."
"We have, but that's not what I came in here for." He continued to the sideboard. Alfred had moved the photograph down to the study, but the safe and its contents were still inside it. He already had the long, black necklace box in hand when Selina crossed the room to him. "It's not a panic button, but it has a tracer." He set the box in her hands. "We'll still go to Cartier's for your permanent one." She opened the box and let the light shine on the strand of lustrous white globes. "I should have given them to you before now."
"Don't feel like you have to wait for a special occasion on my account." She closed the box and slipped it into her pocket. "Now will you stop thinking that it's your fault?"
Bruce grimaced. "I'm not responsible for this Riddler's actions, but I will keep my family safe."
"I wish my mistake didn't bring all this up for you."
He didn't bother retorting that the evening news was enough to bring all this up for him. "I would have rushed to the appointment too."
She shook her head. "I got complacent and it made me sloppy. That won't happen again. And if the Riddler is stupid enough to come after me and mine again after he's made me mad," she closed in on him and he remembered how she dropped the naïve maid act. Her hand cupped his jaw, "You know how sharp my claws are."
The tightness in his core that had become ever present since yesterday afternoon opened a miniscule degree. "Then we better find him before you have to use them." He took her hand and held it all the way down to the study. They walked to the piano and he slowly played the three keys. The bookcase door swung into the room.
"Kudos to your builder," Selina said. "I never noticed."
He set his thumb on the scanner for the elevator. "You were looking for a secret passage?"
"That was one of the few rooms not covered in dust cloths, so I was studying it, trying to figure you out." She brushed against him as she stepped into the elevator.
"Even if you got the door open, the elevator and cave need recognized thumbprints and retina scans."
"You do love biometric locks, wait, cave?" The elevator door closed behind them.
"I told you how I fell down the old well in the greenhouse, but I left out how it disturbed a group of bats. I still dream about that." He shook his head. "Years later, when I was looking for a symbol to galvanize Gotham, a bat entered the Manor. I went down the well again and found the cave. Alfred and I discovered that my great-great-grandfather used the foundations of the house and installed a cage elevator for the Underground Railroad. We updated all of it when we rebuilt the Manor."
The elevator came to a stop and the door slid open. They walked down the brick tunnel. It opened onto the ledge around the foundation arches. The two finished cubes were up, and the one closest to the waterfall entrance had the Tumbler parked on it. To the right further down the old river bed, a larger cube was in the scaffolding stage of construction. Selina stepped closer to the edge and Bruce followed her. His proximity opened the rock wall on the right and the computer terminal slid out to meet them.
"And I thought the bunker was impressive." She turned and looked at everything again. "The bats are still here?"
"They are as stubborn as I am. No one has found this place. Alfred and Blake are set up as users already, but you should be too. Just in case." He sat in the computer chair and booted up the users registry.
She stood behind him and rested her hands on his shoulders. "This is the downstairs Alfred was talking about."
"In his defense, I have always been here when he doesn't find me in bed. You can get out through the waterfall, but it's a jump the Tumbler can make. The ladder over there," he pointed to the other end of the foundation arches, "leads up to the greenhouse in the formal garden. We need another exit with a street legal, off-road capable vehicle hiding in it."
"So you aren't building that for a Hummer?" She pointed to the newest cube.
"No, that's for the new Bat. Lucius wants to work on it and Applied Sciences is still being repaired."
"How do you get out to them, swim?"
"The gangplanks come up when authorized users approach them. Put your thumb on this." He held up a digital scanner.
She complied. "So what's back there?" She pointed down the old river bed that disappeared into the darkness.
"The rest of the cave system. Look in here." He pointed to the webcam built into the Plexiglas display. She shifted and let the camera image her eye. "I thought about exploring the rest of it, but never got around to it," he added.
Selina stepped back from the computer. "So we need a secret not Bat-vehicle and a new secret garage attached to the Batcave as an escape route for when mercenaries invade."
He looked up at her. "I plan for every eventuality. And the Manor has been invaded before. Maybe the next time they won't bother to wait for a social event so they can eat the hors d'oeuvres before attacking."
"It needs to be out of the way of the normal crime fighting routine. And we better save the rest of the tour for later or you're going to keep the science fair waiting."
They got into the elevator using Selina's thumbprint. "I do believe you about the Riddler's ego," Bruce said as they ascended.
"I know you do. You've already put it on your profile on the man." She smirked as the elevator opened up and he pushed open the bookcase door. The study was still empty. She pressed the bookcase door after it closed testing its strength. "Do you want me to work in here today?"
"Yes," he answered too quickly. She leaned her back against the bookcase door and he continued, "I know he won't break in here while I'm gone. It's just--"
"It will make you feel better," Selina interrupted. "Just know that I expect you to be creative tonight in making me feel better."
The tension that she would fight him because his paranoid ass was showing unraveled like it had been cut. He leaned closer and cupper the back of her neck. "I will." His husky voice dropped further. "You know all my secrets now."
"I love you too, Bruce." Her arms reached around his neck and pulled him closer. Her lips captured his.
He was jolted back to their first time in this room and how their barriers made even a kiss impossible. And now he had just shown her the cave. His hand tangled into her hair. Her fingernails pricked his scalp. He groaned into her mouth.
"I found them!" Stephanie yelled at the door. They jerked apart. "Alfred says you're gonna be late and Aunt Jen needs a ride," Stephanie said at a lower volume before she turned to the spears in the urn next to the door. "What's this?"
Selina swiped the lipstick off his lips with her thumb. "Those are sharp, don't touch."
"Okay, I'm going." He released Selina reluctantly. "And that's heavy." He told Stephanie as she looked at her reflection on the gilded bust on the bottom shelf. She darted and hugged his legs. "Be good for your mommy and Alfred."
"I will." She released him and went back to the decorative items on the shelves.
Alfred finally reached Ms. Yin Bai. The executive assistant controlled her fluster. "I'm not exactly sure what Mrs. Wayne was working on yesterday, Mr. Pennyworth. And then that rude waiter at the Ocelot. She didn't have an accident, did she?"
"No, there wasn't an accident," Alfred soothed. "Bring a copy of the current financials along with the paperwork. Money is at the root of nearly all ills."
Ms. Bai promised to bring the necessary paperwork as soon as she got it from the office and they hung up as the doorbell rang. He frowned as he headed to the main door. Who would be arriving now?
A black-haired boy stopped stretching for the doorbell when the door opened. His blue eyes stared up at Alfred. "Hello, I'm Mr. Timothy Drake."
"Alfred Pennyworth." He saw the dust of a retreating automobile down the drive. Perhaps he should have put the Manor on lock down again this morning. "How can I help you, Master Timothy?"
"I'm here to play with Stephanie."
"I was not aware of any such arrangement."
"It was a surprise to me too."
"And they just left you here."
Timothy turned and looked down the drive. "Mom had to go to the office and I've lost another nanny."
The voice was so resigned for one so young. Alfred remembered that tone coming from a young boy who wondered why surgery was more important than him. "Come along, Master Timothy. You are lucky the ladies of Wayne Manor are home, otherwise you would have to spend the day with me."
Missus Selina and Miss Stephanie were still in the study, gathered around the antique globe bar on a marble-topped table. "Gotham is way up here." Selina pointed to the location on the globe while the little girl stood on the piano bench and leaned closer.
"Mrs. Wayne, Miss Stephanie, may I introduce Mr. Timothy Drake? He's here to play with Miss Stephanie."
The boy stopped beside Alfred. "I've lost another nanny."
"Another nanny?" Selina smiled. "If you've lost more than one maybe you should put them on a leash."
Timothy grinned. "It sounds like we forgot to pack her, but Mom and Dad said it's more polite than saying they were fired."
"Better keep saying it then. Where is your dad?"
"Out of town on business," he sighed. "He goes there a lot. And Mom had to go to work at the office."
Selina turned to Stephanie. "Are you okay with playing with Timothy?"
Stephanie climbed off the piano bench and marched to the boy. "Do you think I'm a public stunt?"
"No?" the confused boy answered.
She grinned. "Good, he can stay. My room is this way." She grabbed his hand and pulled him out of the study.
Selina grimaced. "How are we supposed to watch them and work?"
"Master Wayne put the intercom system on the Manor's network." Alfred pulled one of the laptops out of the desk drawer. "You'll be able to listen to them like a baby monitor."
"He thought of that, but not an elevator in the main house." Selina joined him at the desk. "Timmy got dumped on our doorstep?"
"Indeed, the car was already out of sight by the time I reached the door." He shook his head. "Will you be working in here?"
"I promised Bruce I would." She moved around the desk to its chair.
"In that case, let me find you a pillow. That chair was not designed with pregnancy in mind."
"None of them are," she muttered.
He had plenty of tasks to prevent hovering over the young woman, which he doubted Selina would appreciate very much. He set up the tea tray, so he only had to add boiling water after he ushered Ms. Bai into the study. He returned with the refreshments to find the visitor catching tears with a tissue and Selina offering her another one. "I should have gone with you! None of it seemed right. It wasn't like Ms. Allnut's appointments. You could have been killed!"
"He didn't want to kill me and everything is fine now." Selina looked at Alfred and mouthed "help." Then she pulled another tissue from the box. "Nightwing and the police are both after him now. It's fine."
He set the tea tray down and poured Ms. Bai a cup. "Now, now, Mrs. Wayne knew you were in no shape to go on a business meeting yesterday, which is why she didn't impose it on you, and the blackguard clearly counted on that as well. Cream? Sugar?" Ms. Bai hiccupped and took her tea. Selina helped herself to a scone. "Did you bring the financial statements? As a director, I feel that well, perhaps I inadvertently let Ms. Allnut falter."
"She always had nothing but good things to say about you, Mr. Pennyworth." Ms. Bai pulled the folder out of a small plastic file case. "Mr. Cooper ran it for me this morning."
"Near as I can tell from Ms. Allnut's notes," Selina said, "there's not enough money for everything Bruce wants done now. We need to fund raise."
"Oh, but we don't." Ms. Bai almost dropped her cup and saucer. "Mr. Wayne didn't create the Foundation to chase money with events."
Alfred frowned at the financial statement. Wayne Enterprises share price had improved since the Occupation, but it hadn't returned to the heights where the Foundation had done its best work.
"So Bruce hates fundraisers." Selina picked up her tea cup. "That makes our first two dates all kinds of interesting. Alfred, what does Bruce have against fundraisers?"
He passed the financial statement to her. "I don't know if it's my place to spoil Master Wayne's rant on the subject. He has been refining it for years."
"I can't call him for it while he's meeting with R&D." She opened the folder. "And right now the Foundation barely has money for its ongoing obligations."
Ms. Bai set down her cup. "I can have accounting go back over the numbers."
"I believe the numbers and the problem is income."
"Master Wayne was disillusioned by the typical fundraising event that funds itself before its cause and is really given as a bolstering to the ego of the host."
"I'm already looking forward to hearing Bruce's version. So how was the Harvey Dent Day soiree different?"
"The costs of the event were covered by the Manor's account. The Foundation donated equal amounts to the city's Legal Aid clinics and a law school scholarship in honor of Rachel Dawes."
"And encouraged party guests to do the same," Selina added. "So pledge drives are for the Red Cross and United Way, not for the Wayne Foundation. Yin, have we got any numbers on what they're getting for Gotham and how it's being spent?"
Ms. Bai dived into her plastic file case again and Alfred retreated to the kitchen to finish lunch preparations.
The day turned out more productive than Selina had feared. Once Alfred's tea had done its magic, Yin Bai had settled and began compiling the data Selina needed to make decisions. Nothing for Foundation would be decided without Bruce's input, but she impishly paid off one artistic grant request out of her own bank account. It was one less thing to bring to Bruce's attention at least until the statue was installed, and she had to get Bruce's input on other issues. Yin left after lunch to pick up her children and to drop off Selina's check. Selina retreated upstairs to change her shoes. It was ridiculous how many body parts had to change to grow a baby.
Angry wailing protested across the hall. She stuffed her feet into slippers that were too small for them and threw open the door. The room Selina had only spent one night in was barely recognizable past Stephanie's toys and the day bed added to it. "What's going on?"
Both crying kids turned to the door pulling a purple mass of material between them. Timothy rubbed his head with his other hand. "She threw a brick at me!" He pointed to the extra-large red Lego brick on the rug.
"He yanked off my caped crusader's mask!" Stephanie yanked on the purple material. Timothy let it go.
"Are you bleeding?" Selina asked Timothy.
He looked at his hand. "No."
"Then you learned an important life lesson, Timmy. Don't go pulling masks off people wearing them. They don't like that." She turned to Stephanie and held her hand out for the material. "Were you hurt when Timmy took off your mask? Was anybody hurt?"
"No," Stephanie said grudgingly as she handed over the material.
"What are you supposed to use before fighting?"
Selina nodded. "No more caped crusader game because you started the fight. Now if you don't want Timmy to go home and never come over again, you need to apologize."
Stephanie swiped her face with her hand. "Don't go home. I'm sorry."
"I'm sorry too. Let's play pirates." The boy ran to the toy chest under the window and pulled out a foam cutlass.
Peace restored, Selina took the object of contention back to the master suite. It turned out to be a hooded cape with an eye mask built into the hood. She tossed it on the bed, found Bruce's slippers, and wore them downstairs.
Alfred met her on the stairs. "There you are, Missus Selina. Detective Montoya is here to see you. She's waiting in the study."
The detective stood in front of the desk and studied the bottom shelf that now held Bruce's photograph collection: the one of his parents with burnt edges, a portrait of Rachel Dawes to match the head shot of Harvey Dent, and a picture of Selina and Stephanie in their matching purple sweaters at the forefront. "Hello, Detective Montoya, I'm sorry I vanished on you yesterday." Selina sat on the sofa.
"I know it wasn't your idea." Montoya sat in the closest matching blue and gold chair. "Are you all right?"
"I'm fine and the baby's fine; everybody wanted me to take it easy today. I'll probably go to the office tomorrow. Unless I need to go now because you have to arrest somebody."
Montoya shook her head. "Looks like this Riddler worked alone, or at least no one at the Foundation had anything to do with Harriet Allnut's murder or your kidnapping."
"Good, I'd rather not fire anyone right now. So how can I help you?"
"I read the statement you gave the Commissioner last night." Montoya opened the pleather portfolio she held. "It occurred to me that maybe the Riddler was so careful not to let you see him because you know him." She passed a photograph to Selina.
It was an eight-by-ten enlargement of security footage from the Ocelot. The man in the green coat and bowler hid behind Selina as he supported her. "Best shot you have?" Selina asked.
"Sorry, but I don't think I'd recognize Bruce in a pose like that."
The door banged open behind Selina. "Hey, Selina, I need a research project," Jen said. "Alfred thought you might need another look at the Wayne Foundation numbers, oh hi, John's friend Renee."
Montoya blushed. "Hello, Miss Kyle."
"Did I interrupt Foundation business?"
Selina shook her head. "No, Detective Montoya is here about my kidnapping."
"Oh, you're a cop," Jen said as she leaned against the back of the sofa. "I always forget John was a cop." She glanced at the photograph as Selina handed it back to Montoya. "How did you get a picture of the Lucky Charms Guy?"
Montoya straightened out of her reach. "You recognize that man?"
"There can't be two idiots going around the city in that hat when it's not St. Paddy's Day."
"Has he been following you around Hudson's campus?" Selina asked.
"No, he scared Stephanie last month, when we found the Liberty Church. I was talking with the Reverend about weddings and Stephanie was focused on the plaque with the Wayne name on it. Next thing I know she's screaming at this guy dressed in green and diving under the church pews to get away from him."
"That's what we told her to do," Selina told Montoya.
"What did he do?" Montoya asked.
"Apologized for scaring her and left. We went back to the penthouse and she was okay. And then you guys brought home the scary child advocate lady."
"That explains why Bruce or I never heard about this."
Jen's mouth dropped open as she stared at Selina. "Oh my god, was he trying to kidnap Stephanie?"
Selina didn't answer Jen out loud, but her cold sinking stomach knew the answer was yes. After the way he harped on Stephanie being the key to figuring out she was Catwoman; it was obvious now. But again the Riddler missed a little detail, this time Stephanie's fear of strange men.
"You got a clear look at him?" Montoya leaned closer.
Jen nodded. "He didn't look like a nut but they never do and I wanted him gone from Stephanie, so staring contest that I won."
"Will you come with me to the police station and help us create a facial composite?"
"You know, I had hoped the first part of that question would be asked, but the police station is not my destination of choice." Jen blushed, Montoya reddened, and Selina realized there was no way to exit without drawing attention to her presence.
"By the time you finish, I'll be off shift. We could have dinner, if you'd like." Montoya's gaze fell to the rug.
"I'd like that a lot. Let me get my coat." Jen pushed off the sofa and trotted out the door.
Selina followed the pair to the Great Hall and made sure the door was closed behind them. Then she went looking for Blake and Bruce. They were holed up in a parlor near the kitchen and consulted a laptop on a spindly writing desk. "John Blake, did you set my sister up with a cop?"
He straightened. "I didn't set anyone up. I introduced Renee and Jen. If they hit it off, great, Renee dates less than I do and that's saying something."
"Is that why Montoya visited? To get your blessing?" Bruce leaned back in his chair.
"No, she brought a photo of the Riddler to see if I could identify him. It was from the Ocelot's security footage, so no. Then Jen barged in and recognized the outfit as the Lucky Charms Guy." Two confused male faces stared at her. "The one who scared Stephanie last month."
"Jen didn't give any details and Stephanie was okay when they got back." Blake crossed his arms. "The Riddler does dress like the Lucky Charms leprechaun."
"He tried to kidnap Stephanie." Bruce's flat voice didn't ask and his hazel eyes blazed.
"She foiled it by screaming and hiding under the church pews," Selina said.
"I'll have to change what self-defense I was going to start with," Bruce said.
"Having a face may help." Blake dropped his arms. "But the Riddler lies low until he has his plan ready to drop. Seeking him out when we don't know anything about him isn't an option." He grimaced. "This will be a waiting game until he makes a move."
Bruce nodded. "Agreed, as much as I hate it. We'll continue with our normal routines for the time being. And I'll check on the police headquarters renovation progress. Let's give the Riddler somewhere else to leave his clues."
"So I can go back to the office tomorrow?" Selina asked.
"As long as you don't leave the building alone."
Selina smirked down at him but Alfred's voice carried into the parlor before she came up with a witty retort. "What do you think you are doing?"
"We're pirates," Stephanie said. "We have to have treasure to bury."
"Gold, silver, and jewels," Timothy added.
"Not the silverware needed for supper," Alfred scolded.
"I'm more worried about how they planned on burying it," Selina said as she headed toward the dining room.
The end of another day, Alfred sighed as he locked the back door. Master Timothy was retrieved by the Drakes' chauffeur before supper. Alfred left a word with the man that the family would be out for the rest of the week and passed along Emma's contact information as a reliable babysitter. Nothing against the polite and lonely boy, but Wayne Manor would not be turned into a daycare center. He turned the lights off in the hallway as he moved toward the front door. It was locked and everyone was abed except for Master Blake. Alfred hoped his patrol was uneventful.
A figure in white walked ahead of him in the next hall. "Missus Selina?"
She jumped as she whirled around to face him. "Don't scare me into labor, Alfred. Have you seen Bruce?"
"He didn't go to bed?"
"He had something to wrap up for Revitalize Gotham after supper and I haven't seen him since." She opened the study door. Bruce sprawled back in the desk chair. He jerked up and blinked at them. "Forgot you own more beds than people living here?" she teased.
"Sorry." He wiped his face as he stood. "Old habit."
"A bad habit," Alfred frowned. Bruce matched it.
"Let's not ruin a good day now. Do you need to stay up until Blake comes in?" Bruce shook his head and Selina held out her hand. "Then come up to bed with me?" she asked.
"That was inconsiderate of me; I'll do better." He wrapped his arm around her back. "Good night, Alfred."
"Good night, sir, madam." Alfred continued to frown as he shut off the lamps. They had finally completely moved into Wayne Manor with all the décor unwrapped and the dust cloths banished. But Bruce retreating to the cave and the study and letting himself fall asleep there brought up unsettling memories. He needed to be present for his family. Alfred snapped the stairs light off.