The Dark Knight Rises: Part of the Night: The Wayne Legacy

Chapter Thirty-Four

Her cell phone chimed that a new email just arrived. Jen dropped her notes on her bedroom desk, flung herself onto the bed, and picked it up off the night stand charging station. Study group for Intro Statistical Reasoning 7:30 tonight @ Business Library Meeting Room A. The lock screen covered the email message and showed the time 6:45 p.m.

"Thanks for the notice, people." She chewed on her bottom lip. The trains weren't running this late yet, so somebody would have to drive her back to campus and pick her up. She didn't want to ask Alfred. She had skipped supper because she didn't want to deal with angry Bruce knowing what his secret was, but Alfred had brought her a tray without her asking for one. He was already settling down for the night and that would just be mean. And she sure didn't want to ask Bruce. That left not going or asking Selina. And she really needed help studying.

She found Selina downstairs in the study sitting at the desk. Bruce and Stephanie were on the fancy blue and gold couch with a puzzle map of the United States. She took a deep breath. Bruce has no reason to yell at me. I didn't kidnap Selina. Selina set down the paper blueprints as Jen marched to the desk. Her words ran together in a nervous rush. "I need a ride to campus, a study group decided to meet for the final I'm really worried about so I should get it on that."

"We need to get you a car." Selina leaned back and pressed her hand against her belly.

"You are the most generous sister in the whole world, but that won't get me there tonight."

"I don't fit behind a steering wheel right now. What class is this study group for?"

"Intro to Statistical Reasoning."

Selina blinked. "Gesundheit."

"I'll take you, Jen." Bruce stood and set Stephanie on her feet.

"Can I go?" Stephanie asked.

"You better stay home and keep me company," Selina said. "Bring your puzzle here."

Jen swallowed hard and reminded herself that Selina wouldn't have let Bruce in their lives if he would hurt them. "I'll get my stuff." She found Bruce already in the Lamborghini when she reached the garage. "Thanks for the ride."

"I don't mind helping you." The car slid down the driveway, kicking up dust. "I didn't know you didn't drive."

Boy, that hurt her head. Batman gave a damn about her transportation and clueless Bruce never noticed how she had to catch rides. But Selina could play a ditzy socialite too and Jen knew she wasn't. Maybe Bruce wanted to talk. "I never needed to learn while we lived in the city."

"Public transportation is more reliable in city limits. Still not enough passengers to expand the Red Line's hours of operation out here, no matter how hard I keep pushing for it. But Selina knows how to drive."

"She promised to teach me, but with her jobs and everything that's happened since, she hasn't had a chance." It was okay that Selina hadn't done that after she made Magdalene Kyle disappear and put Jen in school and married a man who didn't care that Jen lived with them.

The car sped over the Queens Bridge and with the lack of traffic it seemed like they were flying. "I can teach you."

"You don't have to."

"I want to." Bruce smiled. "Either it'll be a chance to laugh when Alfred says I'm doing it all wrong and takes over or good practice for when Stephanie and Tara are old enough for lessons."

Jen grinned. "Don't forget about Timmy. His parents will be out of town when it's time to teach him to drive." Bruce chuckled. "Alfred taught you?"

"He taught Rachel and me. Wayne Manor has enough roads to practice on. Get a driver's manual this week and we'll start after your finals are done."

Maybe John was right and Bruce wasn't mad over what she said. And love made people vicious--she remembered what Selina did to rescue her and the rest of the victims of the ring--and he did love Selina, so it made sense he was angry over this Riddler hurting his wife. But Jen wasn't used to anyone being nice to her unless Selina made them. "Just like that?"

"Unless you'd rather move back to the penthouse instead of getting a license."

"That place is too lonely without everyone there. After finals is fine, great even."

"Good, where is your study group meeting?" Bruce turned the car onto the bridge that led straight into Hudson U's campus on South Channel Island.

She pulled her phone out of her pocket. "The library inside the Business College, Meeting Room A. Just drop me off where you usually do. I better call you for a pick up?"

Bruce nodded. "I can kill time at Wayne Enterprises on paperwork."

"Okay. So who is Rachel? I don't remember meeting her at any of the parties." She stuffed her phone back into her pocket.

The good humor wiped away from Bruce's face. "She was my best friend until she died nine years ago."

"I'm sorry." Why couldn't she ever end a conversation before she ate her foot? And it was going so well too, now he would get mad at her again.

"It's all right." He pulled over to the curb in front of the Business College. "Selina knows the whole story. It's not a secret." He managed a wan smile. "Call me when you're done."

"I will, thanks." She hugged her books to her chest and ran up the steps into the building. All the lights were still on, but without the press of people who were typically here during the day made her feel like she was in the middle of a haunted house. She shook her shoulders to dislodge that feeling. Stress is spooking my brain.

The Milton B. Finger Business Library's doors were on the right side of the lobby. There was a group clustered around a round table near the window, but she didn't recognize anyone from her classes. Meeting Room A was in the back of the building. She pulled out her phone while she walked past the tiny, closed-in cubicles for private study space. 7:20 p.m., even if she was the last one here, she wasn't late. They should think about how not all students live on campus. She'd remind them that the time to put a study group together was right after the last lecture met.

She opened the unlocked door to an empty room. The long rectangular tables were pushed together to form a U open to a blank whiteboard. If they moved locations, they should have written where they were going on it. "What--" she started to say loud enough to get kicked out of any library, but a hand pressed a wet cloth over her mouth and nose while another arm wrapped around her and pinned her arms and books to her chest. She thrust her heel down for the top of his foot just like Selina taught her. He twisted his foot away from hers. The sweet smell filled her nostrils. Her arms and legs hung heavy and her text books and phone fell to the floor as the room went dark.

Gordon adjusted his new office chair. They had moved into the repaired Police Headquarters Monday and two days later, he was still finding little things to shift around. At least he hoped it was just moving-in adjustment. Something in his gut had felt off since he started his shift. He set Babs' high school senior portrait next to his desk lamp. Montoya knocked on his open door before entering. He smiled. "Good work tying those bank robberies back to Crane."

"Thank you, sir. What's the situation for the Batsignal alert?"

He had worked out protocols for the use of the Batsignal with Nightwing weeks ago when the vigilante unveiled the repaired light moved to the roof of Police Headquarters from the Major Crimes Unit Building where he had first set it up a decade ago. The cell phone communication between Dispatch and Gordon personally was still available, but when the police had an emergency that needed vigilante involvement, they would turn on the flood light and Nightwing would confer with them. The citizens and criminals would get hope and fear from the signal. But that emergency had to be vetted through Gordon, the deputy commissioner who he needed to promote, or Lieutenant Stephens of MCU and the entire department knew that. Nothing had been brought to Gordon's attention. He pushed away from his desk. "Roof now, Detective."

Montoya fell in step behind him as they cleared the corners up the short flight to the roof from his top floor office. Hiding places were not available on the wide open roof, but they went around the access shed and the flood light with the metal Batman symbol against the glass to double check before returning to the wrapped box sitting in front of the light.

The bright green box looked to be two feet wide, two feet across, and two feet high. Its separate lid was tied down with purple ribbon topped with a huge bow. Question marks in different shapes and sizes were printed on the green wrapping paper. "Sir, was there ever a time when this job was normal?" Montoya holstered her weapon.

"You don't want to know what was normal when I started on the force." Gordon frowned at the package. "We need a forensic tech."

There was another footfall behind them. They whirled around and Nightwing dropped off the parapet. "What's wrong, Commissioner?" He held a large green card in one hand.

"Our riddling friend left a present." Gordon gestured at the box. "He turned on the Batsignal."

"He left a message for Mrs. Wayne earlier today." Nightwing passed him the oversized card. "No forensic evidence on it."

Gordon took the card but didn't try to read it by the flood light. "The Riddler threatened her again?"

"Actually, it said he would leave the Wayne family alone." Nightwing knelt next to the box with a black light flashlight.

Montoya's hands hit her hips. "He thinks she's Catwoman; did he finally remember what Catwoman did to Bane?"

"Maybe. No fingerprints or wires connected to the lid." Nightwing pulled the bow loose and lifted the lid. Gordon and Montoya looked over his shoulders at the contents. A computer circuit board was lying between two wooden stands held up eight rods of grey, yellow, blue, and green wooden balls in rows of four that were twisted in a spiral and held at their angles by two white plastic strands going through the end balls.

Nightwing flipped over the lid. "Nothing written. This is all we get? It doesn't even rhyme."

"Is this supposed to be an easy clue or a hard one?" Montoya asked.

Gordon twitched his moustache. "I, for one, do not want to give the Riddler the idea he needs to challenge us."

Nightwing lifted the circuit board by the metal section that slotted into the rear of a computer. "This is made by Genucore." He shifted the part so they saw the logo printed on the green plastic. "Does that company do anything with DNA?"

"Don't know," Montoya answered. "But why included two models of it if they do?"

"Why send a note to Mrs. Wayne that he won't bother her again?" Gordon shook his head.

Nightwing set the circuit board back into the box. "I'll take this for further forensics and I'll check on Genucore, see what they do that the Riddler would be interested in."

"Bring it back as soon as you're done." Gordon turned off the flood light's switch.

Montoya frowned at him as Nightwing swung away with the box. "With all due respect, Commissioner, we should keep the evidence left here."

"Another reason we set up the Batsignal here was to draw the Riddler out, Detective. Let's see if we have a better picture from the security cameras."

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