Bruce drove the gardeners' Kawasaki mule into the woods as he followed the dot representing the tracker on his tablet perched on its dashboard. He parked when the vehicle no longer fit between the trees and heard Stephanie's shrill voice. "But I want to see!"
"Sweetie, that's not respectful. He deserves to have his death investigated so we can tell his family what happened to him," Selina explained.
He picked up the picnic basket and blanket and headed toward their voices. A wall of hedges separated them, but he found the hole cut in them. Stephanie sat on the ground next to Helena's baby blanket. Helena kicked as she lay on her back. Selina reached into the doorway of the ruined house and pulled Blake through the threshold. His clothes were wet from the waist down and muddy from the knees down.
Stephanie spotted Bruce first and ran to him. "Daddy! We found a tree house!"
"I see." Bruce caught her and set her on his hip. A tree grew inside the ruined walls.
"Mommy won't let me see the dead body."
"Yeah, Mommy's right about that." Stephanie pouted so he turned to the pair leaving the ruins. "What's going on?"
Selina picked up Helena. "You're back early. Lucius sent you home because you're too cranky for meetings?"
"Everything wrapped up early. Good thing; now where's the body?"
Blake moved the picnic basket next to the diaper bag. "In what was the basement of this house, and you won't ruin your wingtips as long as you stay out of the cave."
Bruce set Stephanie down, pulled the blanket from under the basket handles, and unfurled it for Selina and the girls. "Help Mommy with lunch." He patted Stephanie's head. "I brought a ladder," he said to Blake.
Blake followed Bruce back to the mule and they freed the extension ladder from the roof straps. "This is long enough to get down there. Repelling is a lot easier when you don't have to worry that the wall will fall down on you."
"Just how much repelling are you doing in Old Town?" Bruce picked up the other end of the ladder.
"I'm going to audit some engineering classes. Nobody told me structural engineering was important for a cop or a caped crusader."
They slid the ladder down shadowed hole at the front doorway where a floor should have been. Blake retrieved his helmet with a head lamp and went down first. Bruce had light underneath him and sunlight filtered through the leaves, so the basement wasn't as dark as the cave entrance that the fallen brick and stone wall underground revealed. "The cave reaches all the way here?" Bruce asked as he accepted the flashlight Blake handed him.
"That's what Selina was worried about. It's clear the whole way back to the main cavern. The body is over here." Blake pointed his light down at a moved section of stone blocks. "The wall had a door built in it. I lifted the hinges and found his boot."
Bruce squatted next to the skeleton and moved the beam of light over the tattered black suit and hat it wore. They were older than any styles he had seen his father wear and reminded him of clothes he had seen in Civil War and Sherlock Holmes movies. The white hilt of a dagger stuck out from his ribs. "That does look like murder. A suicide wouldn't stab his lungs."
"The way the body lies, I think he died trying to get through the cave door," Blake said. "And then the wall fell on top of him and sheltered the body."
"But why was he out here?" Bruce asked as he stood. Blake shrugged. He checked the cell phone signal, called the police's non-emergency number, and explained the situation before climbing back up the ladder. Once in the great outdoors again, he called Alfred to expect a detective to arrive for the body on the property and then explained the situation again while Blake found a spot next to the picnic blanket. Bruce put the phone away, sat, and accepted a sandwich from Stephanie. "Thank you. Now somebody please tell me how and why you found a dead body?"
Selina patted Helena's back as she held the baby propped against her shoulder. "While you and John were busy securing the Manor and Wayne Enterprises from future Riddler attacks, I went looking for less obvious targets. The most wide open one was the Wayne Special Collection at the Hudson University library. Did you know Gordon's daughter is working there as part of her major?"
"No, but what could the Riddler find out from almost two hundred year old documents?" Bruce asked before taking another bite of his sandwich.
Selina got Stephanie to bring her a bag of chips. "That's what I thought too, so I was delivering a police sketch and a warning to call the police if he was spotted until I found out that Miranda Tate had paid a visit." Bruce's back stiffened. Selina continued, "We lucked out there. She only looked at the Manor's plans that your architect had researched for rebuilding the Manor and Judge Solomon Wayne's published memoir. However, his diary is what held the juicy details about sneaking people for the Underground Railroad into the caves on the Manor grounds."
"Uncle John found a subway?" Stephanie asked.
"Not exactly. It was a secret route to help people run away from bad people who were hurting them," Selina explained.
"When they got to Gotham, your great-great-great-grandfather hid them from bad people looking for them," Bruce added.
"And he wrote in his diary that they entered the caves at the old Hunting Lodge. You said he put in the first elevator down to the Batcave, so then I worried there was a back door you didn't know about. I finally found a reference to the lodge on a property survey map from a Charles Wayne's time. Then I had fun figuring out where it is with the current property lines. How many neighbors did you buy out?" Selina laid Helena on the blanket.
"This diary is still accessible by the public?" Bruce frowned. He had no idea how to request something be removed from a special collection, even if you could.
Selina smirked. "I tried to get it out of there but little Babs caught me and then wouldn't budge when I wanted to redact the entry. But the kicker, after Jen was kidnapped, she decided I was right and cut the whole page out."
"The research she brought to you."
"I stashed it in the jewelry safe, but we need to find a better place for it."
"But why didn't you tell me?" Bruce asked.
"Surprise," Stephanie answered.
"Finding a dead body wasn't part of the surprise," Selina said. "I'm very annoyed with him."
Bruce's cell phone rang. "Detective Crispus Allen has arrived, Master Wayne," Alfred informed him.
"Detective Allen is here about our mysterious dead body," Bruce repeated.
"I'll go get him," Blake offered as he stood up. He took off his utility belt and hid it and grapple gun in the picnic hamper.
"Are we staying here all day?" Stephanie asked.
"The detective will need to talk to us." Bruce picked up their litter and packed it back into the picnic hamper.
Detective Allen was an African-American man as tall as Bruce with a smooth shaved skull. He shook Bruce's hand. "Got a little more than you bargained for with this archeology project, Mr. Wayne?"
"You could say that. Thank you for coming. This is my wife, Selina, and our daughters, Stephanie and Helena."
"Sorry for the unpleasantness. Which way is it?"
Blake pointed to the front door of the ruined Georgian mansion. "Down the ladder; we got a spare flashlight."
Stephanie tiptoed after them. "Stephanie, come back here," Bruce said.
"No fair, everybody else gets to see him."
"I haven't." Selina passed Helena to Bruce. "You still haven't said how your meetings went."
"Revitalize Gotham is providing concrete for the city's rebuilding projects, Lorry's options for the will are back at the house, the Board of Directors is ecstatic over Wayne Enterprises' stock price, the toy line has improved the Foundation's bottom line, signed off on your fundraising event for next Friday, and spoke with Mr. Haly. He promised quite the show."
"And home for lunch. You've had a full day already and we have more planning to do later."
Bruce mentally ran over his calendar. "Oh right, somebody's got a birthday coming up soon."
Stephanie looked up from the gnarled tree root she balanced on. "My birthday! It's on the eleventh. Timmy had a clown who did magic at his birthday party."
"So you want clowns at your birthday party?" Bruce asked.
"No, I'd rather have the pony ride from Easter."
The ladder clanked as it shifted with the weight of the two men climbing up it. Allen emerged first. "That must be a cold case before there was even a police department." He pulled a plastic bag holding a leather wallet about seven inches long from his jacket pocket. "Do the initials J.T.W. mean anything to you?"
Selina gasped, "Joshua Thomas Wayne?"
"A relation?" Allen asked.
"My great-great-great-uncle," Bruce answered.
"That's a lot of greats," Stephanie said.
Bruce nodded. "He disappeared during the Civil War. That's the correct era for those clothes."
"Disappeared right before it broke out," Selina added. "Judge Solomon Wayne never saw Joshua again when he left to lead bounty hunters away from their passengers."
"They were conductors on the Underground Railroad," Bruce explained.
"And I just read Judge Solomon Wayne's memoir when I was researching the family trees. I was going to put up one in the nursery," Selina added.
"My wife did that for our boys with pictures of the family members," Allen said. "So the family back then assumed the bounty hunters got him?"
"Their bodies were found in the Liberty River. The Judge decided the same thing must have happened to Joshua, but Providence made sure the Wayne name was unconnected to the Railroad," Selina said.
"Then his son was born, the war started, and his sister tried to join the Union Army." Bruce shifted his grip on Helena. "The Judge never looked for Joshua here."
"Poor soul." Allen slipped the wallet back into his jacket pocket. "So close to his loved ones, but not close enough. The coroner's office will have to pick up the body, but it won't take long for them to sign off on the paperwork and release the body for burial."
"Thanks for clearing up an old family mystery." Bruce shook his hand again. "Let's get the girls back to the house and we can handle the rest."
Eventually, they got the house back to themselves. Selina retreated to the study to nurse Helena. Blake went upstairs to get some sleep and Stephanie went to her room to play, so Bruce followed Selina ahead of Alfred bringing them a tea tray. His wife sat on a cushioned bench and looked annoyed in general though it softened as she looked down at the feeding baby. Bruce headed to the desk. "I don't know why you aren't more excited for having solved a hundred-fifty-three-year-old mystery and hiding the evidence trail to the cave's back door."
She frowned as she accepted the water glass from Alfred. "I didn't set out to solve a mystery and now Joshua ruined my plans."
"I'm positive he didn't plan on getting murdered that night, so cut the poor guy some slack." Bruce took a cookie off the plate Alfred held out to him.
"You aren't going to like living at the scene of his death any more than you like living here so I'm back at square one."
He dropped the cookie back on the plate. "Living where?"
Selina took a deep breath. "Bruce, you hate this house. You try to keep it buried, but we've all noticed how it affects you. Living here doesn't work for you, and Alfred hates the penthouse."
"It's like living in a giant aquarium," Alfred said when they both looked at him. He set Bruce's tea cup on the desk.
"So I remembered you have a construction company now if there was a backdoor to the Batcave, we could rebuild the lodge or build a new house on that spot." She pursed her lips. "A win for everyone until Joshua's bones turned up."
Bruce left the desk and sat on the other end of Selina's bench. "Build another house on Wayne Manor. That is brilliant. I hope Helena ends up with you adaptability. I won't have nightmares about Joshua; I never knew him. Alfred, what do you think?"
Alfred held out the cookie plate to Selina as he took back her empty glass. "As long as this new Manor has the kitchen I am accustomed to, I'd be happy to relocate. But what will we do with the current Manor house?"
"Turn it over to the orphans of Gotham City like Bruce has always wanted to do. St. Swithin's needs the room, the Foundation can administrate, and we'll be here too. It'll never turn into a Willowwood."
"The answer for everything." Bruce leaned over Selina, tilted her head back, and kissed her deeply. "Do I do as good a job taking care of you as you do taking care of me?" he asked after he pulled back.
Selina's hooded eyes looked up at him. "I've got no complaints."
Rebuilding Gotham City: Day 231
Alfred double checked his own list before powering down the laptop. All was in readiness for Miss Stephanie's birthday party on Sunday. The pony ride was arranged, the cake ordered, the ice cream hidden in the walk-in freezer, and invitations sent and accepted. Once tonight's fundraiser at Haly's Circus and the birthday party were done, the household would focus on building the new Wayne Manor. Master Bruce wanted the orphans moved in by Christmas at the latest. "We can share this house if we have to. The West Wing is bigger than their current building," he had said. Alfred shook his head. Hopefully putting in the drive back to the lodge site wouldn't be delayed by weather.
Speaking of schedules, it was high time the family set off to make it to the event. Missus Selina had worked too hard on this partnership with Haly's Circus, the Children's Aid Society, St. Swithin's, and other reopening institutions that care for children. The ticket proceeds and concession revenues from the circus' 2013 - 2014 nationwide tour would fund the programs Master Bruce set up years ago to keep children fostered until they graduated high school and not shoved out onto the streets when they reached sixteen. The Foundation would underwrite the expenses of the show and advertising, and the circus would keep the profit from their carnival games. He found the family in the Great Hall, preoccupied with last minute fussing.
Jen pulled the hem of the bolero jacket she wore over a black sequined blouse and tight jeans. "Are you sure it's all right for me and Renee to be in the booth with you guys?"
"I don't think the big top has booths," Bruce said, "but yes, it's fine." He straightened his tie.
"No PDA," Selina said as she laid Helena in Alfred's arms. Her new purple dress had black side panels which made her hourglass figure look more pronounced than it actually was two months after giving birth.
"Selina, it's a circus. I know how to behave at a circus."
"Helena's been fed and changed, and there's more breast milk in the fridge. I think that's everything." Selina bit down lightly on her red bottom lip.
"Go enjoy yourself, Missus Selina. Miss Helena is much better behaved than Master Wayne, and we both survived to his adulthood. Barely."
Bruce helped Stephanie put a jean jacket over her purple sundress and black leggings. "No giving Helena any ideas about what she can get away with. Selina does that enough."
"Do you want something from the circus, Alfred?" Stephanie asked.
"Just for you to have a good time, Miss Stephanie, and to tell me all about it when you get back."
"I can't wait for the trapeze swingers!" The soon-to-be five-year-old jumped up and down.
Jen snickered. "Trapeze artists," Selina corrected as Bruce helped her into a black sweater.
"But they swing."
"Let's just call them by their name, the Flying Graysons," Bruce suggested.
"At least she isn't frightened by clowns or the rest of it," Alfred said.
"Why Bruce, you have a childhood phobia about clowns?" Selina asked with a teasing smirk.
Bruce opened the door. Master Blake had moved the SUV to the front door before he left to his patrol. "No, a strong dislike only developed nine years ago. We both have our phones if anything happens."
"Very good, sir. Enjoy yourselves." He stood on the steps and helped Miss Helena wave a chubby fist good-bye as the SUV roared down the drive. "Now Miss, you and I are in for a nice quiet evening." He closed and locked the door.