Bruce took a deep breath as the elevator doors slid shut. The Board of Directors was in Lucius and Miranda's hands now, and he had to trust them to save Wayne Enterprises from Daggett. He had one more piece of Bruce Wayne business to handle before he could concentrate on stopping Bane.
The elevator stopped on the floor for the Legal Division of Wayne Enterprises and the affiliated lawyers who managed the Wayne family personal business. Mr. Lorry's personal assistant saw him first and hit the intercom button. "Mr. Wayne is here. Go right in, Mr. Wayne; he's been looking for you all morning."
Bruce nodded at the breathless young man and entered the double doors the assistant usually guarded. Jarvis Lorry stood up and shook his hand over the desk. The burly man sat back in his seat. "Fine mess to wake up to. I've been calling you all morning."
"Sorry, I was with Lucius, making sure Wayne Enterprises remains running." Bruce sat down in front of the desk. "How bad is it?"
"Is it fraud?" He punched some keys on his laptop. Lorry had taken charge only five years, ago, but he already had developed the no-nonsense attitude Bruce preferred dealing with.
"It's fraud. Even if I was stupid enough to empty my personal bank account on future options, I would never sell my Wayne Enterprises shares." Lorry nodded as he typed. "And then there was the break-in at Wayne Manor."
"Break-in? You didn't report it to the police?"
"No, it was the night of the Wayne Foundation's Dent Day celebration and nothing of value was taken, so we decided someone must have went into part of the Manor that was closed off." The memory of Selina Kyle dressed as a maid sauntering toward him surfaced. Daggett hadn't paid her for his fingerprints; he could use that. "That must be how they got my fingerprints."
"We may never get a chance to prove that, but I'll add it to the report to the SEC. The strongest factor in your favor is the terrorist attack on the Stock Exchange."
Bruce shook his head so not to snarl that Bane accomplished that with a clean getaway. "I'm glad no one was hurt in what turned out to be an attack on me."
"True. We better freeze your other bank accounts in case the terrorists have access to them as well." Lorry stood up behind his desk. "I'll contact you as soon as we have a meeting with the SEC."
They shook hands and Bruce ignored the whispering from the others working on this floor as he entered the elevator again. It should have prepared him for the pandemonium outside the Wayne Enterprises building.
"Mr. Wayne, over here!"
"How does it feel to be one of the people, Mr. Wayne?"
"Mr. Wayne! Mr. Wayne!"
He let that wash over him. It was news, it was their jobs, and it was over as soon as he was inside his car. Only a tow truck hauled his brand new sports car--bought yesterday to replace the one Selina Kyle absconded with leaving Miranda Tate's party--onto its bed.
"Mr. Wayne, they're towing your car. I didn't know what to do; they had the paperwork."
Bruce turned from the sight and the apologetic Wayne Enterprises' valet. He looked up at his family name over the building's door. This wouldn't have happened to his father.
"Looks like you need a ride, huh?" Blake materialized at his side.
Bruce turned and saw a patrol car parked in front of the building. "Yeah." He followed the young police officer.
The GCN's perky news announcer smiled at the camera. "It's good to hear that he is improving. Everyone here at GCN wishes the Commissioner a speedy recovery. Now over to Jack Ryder for the leading story of the day: what did Bruce Wayne do to bankrupt himself?"
Selina switched off the television set and dropped her suitcase on the armchair. No wonder Bane's men paid a call last night. The storm had finally started. She shifted the hangers on her clothes rack. What role would best get her and Jen out of Gotham? Better question, where to go after Gotham?
She took a versatile sweater off the hanger and folded it into the suitcase. Europe had the most opportunities for her line of work, but did it offer enough hiding places for a guy like Bane? She sighed and added her favorite little black dress to the suitcase. Maybe she and Jen would get lucky for once, and Batman will defeat Bane. Like the Kyle luck is ever that good.
Jen's voice carried up from the stairwell. "I told you. Money first."
Selina rolled her eyes. She had told Jen there was enough money from the Lamborghini to travel on. She didn't think she needed to tell the younger woman to avoid pissing people off right now.
"I don't think so." The familiar male's voice rose over Jen's, but not angrily. Selina moved down the hall to the stairwell.
"That's how this works," Jen said firmly.
"I don't think so." Wayne repeated a little louder.
Selina opened the door to their walk-up apartment. Bruce Wayne stood two steps lower than Jen to be eye-level with her as they argued. His grey Armani suit looked rumpled, like he had been through a ringer of a morning before landing on her doorstep. His knot on his mauve tie was loosened to second unfastened button of his shirt. "He's not a mark." Both of them turned toward her voice and Wayne looked relieved to see her. What had Jen propositioned him with? "And he doesn't have a cent to his name, anyway." She held the door open and gestured for him to follow her inside.
He didn't begin the conversation as his gaze swept over the knickknacks and dishes stored in the hallway kitchen. Both she and Jen compensated for a childhood with nothing by holding onto stuff now. She continued through to her bedroom/living room, which the half-glass partition revealed all its lived in glory. He paused at the narrow door while she tucked a pair of black jeans under her arm from off the futon sofa. So it wasn't the fine antiques at stately Wayne Manor, and he didn't appreciate those either.
"Yeah, it's not much, but it's more than you got right now." She rolled a black blouse into a smaller wad.
"Actually, they're letting me keep the house." He almost sounded apologetic for that good luck.
"The rich don't even go broke the same as the rest of us, huh?" She turned back to her suitcase, folding the clothes into it.
Wayne stepped more into the room, but kept himself out of her path. "My powerful friend might hope to change your mind about leaving."
Selina spared him a glance. "And how would he do that?"
His awkward fidget ceased. "By giving you what you want."
Like she would fall for that again. Daggett had wasted enough of her time. "It doesn't exist." She focused on her suitcase.
"He says it does." She glanced at Wayne as she went back to the futon. His eyes never left her. "He wants to meet, tonight."
"Why?" She snatched up a pair of leggings and watched him as she walked them to her suitcase.
"He needs to find Bane, and says you'd know how."
Bane's flunkeys were right. Her stomach clenched. Batman was offering himself up to them on a silver platter with Wayne and Selina carrying it straight to Bane. She should have run faster. "Tell him I'll think about it." She crossed her arms over the pain inside. She had her rules, damn it, not Bane's, not Batman's, not the police, and right now, the rules screeched like an angry cat. The tightness moved up from her stomach to her chest.
Wayne didn't pick up on any of that, which meant her mask was still on. "Okay," he answered, and then as if relieved the proposition hadn't resulted in bloodshed added, "I like your place."
There was no sarcasm or condensation in his parting shot. Had there been she would have never called after him. "Mr. Wayne."
He turned and leaned through the doorjamb. His white shirt strained to cover his chest.
"There's one thing I won't take from anyone." She pressed her folded arms harder against her ribs. "Their life. Everything else is fair game." She moved back to the futon for another article of clothing so not to see his face. "I can't help your powerful friend, not even for the CleanSlate. Bane wants Batman dead and will settle for us." The tightness in her chest eased enough for her to make a flippant smile. "How is the Riviera this time of the year?"
Wayne stepped past her and peered out the window between her painting and her vanity mirror. "Bane threatened you and your roommate last night?"
"Not personally, but his mercenaries beat me home. And threat doesn't describe the dread they left behind."
He craned his neck to find the street from her alley-facing window. "Did they put you under surveillance?"
She hadn't expected that question. Maybe he had taken security lessons to heart and that's why he never employed bodyguards. But worse, she should have thought of the ways Bane could keep them in Gotham. "I don't know, but he's hiring street kids. They know how to blend in." A selfish reason for his concern wiggled through her worry for her and Jen's skins. "But they'll write you off as another yuppie looking for Old Town kicks."
His shoulders never shifted under the slack in his jacket. "I'm already in their crosshairs." He turned to face her. "You could help me get my money back."
She plucked a black pantsuit off the clothes rack. He had no idea how harsh the real world was and hadn't done anything really to deserve this slap in the face. And Bane sure wouldn't spend the Wayne billions on Gotham's unfortunate souls. "I'm sorry they took it."
"No, you're not."
"I stopped going to confession when I was twelve, and I'm not about to start again with the Feds." She folded the pantsuit into her suitcase. Toss her pity away, will he?
"We can work faster than the Feds." She crossed her arms again as she stared at him. "I'll pay you," he added with an air of price no objection.
"Not if you help me. Why should Daggett and Bane profit from your expertise when they didn't pay you?"
She teased her bottom lip between her teeth. That sounded appealing and if it was just her neck they threatened to snap, it would be no decision. But Bane's flunkey had threatened Jen too. Selina's eyes shifted to the doorway. She couldn't let Jen get hurt.
"You and your roommate can stay at the Manor," Wayne offered. He caught her tell and her respect for him nudge high enough to consider his offer. "That will get you away from Bane's men for now. And if you'd rather leave Gotham at any time, you're free to go."
"I've stolen from you twice and you're giving me keys to a guest room?"
He shook his head at her skepticism. "You just took things. If you see anything you want, it can be part of your fee. Everything but the pearls."
"You really are attached to them." She smirked. "Let me talk to Jen." The smirk faded when she stepped into Jen's bedroom.
Jen looked up from the newspaper. "That's him? That's really Bruce Wayne?" She shook the front page with an older color picture of the man.
"Pipe down, he's still here." Selina leaned against the closed door.
"You made it sound like such a chore to kiss him. What does he want?"
"He wants to hire me to get his billions back."
Jen's eyebrows shot up. "Can you do that?"
"I have no idea. But I can name my price and he's offered for us to stay at his mansion."
Jen jumped off her bed before freezing. "Is it a trap?"
Good, she was learning something. "I don't think so. He hasn't even asked about his car."
"A mansion's got security to keep those creeps out, let's go!" Jen seized her packed duffel bag.
"Change into something that won't get you arrested for hustling, and I'll tell him it's a deal."
"'Lina, you really shouldn't need a deciding vote on spending more time with a hunk."
Selina shut the door and hoped Wayne hadn't heard that. He was looking at the books stacked on her desk with his hands in his pockets. "You've got a deal. Twenty-five percent finder's fee?"
"Minus the cost of anything in the mansion that catches your eye?" He watched her nod. "Fair enough."
She turned and plucked a cab-shaped magnet off the fridge in the hallway. She gave it to him as she went back to her clothes rack. "Call us a cab and ask for the Tahiti special."
He pulled out his cell phone. "I don't know if I have enough cash for--"
She rolled her eyes. "I'll cover it." She tugged a white blouse off its hanger and folded it into the suitcase. She better pack the black skirt that matched the pantsuit she had already packed.
Wayne followed her directions with the dispatcher while she decided on shoes. He pocketed his phone. "I'm not sore about the Aventador. Really I'm not," he repeated to her disbelieving look. "But it was paid for."
And now it's paying for the rest of our transportation. But she didn't tell him that while she put her black heels in the suitcase.