The Dark Knight Rises: Part of the Night: The One Rule

Chapter Five

Bruce didn't linger in Alfred's warm office. Now was not the time to wallow in how much he missed his old friend. He snatched the paper off the printer and headed back to the study. Selina was right; none of these names were familiar.

"Wayne!" He frowned and followed her voice. Hadn't they gotten past the point of only addressing each other by last names? He stopped short in the Great Hall. Selina stood to the side with raised hands while Blake stood in the front door juggling a handful of papers to free his handcuffs. Selina's expression was locked down to betray nothing.

"Blake, what are you doing?" Bruce spotted the detective's shield clipped to his belt. That was a fast promotion.

The young man gestured at Selina and nearly lost his papers. "She kidnapped Congressman Gilly."

"I did not."

"He picked you out of a photo line-up."

Selina scowled and ticked off her list on her fingers. "He consented to leaving the party with me, he consented to staying at my place, and he consented to taking the pill that made him a little loopy. Kidnapping is taking by force and none of that is kidnapping."

Blake gave up on his handcuffs. "So he consented to the bullet hole in his leg?"

"Daggett's thugs shot him; take it up with them." She crossed her arms.

"Did you know she was here?" Bruce asked. If Blake had deduced it, Selina and Jen were not as safe as he thought.

Blake's glance bounced between Bruce and Selina. "No. What is she doing here?"

The paperwork must be the tunnel information Blake had alluded to yesterday when he dropped Bruce off in Old Town. "She's helping me get my money back, so you can't arrest her. This way." Bruce turned back to the study.

Selina shut the door and followed Bruce. "Have you looked at the list yet?"

"A glance, but I've never heard of these charities either."

"Charities?" Blake trailed after them.

"Everyone who bought Wayne Enterprises stock that was formerly Bruce Wayne's sounds like they're of the philanthropic bent, but apparently don't believe in advertising themselves." Selina smirked. "Wait for it. There it is, the cat-burglars-don't-donate-to-charities look."

"You donate to charities?" Blake leaned against the back of the sofa and didn't hide his skeptical expression.

"Tax deductions." She moved the magazines on the round table into a pile.

"You think they're a front?"

"Very likely," Bruce said. "So why did you come out here, Blake? To tell us the Commissioner's well enough to promote you to a detective?"

"He's doing a lot better, but I thought you'd want to know Daggett was found dead in a dumpster yesterday. Broken neck."

Selina's back was to Blake, so he missed how her face blanched at his announcement. Bruce reached past the chairs and grabbed her arm. She latched onto his forearm, dropped the magazines, and grabbed the round table. "Selina?" he asked softly.

She turned in the direction of his voice, but her fear-blown eyes didn't see him. "He said Bane would do that to us." Her fingers dug into his muscle.

He leveraged her onto the sofa. "Blake, get her something." He nodded at the bar hiding in the globe on the other side of the round table. The confused police officer headed there.

Selina let go of his arm and rubbed her face before looking at him as he sat next to her. "Daggett wasn't the brains." She swallowed, and some of her volume came back. "But he was in on it. He was calling the shots."

"Bane let him call the shots. Theatricality and deception are powerful weapons." Bruce took her ice-cold hand. "You need to tell us what you know. You're the only one who can."

Her face wrinkled as Blake brought a glass with a finger-span of amber liquid in it. She looked up at him. "Off the record."

Blake sighed. "Fine, off the record." She took the glass and drained it in one gulp. Blake sat gingerly on the closest chair.

She eased her fingers from Bruce's grasp and wrapped both hands around the cut crystal glass. "I went after the CleanSlate program, but Daggett Industries bought Rykin Data before I made a move. One corporation or another, no big deal for me. Only Daggett relocated the program and left a help wanted ad in its place."

"For you personally?" Bruce asked.

"For anyone desperate enough to go after the CleanSlate. And I was, so I answered it. Daggett offered it as payment for a series of jobs he wanted done." She looked at Bruce. "You want to know how I know he is... was a cheapskate?" He nodded, even though she didn't need a response to continue. "He used that damn, just-one-more-job routine on me, and the first four jobs were getting dirt on people. What you hire a private detective for."

"Who did you spy on?" Blake asked.

"Veronica Vreeland, Daniel Mockridge, Karl Rossum, and Douglas Fredericks. I don't know what Daggett did with the dirt I found on any of them, well except Fredericks, he didn't have any. That guy may be the first decent corporate tycoon I've ever observed."

"He is," Bruce said. "He has wanted to haul me out to the woodshed more than once since my father's not here to do it. And they were all on the Wayne Enterprises' Board of Directors."

"Mockridge committed suicide last year," Blake said gruffly. "First one I ever worked."

Selina flinched. "I never should've swallowed my pride for those jobs."

"Vreeland and Rossum retired from the Board eight months apart. Daggett must have ended up with their shares, because Lucius started contacting me about placating the Board right after."

"Another detail you stopped checking on?" Blake asked. Bruce nodded.

Selina glanced at both of them before continuing. "Daggett promised the CleanSlate after the fifth job--"

"My prints," Bruce said.

"Right, but he had been giving me the just-one-more-job dance for so long; I figured I better take out my own insurance."

"Congressman Gilly," Blake said.

"Was frightfully rude." She turned to Bruce again. "Maybe you should actually attend the parties you give to keep sleazy men from goosing the help."

"Gilly only got shot in the leg?" Bruce shook his head.

"Not my idea."

"Did you sleep with him?" Bruce saw Blake's eyes widened and knew he shouldn't have asked that. It was fine if she turned him down, but he hated the thought of that adulterous politician's hands all over her smooth skin.

Selina smirked. "Not that it's really any of your business, but I do have standards. I didn't even vote for him. Now he might remember quite the party, but that was all dirty talk and the pill he took."

"Trust me, he remembers something different." Blake rubbed his face. "Didn't make his wife happy either."

"Aw, he's still in love?"

"And pressing charges."

Selina shrugged. "Back to what I know, I brought Gilly and his cell phone to the drop after hours of stoned 'my wife doesn't understand me' ramblings. Daggett's flunky Stryver didn't pay me and was going to kill me until GCPD traced Gilly's phone. Good job with that." She gave Blake a thumbs-up.

Blake glared at her. "A firefight broke out; the Commissioner followed those thugs into the sewers, and got shot himself. But you don't know anything 'bout that?"

Selina frowned. "Why was he even there? Commissioner of Police is a desk job."

"Not for Gordon," Bruce and Blake said in unison.

"Okay, first, don't do that again; it's creepy. Second, I'm sorry he isn't as good at ducking as I am. I'm not in cahoots with them. They tried to kill me twice."

Blake snorted. "You gave them another chance?"

"Maybe you don't have a past you'd like to erase from existence, but I do, Detective. I broke into Daggett's penthouse the night before, same night as the Stock Market attack. I couldn't find the CleanSlate, so I questioned Daggett about it. He said it didn't exist. Then who I thought were Daggett's muscle showed up, but they were Bane's men." She shook her head. "They were ready to kill me and Daggett, but Batman interrupted things." She smiled wistfully at the floor while Bruce ignored Blake's stare. "We beat them back and took his escape route, an insane plane with no wings."

Her cheeks flushed as she looked down and rotated the glass in her hands. Bruce remembered the admiration in her tone when she said "powerful friend" that night. She wanted Batman? As if this situation wasn't complicated enough.

"I ditched him when we landed and found Bane's men waiting at home with Jen. The one in charge told me Batman would make contact and I better lead him into the tunnels or Bane would snap both our necks after the boys got tired of gang raping us." Her face hardened as she set the glass on the table. "I'm a bad girl, but I'm not a killer."

Bruce picked up the story for Blake's benefit. "Batman asked me to make a deal with Ms. Kyle: CleanSlate for leading him to Bane. She turned it down."

"They want him dead. Daggett exhibit A." Selina stood and took the glass back to the globe bar.

"I hired her to help me get my money back," Bruce finished. Blake nodded. "So what else do you know besides Daggett's dead?"

Blake opened his folder full of papers on the round table. "Someone's doing something in the tunnels under Gotham, hiring street kids to work. And since the Commissioner came out of those tunnels, he's convinced the guy in charge down there is Bane. But Daggett's name is all over the permits for underground work. The Commissioner wants the tunnels flushed out, but Deputy Commissioner Foley is dragging his feet. Doesn't believe in Bane."

"Those guys really need to pay him a house call," Selina muttered.

"Daggett hired Bane and his mercenaries to engineer a coup that secured mining operations for Daggett Industries in West Africa." Bruce spread out the papers. Blake had marked locations on a city map. Daggett Industries had work sites on all the islands. He picked up a permit. "Why can't they include pictures with this stuff?"

"I have a program that might help." Both men turned to Selina. "I'll go get it."

Blake waited until her shoes could no longer be heard down the hall. "Does she know?"

"No." Bruce left the permit on the round table and booted his laptop on the desk.

"How are you going to keep her from finding out?"

He ignored Blake's concern while he connected this laptop to the processors down in the cave. He copied Selina's list and started searches on the names.

Selina returned just as he was finishing and plugged a flash drive into the laptop she was using. "Hopefully, this does what it advertised. I haven't needed to visualize a text since I got it." She pulled the permit next to the laptop and typed.

Blake frowned. "Do you really think they told the city exactly what they're doing?"

"I know you've been a detective for all of five minutes, so you still need to learn this. Best hiding is in plain sight."

"Like a screaming woman at the location of a fire fight?"

She smirked. "A cop who can think; of course, Wayne found you."

"I found him."

"Sure, Detective whatever-your-name-is."

Bruce leaned back in the office chair. "I thought you two knew each other. Forgive me for skipping introductions. Detective John Blake, Selina Kyle."

Her laptop beeped before Selina responded with a clever bit of sarcasm. Her eyebrows knitted together as she stared at the screen. "What the hell is that?"

Blake moved behind her first, but shifted aside so Bruce could look over her shoulder too. The screen showed a wire frame outline of a circular room with two levels and a catwalk stretched across the open span. A tunnel branched off the upper level as well. "Why build that under Gotham?" Bruce mused out loud.

"And where are they building it at?" Blake added.

Selina consulted the permit sheet in her hand. "The tunnel opens in the subway tunnel under O'Brien Street in Midtown and extends for four blocks until it reaches that room." She picked up the laptop and moved to the sofa before typing again. "You two sure know how to crowd a girl."

The laptop beeped again and she stared up at Bruce. He frowned. "What is it?"

She set the laptop on the sofa and left the study. Once in the hall, she yelled "Jen!"

Bruce picked up the laptop and held it so Blake could see the screen. The wire frame model drawn from the permit was now colored red and resized to fit on a map of Gotham City. Dread squeezed Bruce's stomach. "It's under Wayne Enterprises." He set the laptop onto the table and moved after Selina.

Selina and Jen both stood at the doorway to the television lounge. Jen frowned at the taller woman. "Why do I have to pack? What happened?"

Selina finished dialing her cell phone and put it up to her ear. "Go pack now!"

Jen turned to Bruce and threw up her hands. "What happened? Who are you?" She pointed to Blake as he joined them.

Selina grabbed Jen's shoulder and turned her toward the stairs. "Go pack or I will throw you on a plane without any luggage!"

"I'm going!" Jen stomped up the stairs with a bewildered look at the men over her shoulder. Bruce shrugged and she continued upstairs.

Selina's attention focused on her phone. "Bonjour, Oswald. Oh, you're in Germany now? Eagle's Nest, sounds like they built it for you. Yes, I'm still in Gotham."

Blake leaned closer to Bruce. "Who is she talking to?"

"I don't know."

Selina frowned as she stepped away from the men. "Why didn't you tell me that? Yes, I did turn down your job offer, but it wasn't much of an offer." Her free hand massaged her forehead. "I need to cash in the favor you owe me. I need you to take in Jen and keep her safe."

Bruce didn't hear Oswald's reply, but Selina's back stiffened and her hand curled into a fist. "I'm going to pretend you didn't say that and you're going to pretend to be a decent human being! Or so help me, I'll ram your favorite umbrella up your ass!"

She trotted past Bruce and Blake. Bruce followed her back to the study with a new dread. She realized Bane was after him and she wasn't safe, so she was running with Jen. He didn't want her to leave. He wouldn't stop her, no matter how much he'll miss the energy she brought back to his life.

She leaned over the desk with a pen poised against a notepad. She glanced at them when they stopped at the sofa. He couldn't tell what she was thinking as her eyes locked with his. "One ticket, business class." She looked back down at the desk. "Don't squawk, Oswald, I'll pay the difference."

Jen dropped her duffle bag, barely missing Bruce's foot. "Who's she talking to?"

"An Oswald," Blake answered.

Selina finished writing down her note. "Yeah, you better treat her like family. Thank you."

"Selina, no! You swore you'd never cash that favor." Jen pouted.

She slid her phone into her pocket and looked at Bruce and Blake. "Who is giving us a ride to the airport?"

"I will." Bruce turned to Blake.

"I'll meet you at Wayne Enterprises." Blake scooped up his papers.

"I need to get my purse." Selina breezed out of the study. Blake shrugged and left behind her.

Jen turned to Bruce. "She only got one ticket, didn't she?"

"That's what she asked for."

Her blue eyes were solemn. "She's staying for you."

"I never asked her to."

"Of course not, hell, she won't even admit you're why, but she won't leave now. You'll keep her safe?"

"I promise." He almost offered her his hand to shake on it, but they settled for head nods instead.

Link to Previous Chapter Link to Next Chapter