Blake put an X next to the address he had just left, a sewer upgrade at the edge of Trillium Park. Eight sites visited, and he still didn't have a clue what Daggett's construction crews were doing. He had finished with all the sites on Uptown Island yesterday. That should give him enough plausible deniability for missing Wayne pulling Batgear out of Wayne Enterprises' basement. Unfortunately, nothing looked abnormal at any of the pour sites. The bridges had so much traffic on them something wrong would be obvious, right? His cell phone rang. "Blake," he answered.
"Detective Blake, this is Lucius Fox. Do you have any idea where Mr. Wayne and Ms. Kyle are?"
Alarm prickled over Blake's scalp, but he kept his voice calm. "I haven't heard from them since I left Wayne Enterprises yesterday."
"Both of their cell phones are going to voicemail. No one is answering at Ms. Kyle's hotel room or the Manor." Fox choked off his sigh. "Applied Sciences was broken into last night. They didn't get anything; Ms. Kyle and I packed up all the prototypes yesterday. But Ms. Tate called a Board meeting this morning, and I haven't seen the damage yet."
And Fox would not expose Wayne's secrets. "It's a lead. I have to meet with the Commissioner this morning, but I'll check Ms. Kyle's hotel room. Then if you're finished, we can see if Bane left any clues in the basement."
Fox sounded relieved. "Ms. Kyle was staying at the Carlyle, room number 3312. Thank you, Detective Blake."
Blake said good bye and hung up before driving to the Carlyle. No one answered his knock at 3312. He coaxed a key card out of the front desk with his badge and assurances of discretion. He let himself into the quiet suite. "Wayne? Kyle?" Nothing answered his call down the hallway. A pressure in his chest joined his prickling scalp. Wayne and Kyle were probably the most capable people in Gotham. He had no reason to worry about them. His gut wasn't buying it.
He opened the first door in the hallway, a bedroom. A duffle bag and an open rolling suitcase sat on the floor against the wall. The bed was rumpled and the smell of sex lingered in the air. "Seriously, Wayne?" he muttered to himself. "Of all the women in Gotham?"
Blake ducked out to check the rest of the suite. Other than room service dishes left on the table, there were no signs of occupancy in the living room or kitchenette. He returned to the luggage. Both cell phones were here; Wayne's tucked into his duffle bag of clothes along with his wallet and ID. Kyle's was in her purse along with three different IDs. He threw the purse into her suitcase as well as the toiletries bag from the bathroom.
He found a note on the bedside table when he exited the bathroom. Addressed to Selina, so presumably Wayne wrote it, yeah, he signed it; Blake moved his eyes back to the top and read. "Shit, Wayne! Why didn't you call me?" Kyle must have followed him because Blake doubted she would have left her luggage if she ran.
But what happened to them since last night? The coffee in his stomach churned. "Don't jump to conclusions." Just because they didn't come back didn't mean Bane won. He'd ask Fox about Batman hiding spots. He tucked the note into his pocket. He looked inside Wayne's wallet since he mentioned it. A USB drive, a wad of cash, and the credit cards were undisturbed.
But his gut said to grab their luggage, to protect their identities if for no other reason. He also checked Selina Kyle out of the hotel. If they needed a place to stay, they could check back in. He headed to Gotham General.
Gordon was alone, sitting up in his hospital bed and reading police reports. He laid them down on his blanket-covered lap. "Hello Blake, any luck contacting Batman?"
The hidden letter burned his skin, but the Commissioner didn't care who Batman is. "I found him, sir. He said he had a lead on Bane, but I haven't heard from him since."
"Did you tell him about Daggett's projects?"
Blake nodded. "Daggett paid Bane to secure his mining operations by force in West Africa. Then Bane used Daggett to get to Gotham."
"He didn't tell you what his lead was?"
"No, sir. I know he's used to working alone, but you said Bane has an army. I'm worried he's in over his cowl."
Gordon frowned as he stared at the black television set. Foley barged into the hospital room, his tension given away by the crease between his eyebrows. "You were right, Commissioner. Your masked man kidnapped the Wayne Enterprise board. He let most of them go, but took three down into the sewers."
Blake kept his mask in place, but his sinking stomach knew one of those three was Lucius Fox.
"No more patrols," Gordon ordered with a determination Blake hadn't seen in him before. "No more hide and seek. Send every available cop down there to smoke him out!"
Foley hesitated. "The mayor won't want panic."
"So it's a training exercise," Blake said.
For once, Foley didn't sneer or bite his head off, and Gordon nodded his approval. Foley turned to leave, but glanced back, not quite looking at the Commissioner's face. "I'm sorry I didn't take you seriously--" He broke off and strode out.
Blake started after Foley but Gordon stopped him. "Not you. You're telling me the Batman's gone. So you chase down the Daggett leads."
"I have been." He consulted his notes. "Uptown, Daggett Industries did maintenance work on all the bridges crossing the East, North, and Queens Rivers. Nothing out of place and traffic flowing normally. I didn't see anything wrong with the Carter Bridge, so I moved Downtown. Chelsea Tunnel and Sandy Hook Bridge looked okay. Daggett Industries built the new Gotham Stadium, but I couldn't get in with all the game day prep. I started on all the sewer work surrounding Trillium Park this morning."
Gordon frowned. "Where did Daggett get all his concrete?"
Blake flipped through his papers. "Makes it. Daggett Industries owns about a dozen cement plants."
"Check them too, and call me directly with updates."
Blake nodded and headed out.
Selina woke up as the footsteps came toward them. The soldiers were not bothering with silence as they carried a flat-screen television set to the side of the cage closest to the cot. She propped herself up on her elbow and watched a third man bring a stand for it. They ignored her as they installed it so the screen was visible through the fencing from the cot.
Bruce turned his head and blinked at them. "Is that a television?"
"I'm pretty sure it's Daggett's television. But why?"
"To teach the truth about despair," Bane answered. She twisted to face the cage's gate. No one that big should be able to move that silently. Bruce's arm snaked under the blanket, pulled her down against him, and held her there while Bane opened the gate.
"And what truth is that?" Bruce asked.
Bane stared down at them. "There can be no true despair without hope. I had looked forward to giving you the same lesson I had been given, imagining the climb to freedom, but we have a schedule to keep." He shrugged. "This will have to suffice, buried where no one will even guess to search for you, with no opportunity to escape."
Challenge accepted, bastard, Selina vowed to herself.
"As I terrorize Gotham, I will feed its people hope to poison their souls. I will let them believe they can survive, so that you can watch them clamber over each other to stay in the sun." He pointed to the television set, and then leaned closer. "You will watch as I torture an entire city. Then, when you have truly understood the depths of your failure, we will fulfill Ra's al Ghul's destiny. We will destroy Gotham. We will kill the whore you cling to. And when it is done--when Gotham is ashes--then you have my permission to die." He strode out of their cage without a backwards glance.
The sounds of slamming lids and grunting men echoed down the tunnel. Barsad pushed a tray of food under the chain-link fencing, turned the television onto the pre-game coverage for the Rogues and Rapid City Monuments football game, and left the cage.
Bruce sighed and loosened his grip on her. "What does he have planned?"
"The surprise party from hell." Selina got up, leaving the blanket with Bruce, and picked up the food tray: two cans of chicken noodle soup, two bottles of water, two plastic spoons, and four slices of bread on a scuffed-up plastic tray. "Don't suppose you can MacGyver a pair of pliers out of this, can you?" She carried the tray to the cot.
He focused on the purple line and raw skin around her wrist. "I didn't keep you safe."
She set the tray on the floor and sat on the cot beside him. "I don't think we should talk about your idea on keeping me safe." She opened one of the water bottles. "If I get pissed off about it again, I might hurt you. And you've been hurt enough."
He drank from the bottle slowly before focusing his troubled hazel eyes on her face. "They hurt you." He reached up and touched her cheek. "To hurt me, they hurt you."
She set down his water bottle before taking his hand. He shifted the grip to twine their fingers together. She bent over him, nose to nose, and dropped her voice. "You care about me, Bruce?"
"Yes," he squeezed her hand.
"Don't take the blame for this. I followed you because you needed me. Barsad is a dipshit who thinks his dick is a weapon that will break me. He has no clue what actually will, so let's keep it that way." She dropped her lips on top of his.
He didn't recoil, but accepted her kiss and brought his other hand up to cradle the back of her head. They broke apart and he studied her face intently before letting her sit up. "You're pissed."
"Of course." And she was patient. "Aren't you?"
His eyes crossed slightly. "I'm so concussed right now, I'm not sure what my emotional state is."
"How bad are you hurt? Bane doesn't want you dead yet. Maybe we can bargain for a real doctor instead of their medic who looked you over last night."
"I can't move my legs." He swallowed hard. "Any movement sends pain up my spine. What happened?"
She combed his hair off his forehead. "What do you remember?"
He closed his eyes. "I fought Bane, couldn't stop him, couldn't keep him down." He reached up and touched the cut on his forehead. "He broke the cowl. It's all blurry."
"Bane slammed your back on his knee. His medic said your L3 vertebra is dislocated." He opened his eyes and stared at her. "I don't think they treated it."
"I'm supposed to suffer. Touch my feet."
Selina gave him an I'm-humoring-you-because-your-day-has-sucked look before pivoting to his feet. She pulled up the blanket and ran her nails along his ankle. His feet had scars too. She trailed her fingernails onto his instep and then switched feet.
"I feel that. You just pulled my toe. Are they moving?"
"Damn. Come up my legs, please."
She pulled the blanket out of the way and rubbed her hands against the rough cotton weave of the dingy blue pants. She paused when she reached his groin. "You're finding this sexier than it actually is."
"Reflexogenic erection, that's a good sign along with feeling sensation even though I can't move."
"I'm disappointed that was just medical." She gave him more water before sitting beside him again. "Care to share the good news?"
Bruce took a deep breath. "Those are signs that the spinal cord isn't completely severed."
She gasped, not really expecting it to be good news. "So how do we fix you?"
He squeezed his eyes shut. "I don't know."
"Maybe one of the Rogues will throw his back out during the game and the sportscasters will give us a seminar on it. Ready for some food?" She held up a can of soup.
She fed Bruce first and he dozed off while she ate her can. Should she keep the can lids to use as tools or a weapon in a pinch? Better lull Barsad into a false state of control before shattering his world. She kept her half-full water bottle, but put the rest of the trash on the tray and slid it under the fencing.
She turned back around to Bruce pulling his T-shirt up his chest. "What are you doing?"
"Put it on," he said through gritted teeth. He tugged the material up behind his head and choked off his cry of pain.
Selina yanked it over his head. His arms slid free and fell on the cot as he panted. She looked down at her naked body. "Tired of the view already?"
His eyelids drooped. Just that little bit of effort cost him. "Don't want to share the view."
Selina slipped the T-shirt over her head and then sat on the edge of the cot where she could see the television. Bruce's arm snaked around her hips and held onto her.