Selina smiled at the tattooed man facing her. The office in the rear of the store didn't have another chair for Cassandra, but she remained at Selina's side. He cocked his head so they saw the line of hanzi between his jawbone and collarbone. Selina wasn't off-put by a man tough enough to have a needle stuck in him so many times. "We both need passports and I need adoption papers for Cassandra in my new identity. My passport only needs a few tweaks."
"Adoption papers are a new request. Not hard," he waved off worries as he swiveled his chair around to face his computer desk. "Americans adopt so many unwanted girls. Does the little one have a record that should be scrubbed?"
"No police," Cassandra answered. "No want Father find me."
"Fresh start easier without entanglements. To be sure, what is your name?"
"Cassandra doesn't know her last name. Or her father's first name," Selina added. The address Cassandra said her father lived was empty and had been rented under a dead-end alias. It wasn't the house Cassandra called home, that was a plane ride away from Hong Kong. Selina gave up on finding Daddy Dearest after that.
The forger swiveled around and rubbed his bottom lip. "We shall scan her fingerprints while taking pictures." He scanned Cassandra's fingers with a digital device, set the search perimeters to her age of eight-years-old and birthday of July nineteenth, and took headshots with the appropriate background for American passports while the computer ran. He studied her Elva Barr passport. "Change middle name, easy. The government only allows married couples to adopt, not singles."
Selina frowned as she sat in the visitor's chair again. "Okay, make me a widow. I kept my maiden name, but we were married when we adopted Cassandra, and my husband died in the Gotham Occupation."
"So what is Cassandra's new last name?"
"Wayne." Selina snapped her jaw shut before her mouth added a first name damning them to further scrutiny. Bruce was out, as well as Thomas and John. "Her father was Alfred Wayne. We lived in Greenwich, Connecticut, and he worked in Gotham City."
The oriental dragons coiled around his arms rippled as he typed. "You want paperwork supporting all that? Or just hints in the system?"
"Enough hints and paperwork so we can leave the country without suspicion. I can get the rest later if I need to."
He nodded. "Your girl is clean. No trace of her in the system, until now." Selina leaned over his shoulder without touching him. The digital copy of Cassandra Wayne's passport expanded on his computer screen. She straightened as he looked at her while the printer beside the monitor whirled. "Anything else, Ms. Elva Selina Barr?"
"I have merchandise for sale that may interest King Snake."
His eyebrows rose. "I will send the request for a meeting."
After cash exchanged hands, Selina and Cassandra left the used bookstore cover with the passports and adoption papers. "Now, we go to Causeway Bay and buy you some suitable clothes."
She truly admired Cassandra's independent spirit, but the girl's answer hadn't changed all morning. "Right now you hide by stepping into the shadows or by pretending to be a street kid. Those techniques won't work at the airport."
Cassandra's scowl eased as she thought it over.
"If you let me buy you a week's worth of clothes, I'll buy you a catsuit." She was not above bribing, especially when Cassandra had tried on the catsuit when she found it.
Cassandra smiled slyly. "Boots?"
"No, have to save something for Christmas." They entered the subway headed east. More tourists piled in after they found a seat. One man sparked her memory by how he moved between other passengers and protected his camera, but the spark sputtered out instead of igniting into a full memory. She looked at Cassandra. "Do we have a deal?"
She stared at the tourist with the camera. "Deal."
After five stores and three repeats of Cassandra's balking at getting stuff she hadn't earned, Selina collapsed in a chair thoughtfully offered by the dancewear store and dropped the shopping bags at her feet. Maybe she had been too quick to dismiss the boots until Christmas. Cassandra now wore jeans, a lightweight long sleeve shirt, black sneakers that fit, and nothing unraveled around her. The bags contained enough outfits to fill the small suitcase that rested next to her chair. Mission exhaustingly accomplished.
Cassandra scowled at the store's glass front. "Follows."
"What?" Selina turned, but her cell phone buzzed. The text message proclaimed that Sir Edmund Dorrance would meet her at the Above & Beyond at eight o'clock for appetizers tonight. She checked the time before slipping the phone back into her pocket. "Come on, Cassandra, I got the appointment for tonight. Find a unitard that fits."
Cassandra dragged her feet to the display. "Wrong stuff." She pouted at Selina.
"Because the unitard will be the pattern for the real suit. Please can we shop in this one store without a fight?"
"Yes." She seized three unitards and marched to the dressing rooms.
They found one in black that fit her like a second skin. Since she had all the other bags, Selina put the new suitcase in Cassandra's care as they boarded the bus to Eaton House. The next time Cassandra needed clothes, they would magically appear in her closet thanks to Internet ordering. They squeezed the bags and themselves onto one bus bench.
Cassandra's foot kicked a plastic bag. "Me trouble?"
Selina smiled. "You're worth it. I'll be fine after a hot shower."
Cassandra looked unconvinced but turned her attention to the Caucasian man sitting in the first available seat. He adjusted the strap of his messenger bag before propping his left arm on the seat back. Selina wondered what had given him the scar peeking from under his short sleeve. Cassandra scowled. "Follows."
Adrenaline straightened Selina's back. The man with slicked-back brown hair didn't turn and got off when the bus stopped near the Renaissance Harbor View Hotel. He walked straight to the hotel as the bus rolled away. Maybe he had innocently hit the same tourist spots they had, but the League of Shadows kept looking for them. "The sooner we leave Hong Kong, the better."
After the hot shower, Selina felt energized and ready to work a deal. She slipped on her black, bad girl dress. It wrapped around her curves with a V-shaped neckline that teased rather than exposed her cleavage.
But given what happened the last time she wore this dress to a meeting, she zipped her pair of normal, knee-high boots over her black sheer stockings. She was ready to flirt or fight.
She leaned over the sink and finished her make-up. Above & Beyond was a fine dining restaurant and she needed to dress-up this outfit. Her deep red lips frowned, but she stepped out of the bathroom and picked the long jewelry box off her bed.
The second thing Bruce had given her, slipped into her suitcase while he waited in her apartment before their assault on the Dungeon. She stared at the flawless pearls resting on black satin. "That's a beautiful necklace. It reminds me of one that belonged to my mother," echoed in her mind.
Did he already know he wouldn't escape Gotham City alive when he hid the necklace for her to find? He knew later when he offered her a way off the island in the form of the impressive motorcycle and turned down her plea to save himself. Tears pressed against her eyes and she forced them back. Work first, and then have a breakdown over Bruce Wayne. She swallowed and fastened the pearls around her neck. The square jewelry box on the bed went into her clutch purse.
Cassandra wore the black unitard and performed kata in front of the sofa. "Oh pretty." She pointed to the pearl necklace. "Selina sad?"
It was uncanny how quickly Cassandra picked up on her moods. Selina touched the pearls. "Bruce gave this to me. I'll tell you how he knew I liked them after I get back. Stay inside while I'm gone, okay?"
"Yes." Cassandra stood in horse stance, but waved as Selina left the apartment. Selina realized how much more she trusted Cassandra home alone than she had trusted Jen. "Hotel Icon," she told the cab driver.