The hostess led Selina to a private dining room on the twenty-eighth floor, instead of the packed main dining room. Hong Kong's skyline and harbor glowed beyond the floor-to-ceiling windows, and Selina was almost stunned into missing that this room was mostly empty. The table in use was next to the window and commanded a view of the door. Two Chinese men flanked the seated Caucasian man, all of them dressed in tuxedoes though the Chinese bodyguards' military stances ruined the illusion.
The bodyguard on the left spoke softly in Cantonese to the seated man. The blond man stood smoothly and she saw his muscular form. "Ms. Kyle, I'm Sir Edmund Dorrance. I must apologize for such an abrupt meeting." His smile was just shy of predatory.
"I'm glad you worked me into your schedule." She reached their table.
"The woman who killed Bane deserves a full dinner in appreciation."
The bodyguard on the right pulled out the chair for her. Selina sat across from Sir Edmund. "It gives us something to look forward to on my next trip to Hong Kong."
The bodyguard who spoke touched Sir Edmund's arm, and Sir Edmund sank into his seat. "Still, seeing your merchandise is a poor way of thanking you for the decisive handling of Bane and Talia al Ghul."
"My, I haven't heard them discussed in such tones since I left Gotham."
Sir Edmund's smile widened. "The League of Shadows hasn't made friends in Hong Kong. Have a Shanghai dumpling; they are my favorite appetizer here."
"Thank you." Selina spooned one of the dumplings to her appetizer plate and tasted it. "Delicious. Crab meat and?"
"Sea urchin. Your merchandise?"
She pulled the square jewelry box from her clutch, and opened it. "A pair of Victorian shakudo devil face cufflinks. The faces originated in Japan not China, but they were turned into cufflinks by the British."
The bodyguard on the left took the box and spoke in Cantonese. Sir Edmund answered in that language and held out his hand. His right index finger touched the cufflinks while looking straight at Selina. "Devil faces?"
"Unfortunately, I didn't have anything with a snake or dragon motif."
"You do your homework, Ms. Kyle. Your price?"
"Nine hundred in U.S. dollars. I don't remember what the exchange rate is."
"I will buy them." Sir Edmund closed the box and spoke in Cantonese. The bodyguard took the box back and left with a short bow. "I am surprised," Sir Edmund picked up his water glass. "I had assumed the merchandise was the CleanSlate program."
The CleanSlate program, the first thing Bruce had given her, his payment for being led to Bane. Her forgiveness for setting him up, not that she had much choice. And like the pearls, she would never sell it. But one doesn't tell the leader of the Ghost Dragons that.
She smiled and didn't have to dig deep for her resentment of Daggett. "Rykin Data lied to Daggett, and Daggett lied to me. It doesn't exist."
Sir Edmund raised one eyebrow. "Neither does Selina Kyle."
"You'd be surprised what you can leverage out of grateful governments after you helped stop a terrorist threat from blowing up a major metropolitan area."
He chuckled as he cut into his dumpling. "Terrorist threat, oh how the al Ghul pride would have chafed at being reduced to that. Dressing up their wanting to control the world as saving it."
"Please, I got enough of Bane's little oppressed people rhetoric in Gotham. The thugs still took everything."
"It must have been cathartic to kill him."
Batman bound at Bane's feet had made her press the firing control. "He earned his fate."
"Indeed." The bodyguard returned and handed her a manila envelope larger than her clutch purse with a short bow. "Your payment."
She opened the envelope as the bodyguard returned to his position. Inside was one wrapped stack of fifties and one wrapped stack of tens. She looked up. "The cufflinks are not worth this much, Sir Edmund. If you're paying for something else?"
"Consider it a bonus for dealing with a terrorist threat. I doubt the United States was so generous."
"Not with cash, no."
He nodded. "Besides, you have an expensive kitten to feed now."
She narrowed her eyes. "She hasn't cost me too much yet."
"You haven't plugged yourself into the Hong Kong underground." He wiped his lips with a napkin. "That's not a criticism; a vacation, after what you went through, is deserved. But someone priced her head at half a million dollars as long as it is attached to her body. My Dragons have been instructed to ignore the bounty, but we are not the only group in Hong Kong."
"Thank you for telling me. I'm afraid I have to go pack now."
"One good turn deserves another. It was a pleasure meeting you, Ms. Kyle." He stood up with her and reached for her hand. He kissed it. "Joigin."
She clutched her purse and the envelope, smiling as hotel guests entered her elevator. Half a million dollars alive? It had to be Cassandra's father. He had that kind of resources? Selina didn't even know who she was sneaking Cassandra away from. This may just be his starting bid. The envelope crinkled as her fist tightened. No man that gave his daughter that many scars in the name of training would get her back. She would claw his face off first. The elevator opened on the lobby floor. She strode past the bar. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a man sitting next to the doorway jump up and walked after her.
She whipped her head like she was looking up and down the street, and saw that he lingered in the foyer. Her heart pounded, but she waved off the taxi. She headed toward the subway station. This asshole thought he would take her? He needed reeducation. She turned into an alley with a set of stairs heading downhill. She paused on the landing, jumped, and tucked her purse and the envelope between the air conditioning units on a metal shelf above her head.
Bamboo scaffolding leaned against the building at the bottom of the steps. She held onto it as she walked up the building and climbed onto another metal shelf above a stretched-out awning. Footsteps echoed as she squeezed between another set of air conditioners. He scurried down the steps and stopped when he saw the parked cargo truck that blocked the end of the alley.
Selina grabbed the awning support and swung. Her feet slammed against his back. She landed on the wet concrete. He caught himself against the cargo truck with a grunt, but whirled around. "You won't see the price on her head. Hope you haven't spent it already." She hiked up her dress and kicked.
He blocked it with a sweep of his arm and surged off the truck. She ducked and sidestepped out of the grapple, and hit the back of his thigh with her foot. He didn't even stumble as he turned to sweep her feet. She nailed his temple with her backhand. He hit above her breast with an open-hand strike. Her shoulder blades bounced against the concrete wall, but she kept her head from knocking against it. His forearm pressed against her upper chest, pinning her to the wall as he stepped closer to finish the pin. Her coiled knee and her jaw dropped as he stepped into the light.
"There's a price on your head?" Bruce Wayne asked.