Batman and Catwoman in Cat-Tales by Chris DeeCat-Tales 56: Armchair Detective

Armchair Detective
by Chris Dee

Detective by Proxy


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Superman always made a few adjustments to the monitor womb when he began a long shift.  He turned up the flicker rate from the eastern and central U.S.  feeds to +4, or forty times normal human perception.  He turned off the solar monitor alerts, since his own body provided that information and he preferred to minimize distractions.  For the same reason, he set the notifications for ordinary Watchtower operations down to 0.01 decibels, so they wouldn’t disturb him when he was concentrating on the data sweeps.

Except today he wasn’t concentrating on the sweeps.  He had been pulling so many of these extra shifts, his attention wandered as his eyes moved absently across the bank of monitors.  Without realizing it, he had begun rewriting his piece on Darfur, and it was only the 0.01-decibel whisper of a system ping, like papers rustling in a room on the other side of the Watchtower, that snapped his attention back to what he was doing.  It wouldn’t be an important alert, probably just a scheduling update.  But he decided to check it anyway, in repentance for letting his attention wander…

Talking with Nicola Dulch, I started to wonder why there aren’t more socialites like Bruce.  Not the crimefighting, we all know why he does that.  The mask.  The secret identity.  I can’t think why every prominent society figure doesn’t invest in one.  Because these people know everything about each other: suicide attempts, stints at Betty Ford, anorexic daughters, bankrupt in-laws, hushed up abortions, and plastic surgery in Thailand.  There’s nothing they don’t know about each other, and there is nothing they won’t discuss about each other.  Without some small corner of your life that is entirely yours, you’d go insane. 

Bruce and I have what goes on behind the masks.  We’ll always have that.  No matter what they think they know about us, they can never touch the truth of how we met, how we fell in love...  who we really are underneath it all.  That knowledge makes it easier to shrug off the nonsense.  I accepted a long time ago that everyone would think it was the money: Bruce Wayne is the richest man in the country and, if that Cat-Tales show is to be believed, she was a jewel thief.  Do the math…   It was that assumption about me and Bruce that brought me to the unseemly subtext with Noel and Oliver.

It began with Nicola dancing around my questions: there was just too much she wasn’t saying.  These people talk about everything, and the fact that Noel Lyon was dead wouldn’t change that.  It didn’t temper their behavior in any other way, so there had to be another reason she was holding back.

“After Elizabeth passed, we didn’t know if Oliver would ever remarry,” she sighed sadly.  “Long illness like that, it just seemed to drain the life out of him, almost as much as it did her.  That’s why Noel was such a shock.  We had all grown used to Oliver being an extra man at the dinner parties.  He never brought a date, and Fiona was always his guest for the polo field fundraisers—she was far too young, of course, but she did like horses so.  I guess all young girls do...  And then, all of a sudden at the Spring Fling, there was Noel!  The next month they were engaged and six weeks after that they were married.  I was the one who helped her get situated: the country club, the garden club, the Junior League.  Poor dear didn’t know a soul.  But you saw last night how splendidly she took to it all.  Such a gracious hostess…”

I saw all right; I saw that she was holding back.  But she wasn’t doing it because of anything connected to Noel.  She was holding back because she was talking to me, because I’m with Bruce, who’s every bit as rich as Oliver Lyon.  There are things rogues won’t say in front of me: a bit of gossip about Arsenal and Cheshire, or Star Sapphire and the old Green Lantern… This felt the same.  So, I reasoned, if there are things society gossips won’t say in front of me about beautiful women hooking up with rich men, I can assume it’s because they’re avoiding the same kind of parallel innuendo as the rogues.  That gave me the clue on how to proceed.  It would be tricky, but I did have some experience prodding inveterate gossips:

“Nicola, tell me the truth,” I purred in my best Mad Tea Party voice.  “Oliver is one of the wealthiest men in the country.  When he married a model from one of the magazines, there had to be… talk.”

“Well,” she hedged for exactly one syllable, just like Jervis does before launching into the good stuff.  “There were a few, in the beginning, who said that Noel was on the make.  A beauty like that hooks up with someone like Oliver, everyone thought it, but only a few actually said it out loud.  It was just understood.  But then, as the years passed, everyone but Fiona got past it.”

“Fiona didn’t?”

“Well, it’s understandable.  Noel replaced her mother, after all.  As I recall, the famous outburst was at the Knickerbocker Cotillion.  Penelope Vraag said something like ‘at least Noel wasn’t a twenty-something bimbo,’ and Bunny Wigglesworth said how it could always be worse.  So often the second wife is the daughter’s own age.  Fiona replied that ‘Just because she’s age appropriate doesn’t mean she’s not a gold-digging whore.’  You can guess how quickly that quote made it around the room—oh, just like that amusing bit of ‘Mrs.  Wayne’ confusion at young Grayson’s wedding.”

“Yes,” I laughed through clenched teeth, “that was quite funny, wasn’t it.”

“Still, like I said, Fiona’s attitude is certainly understandable.  I mean, it’s different for a daughter.  Noel married her father, replaced her mother.  I don’t think it was ever really about the money, not for Fiona.  ‘Gold-digger’ was a convenient barb because of what everyone else was saying, but the animosity ran much deeper.  Noel had money of her own, anyway, from the first marriage.  Fredrick Senior was, um… oh, I don’t know what they call it, but it’s when they put out fires in oil wells.”

“Like Red Adair?”

“Yes, exactly.  He traveled all over the world doing it, made heaps of money.  But no social caché.  And not the sort to think of a prenup, so Noel came away with a huge settlement.”

“I see.”

“Which Oliver’s investment knowhow has quadrupled over the years.”

“I see.”

“Despite the fact,” Nicola whispered, leaning in, “that Noel was cheating on the first husband with Oliver a good year and a half before the divorce.”

“I see.”

And I did see.  I see why Bruce prefers to live half his life behind a mask.

As Superman pulled the alerts onto the main viewscreen, the muscles in his back of his neck tightened, one by one.  It wasn’t a scheduling update; it was a complete revision.  The monitor assignments for the next six weeks were being revised on the fly—despite the fact that the next ten days had already finalized… Clark checked to see who initiated the process, and saw it was a Gotham keycode.  Oracle’s keycode.  Oracle was…  In Rao’s name… Oracle was pulling all of Batman’s duty assignments for the next six weeks, and… and she was posting a notice that Batman would be attending the next five meetings through the OraCom hologram.  She was also removing him from the active duty roster for the immediate future.

Revisions to a finalized schedule were certainly not unheard of, especially in Bruce’s case.  Normally, though, there would be some explanation; not a full-fledged description, mind you, but a notification of some kind as to why he was going to be unavailable.  Always cautious when it came to inter-League communications, Bruce had developed a sort of code over the years that most Leaguers—and especially Clark—had worked out through experience.  Most often, it was a codeword for a particular villain: “Smiley” (Joker), “?” (Riddler), “Chapeau” (Mad Hatter), “DH” (Demon’s Head, a.k.a.  Ra’s Al Ghul—although, strangely, that designation had changed a few years ago...  to “Hairdo”).  The villain notations generally meant he was on a case involving said criminal and would be occupied until they were brought to justice.

Occasionally, it was a Bruce Wayne obligation.  Mysterious phrases like “chip” or “headache” would appear on the schedule, phrases that made no sense at the time and only become clear a month later when some item came over the business wire: WayneTech hosting a 3-day press event to roll out a new smart chip, or Wayne Enterprises completing the forensic accounting of Talia Head’s stint at LexCorp prior to absorbing the bankrupted tech divisions.

Sometimes, it was a stranger notation that seemed relatively innocuous unless you knew the code: “Clothes shopping” (going undercover), “Vacationing” (going abroad on a case), “Baby-sitting” (stakeout).  In a few rare instances, when Bruce didn’t want the League at large to know what was going on, he’d make notations in typographic Kryptonian so at least Clark was made aware of the situation. 

That’s what had Clark so concerned this time: no notations, no names, no code words, no explanations of any kind or in any language.  Just revisions to the schedule and a change in active status.  Stranger still was that the previous changes always came with a notice that Batman would not be attending the regular League meetings for the duration.  This time, he was removing himself from the active roster and eliminating his scheduled monitor duty, but still maintaining his attendance at meetings, albeit remotely.

Bruce was refusing to leave Gotham.

And he wasn’t saying why.

“Enough is enough, Alfred.  I’m going down to the cave.  It’s bad enough trying to keep Selina’s notes organized on this tiny laptop.  Once Dick gets the coroner’s report, I’ll need the holographic imaging system and—”

“Most inadvisable, sir.  Going down to the cave might be feasible, but the stairs coming back up are far too onerous in this early stage of recovery.  And you recall the challenges we faced maneuvering you to the elevator passage to get you up to the manor initially.”

“Then I’ll stay down there,” Bruce said acidly.  “You can bring my meals on a tray, you’ve certainly done that enough times.  I can sleep in the med lab, use the gymnasium for the physical therapy, and—”

“And if someone calls to see Bruce Wayne, what will you do then, sir?  In making your excuses to the Lyons, you did reveal that you are at home, laid up with a racquetball injury.  It would be most peculiar if someone called and you were ‘not at home.’”

Bruce closed his eyes as a growl of pure frustration forced its way up from his diaphragm.  It expelled as a guttural huff of utter disgust—not at Alfred, but at his circumstances.  Alfred was right.  Again.  Bruce knew it, but if he didn’t, the proof came in a ring of the doorbell.  DAMNIT!  Anyone could—DAMNIT!—anyone could come to the door, expecting to see Bruce Wayne, and until he was sufficiently mobile, he had to remain in those places where Bruce Wayne would plausibly be.  For now, he would have to manage the investigation from the study.

Alfred went to answer the door without so much as an “I told you so,” leaving Bruce to stew.  He went through the motions of reorganizing his notes on the laptop, all the while cataloguing what pieces of cave equipment Tim could bring up to the manor without assistance (and which would not seem amiss in Bruce Wayne’s home if a nosy guest wandered into the wrong room) when Alfred returned and formally announced the visitor:

“Mr.  Kent to see you, sir.”

Bruce looked up sharply, and saw that Clark had that awkward smile which Alfred’s formality usually managed to evoke.  It disintegrated the moment he saw Bruce’s unnatural position in the armchair.

“My God, what happened,” he blurted.

“A bad wrench, L4,” Bruce said, mentally adding the bitter afterthought: but you know that by now, since you just scanned my lower back.  Aloud, he added a few details the x-ray vision would not be able to provide: “Poison Ivy.  Boiler blew, bad landing, one of those freak mishaps.”

“Tough break,” Clark said lightly.  “Anything I can do?”

He knew Bruce was unlikely to accept help, but it seemed the best way to move the conversation along now that he knew what was behind Batman’s mysterious withdrawal from League affairs.

Bruce’s eyes flicked towards the door, just as Lois’s did before confiding something about Perry.

“You can sit,” Bruce said in that low sub-whisper only Clark could hear.  “Alfred might tone down the Alpha Medic if there’s a guest in the house.”

“Noel was a slow glass of whiskey,” Daniel Eagen said smoothly.  “Lot of women are easy on the eyes, but not many can exude that aura of being beautiful.  Maybe it was the modeling, or maybe she did it naturally and that’s what made her such a great model.  She didn’t smolder like some of them.  You look at her famous covers, she was never brazenly sexual.  She was just brazenly beautiful.”

“You liked her,” I noted.

“Selina,” he declared, “any man who says he doesn’t like a stunningly beautiful woman is just trying to score points with a dog.”

“I seriously doubt that’s true,” I laughed, and he held up his right hand.

“I swear on the bosoms of Miss Lonni Chinn, Miss January, 1983, and the very first woman I saw naked.  Turn-ons: nature, animals, honest people, true friends, colognes, and pretty colors.  Turn offs: dirty fingernails, jealous women, heavy smokers, and conceit.  Any man, I swear to you, who says he does not like a beautiful woman—unless he is a faggot or she is a total shrew—that man is lying to score points with a bow-wow.”

I have to admit, I lost the thread of my questioning at that point.  I couldn’t shake the idea that Daniel Eagen would make a decent Rogue.  Because talking to him was starting to feel like the Iceberg, or even hanging with Eddie in the early days before there was an Iceberg.  Even more so when the vibe started up again…

“But what can I possibly tell you about these things,” he segued.  “Some women were born to sip Cristal on the deck of a yacht moored off Cannes or Monaco.”

He had shifted his weight ever so slightly, so that his hand was in a position to move towards my leg.

“Bruce prefers Taittinger,” I smiled, just as the hand started to move.  I saw it hesitate, but he didn’t shift his weight back until I added “And Portofino.”

Clark knew Bruce would abhor any sort of “bedside manner,” so he jettisoned the aura of sympathetic concern cultivated at so many visits to children’s hospitals.  He would look on this as an ordinary Saturday afternoon visit to a friend that was neither sick nor injured nor a member of the Justice League.

First, they talked about the weather systems he’d encountered flying in.  This was no act of conversational desperation for two people straining for a subject to talk about.  Bruce was a pilot, and he often took an interest in Clark’s views on these things, the unique perspective of one who flew without a plane. 

The conversation then drifted to sports, and the growing likelihood of another Metros-Knights grudge match if both teams made it to the playoffs. 

It was only then, after a good twenty minutes of chitchat, that Clark dared ask about Selina.  He knew she was out, there were only four heartbeats in the house: Bruce’s, Alfred’s, and the two cats.  But since Bruce hadn’t mentioned her absence, Clark didn’t want to introduce the subject too quickly.  (Bruce could be so touchy about anything he construed as matchmaking.)  He also didn’t want to say anything that would seem to characterize Bruce’s injury as some sort of ordeal or crisis for the Bat-family.  He finally settled on a formula that could not possibly be construed as intrusive matchmaking, fulsome concern, or overt sympathy:

“How’s Selina doing?”

He was astonished to learn she was away for the weekend.  He wasn’t expecting tales of Florence Nightingale or anything, but it seemed… all the more astonishing as Bruce went on to “explain” (if you could call it that). 

It sounded remarkably like Selina was out of town investigating a murder. 

“Poor Rick, this is so devastating for him,” Fiona said. 

She wasn’t serious.  She was mimicking Gracie’s performance in the kitchen a few minutes before.  Apparently, no one thought to call the caterers and cancel the set-up for the garden party.  When they showed up, Gracie took it upon herself to go out and tell them what had happened.  According to Fiona, she was reveling in the chance to be spokesperson for the family, and was deftly positioning Rick as the tragic hero of the drama. 

“Well, this weekend was supposed to be all about them,” I offered.  “And her as the bride-to-be.  I guess she can be forgiven a few gaucheries.”

Fiona snorted the way Pammy does if you say something nice about Clayface.

“Oh, it’s not gaucherie.  It’ s a lot more calculated than that,” she said.  “See, right now Rick is ‘devastated,’ but if he could have a peek at the will, that would be ‘one less thing he had to think about.’”

I let out a low whistle.

“She’s asking for a look at the will?” I asked, thinking yet again how these people blew Rogues out of the water for barefaced self-interest.  “Do you think it’s her idea, or did he put her up to it?”

“Oh hers, no doubt of it.  Gracie the Gorgon has my brother wrapped around her finger and tied off in a square knot.”

Clark was more confused than ever when the phone rang.  He heard Selina’s voice on the line before Bruce said it was her and put her on the speaker.  He sat back, hoping this would clear up the confusion.

..:: So I talked to Nicola,::..  the familiar voice announced.

Clark raised an eyebrow and looked as though he was going to ask a question, but thought better of it.  Instead, he pulled his trusty reporter’s notepad out of his jacket and began scribbling.  Bruce glanced in his direction, but kept his focus on Selina.

..:: About her conversation with Oliver.::..

Clark looked up from his notepad.  Bruce mouthed the word “widower,” and Clark nodded, jotting down another note.

..:: Seems Richard let something slip about Oliver reappraising some Miros.::..

Clark’s head popped up again, surprised.  “Dick knows these people?”

“No.  Richard Flay,” Bruce said.

..:: Is that Spitcurl?::..

“Never mind,” Bruce spat.  “Miros?”

..:: Right.  Miros.  Four of them, going up the stairs at their townhouse.  I thought about going after them once, but they’re only lithographs.  Limited editions, of course, from the late 60s, but only signed on the plate, so who cares.  You were busy with the Grodd-Luthor axis or something.  Really not giving Gotham the attention we deserved, so I just took a month off and went to St.  Luca.

..:: So anyway, Richard Flay tells Nicola that Oliver is having these Miros reappraised, and it seems like she came here this weekend to find out why.  If he wants to nail down their value, it could be because he’s contemplating a divorce.  Now, that’s a new idea: if there was trouble between Oliver and Noel.  But I don’t think it can be a motive for murder, because it sounds like there’s a serious prenup. 

..:: Nicola says that when Oliver and Noel first got married, a lot of people thought she was on the make.  She wasn’t twenty years younger or anything, but, get this, apparently the enduring quote of the period was Fiona’s: “Just because she’s age appropriate, doesn’t mean she’s not a gold-digging whore.”  And there’s that word again.  So now I’m thinking maybe it was Fiona having the fight with Rick.  ::..

“Fredrick Donohue.  Her half-brother,” Bruce answered Clark’s non-verbal question.

..::Yes, Fredrick Donohue, Junior.  But nobody calls him F—wait, you weren’t talking to me, were you.  So that was Spitcurl I heard earlier?::.. 

Bruce grunted, but Clark couldn’t suppress his smile.  “Hello, Selina.  Just came by for a visit.  How are y...” he stopped instantly with Bruce’s glare, midwestern hospitality giving way to Detective’s necessity. 

“Continue,” Bruce graveled at the phone.

..:: Okay, so maybe it was Fiona I heard in Rick’s room.  Of course, Nicola said it too.  She was quoting Fiona, but then all I heard was a woman’s voice saying “whore.”  I didn’t really get the context.::.. 

Clark’s brow furrowed as this new barrage of names and keywords obliterated his tenuous grasp of the details...  He was no longer sure what to jot down on his notepad, and he gently rubbed his forehead as an alternative to writing anything.  Alfred recognized the gesture as one that usually precedes a request for aspirin.  He was instantly beside the guest, offering his services with a silent nod so as not to interrupt the conversation.  Clark glanced up at him and, not wanting to be rude, mouthed a drink request.  Alfred nodded once and quietly left the room.

..:: My money is on Fiona, though.  Nicola confirmed that Fiona would say terrible things about Noel in front of Rick, even though she’s his mother.::..

“Do you know if Nicola had any reason besides the Miros for her suspicions?” Bruce cut in.  “Divorce seems like a big conclusion to jump to in a vacuum.”

..:: Well, apparently Noel cheated on her first husband with Oliver before the marriage, so the probability isn’t zero.  She had an affair before, she could have one again.  And whether she was or she wasn’t, Oliver would have reason to suspect her. 

..:: At first, I thought if she did have a lover, it might be William.  She hires him for all these catered events at their country house, and he is very pretty, in a decorative henchman way.  ::..

Alfred returned with a tray holding a glass of milk and a bottle of aspirin.  Clark took the milk with a thankful nod, but politely waved away the aspirin.  Wordlessly, Alfred set the bottle on the small side table in between him and Bruce.

..:: But that idea just took a bodyblow.  I found out what he was still doing here this morning.  Are you ready for this?  He spent the night with Richard Flay.::..

Kryptonian reflexes were the only thing that prevented Clark’s spraying milk all over the phone—he managed to get his hand in front of the glass just in time.  Alfred was instantly beside him offering a napkin, which Clark took with a thankful (and embarrassed) smile.

..:: So now I’m wondering if the regular employment could imply another connection, if Noel had some other reason for taking him with her whenever they went out of town—like maybe a chemical habit, if he was her supplier.  That would certainly explain why he’d rush to her room to clean house the second he finds out she’s dead.::..

Bruce grunted, and Alfred collected the empty glass (and soggy napkin) from Clark as Selina continued.

..:: I bounced the idea off Richard Flay.  I’m sure you wouldn’t have.  I’m sure it violates fifteen bat-rules to confide in a suspect that way, but I’m here and you’re not, so lump it.  Anyway, he agrees that William might have some extracurricular sources of income, like buying fun and interesting substances for his employers.  Says he would be ‘just the type for that.’  Go Kitty.  So then, since I was on a roll, I asked if he thought William might have an extracurricular anything else, like could he have been banging Noel on the side?::..

“And?” Bruce asked, reaching for the bottle of aspirin Alfred had brought for Clark, and swallowing two tablets without water.

“He doesn’t think so.  Says he has no doubt that William swings both ways, and that he’d consider all sorts of unsavory activities if the price was right, but a glorified waiter wouldn’t have been Noel’s cup of tea, no matter how young and pretty he—Someone’s coming.  I’ll call you back.::..

Oracle Log: Revised

Pulled details of the Lyon prenup from Coleman, Brocket, and Piques mainframe, Anderson Piques encrypted partition.  Established Piques handled all Lyon family matters, including trust fund established for Fiona Lyon at death of her mother.  Trust jointly administered by Oliver Lyon and Nicola Dulch.  (Note: Dulch legal matters also at C/B/P through senior partner Roger Coleman.)

Forwarded above to B.

Established that C/B/P drew up Noel Lyon’s will.  Initial will was drawn up three months after the marriage and revised one year later.  No activity since.  Details of will’s contents unknown.  Set Epeius relays in all probate databanks to pull details as soon as will is filed.

Oracle Log: Personal

Thanks to B’s excessive anti-monitoring measures inside the Batmobile, I had to run Robin’s OraCom chatter through a 4-tier distillation matrix to isolate that sound I kept hearing in the background last night.  Confirmed that while the Boy Wonder has been “maintaining the Bat presence” (read: cruising in the Batmobile), he’s playing Phil Collins’s In the Air Tonight on a loop.  Tim’s too young to remember Miami Vice, so pretty sure Dick put the idea in his head. 

Clark Kent may not have been the world’s greatest detective, but he knew any murder investigation should begin with the surviving spouse.  As soon as the phone call with Selina had ended, Bruce filled Clark in on the salient details of the case so far.  Clark had scoured through his scribbled notes like a veteran reporter while Bruce spoke, and pounced on Nicola’s suspicions the moment he saw the notation:

“If this Oliver suspected his wife was having affairs, isn’t he the most likely suspect?”

“Not necessarily,” Bruce said, his eyes glued to his laptop screen.  “Selina was quite right about the prenup.  Oracle just confirmed the details.  If Noel was unfaithful, Oliver could divorce her without a cent.  However, the truth about the affair is irrelevant, as is the prenup, if we’re talking about Nicola instead of Oliver.  If she thought Oliver might be planning to divorce Noel… well, divorce means financial warfare, lawyers on both sides poking around for hidden assets.  Nicola and Oliver are joint trustees of his daughter’s trust fund.  If anything isn’t as it should be, a divorce would bring it to light.”

“You mean that Nicola might be afraid a divorce would expose her embezzling from the trust fund, because both Oliver and Noel’s lawyers would be searching through the family finances?”

“Exactly,” Bruce nodded.  “Anything at all that’s amiss would be found, and that train of thought doesn’t stop at Dulch or the trust fund.  If Noel knew something about Oliver’s business, some guilty secret, somewhere, then she’d have a formidable weapon in a nasty divorce.  Another party involved in that secret might think it was best to get rid of her and remove the possibility of a messy divorce.”

“Begging your pardon, Master Bruce, Mr.  Kent” Alfred interrupted from the doorway.  “Is the working theory now absolutely and without question that Mrs.  Lyon’s death was a murder?”

“Dick is on that now,” Bruce replied soberly.  “Once he has the coroner’s report and the official cause of death, we’ll know more.”

“Taking an interest in the investigation, eh, Alfred?” Clark said cheerily.

“It is an intriguing matter, to be sure, sir.  But I regret to say my ulterior motive in interrupting the conversation was to remind Master Bruce that he has one hour of physical therapy to perform, beginning in six minutes.”

“Oh, well if that’s the case,” Clark said, smiling brightly as he stood, “I will leave you two to it...”

Clark was stunned for a moment by the progression of emotions flickering across Bruce’s face.  In the span of a half-second, his expression went from “Don’t you dare walk away from this now!” to “Please don’t leave me with this vicious task-master” to “But we’re in the middle of an investigation here” and finally landing on “No, Alfred’s right.  I’ve got therapy to do, but thanks for coming by.”

Always a man of few words, Bruce voiced only the last and did so with a non-committal grunt.

Clark hid his reaction by turning to Alfred and extending his hand.

“Alfred, always a pleasure,” he good-byed with a warm handshake.  Rather than replacing the notepad in his jacket, he tapped it a few times absently on the back of his knuckles as he turned back to his injured friend. 

Bruce shifted in his chair, preparing to stand, and winced in obvious pain.  Concern washed over Clark’s face, but he squelched the urge to zip to his friend’s side and help him up—he knew that with Bruce, it was best to let him be.  Bruce swallowed the pain, grunted once, more in frustration than anything else, then looked back at Clark as if they were sitting across the League conference table from one another.

“If you need an extra set of eyes or ears on this...” Clark offered, waving the notebook in front of him.

Bruce grunted lightly.  “No, I think I’ve got more than enough eyes involved alread… Wait a minute.  Actually, yes, there is something you can do, if you don’t mind acting as a taxi service.  Cassie is up there now with Dick.  If you could give her a lift back to Chinatown, she wouldn’t have to wait for—”

“Say no more,” Clark interrupted, and in a whoosh, he was gone.

Dick munched the soda cracker that had come with his chili, and looked thoughtfully out the window.  His eye scanned the non-descript building across from the diner, the rusty side door, and the car parked closest to it.  Then, he glanced up and down the street, making sure there were no other cars that might belong to the medical examiner. 

He turned from the window then, and took a sip of coffee.  It was weak, bitter, and had a revolting oily film floating on the surface, but it gave him a reason to look away from the window. 

He knew he was a bit paranoid.  The diner was empty, and with the choice of any table, he had gone to the one at the window.  In Bludhaven, an alert waitress might guess that he was keeping an eye on the building across the street—or someone inside it—and begin looking for an angle to profit from that information.  But in this quiet little town, it really didn’t seem likely…

Still, he was being cautious.  It’s how he was trained.  Podunk little town or not, looking out the window too often would be suspicious.  He was about to call for the waitress and kill more time with a slice of pie when, at last, the rusty side door opened.  A balding little man who waddled like Oswald Cobblepot came out.  He locked the door, got into the car, and drove away.

Finally, the coroner was gone for the day.  Finally, he could get inside and get some answers.  Finally, they were going to find out how Noel Lyon had died.

To be continued…


 

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