A “Gotham wind” blew in the sense that a cold front had produced gusts sufficient for the AWOS (automated weather observation system) at the Gotham airport to announce wind from the northeast at seven knots, gusting to thirteen, well within Wayne One’s maximum cross-wind component. Captain Leffinger had obviously compensated with quick acceleration on the runway and an early lift off to minimize the risk of stalling…
Selina stifled a reluctant chuckle and Bruce paused his faux-narration in the style of an improbably well-informed Matches making a supplemental log entry to close Batman’s casefile.
“Lift is generated by the creation of a pressure differential over the wing surfaces,” he continued with Malone’s rough inflection. “The lowest pressure occurs over the upper surface and the highest pressure under the wing…” He paused again as the suppressed laugh escaped her. Then she bit her lip, assuming a mask of determined control, and he continued. “All tactical and strategic weather summaries project minimal turbulence once we’ve achieved cruising altitude,” he stated, and this time she just waved him silent with a combination Jazz Hands/Personal Foul/I Surrender gesture.
“You did ask,” he reminded her.
“I guess that will teach me to make jokes about the sacred log,” she said with the unrepentant look that answered all his reminders.
“Good,” he grunted.
A comfortable silence fell, which gradually became less comfortable.
“Do you want a drink?” Bruce asked abruptly.
“You don’t drink when you fly,” Selina reminded him.
“It will take two weeks for the alcohol inhibitors to dissipate completely,” he said with a lip-twitch. “Why not take advantage. Perpetuate the image a little longer.”
“The image of Fop Wayne emptying a magnum every flight?” Selina frowned. “I don’t think so, but I will join you on the real reason you’re in the mood for a belt.”
“And what’s that?” he asked, dipping into the gravel.
“Champagne or something stronger?” she dodged.
“Oh, champagne,” he answered, seemingly as the playboy but managing to convey an annoyed irony.
“Right, because we’re celebrating,” Selina murmured as she went to the galley.
While she was gone, Bruce switched on the entertainment center and linked the Internet feeds from his laptop to display on all four screens of the two-by-two grid at the front of the cabin. He skimmed the latest reports and scowled. The Gotham arrests were generating the expected leads and Westie associates in Metropolis, Philadelphia and Boston were already scrambling. They would be taking more damage over the coming months thanks to severed supply lines, lost contacts and distributors.
“Sláinte,” Selina said, handing him a glass.
He took it and stared down at the pinhead-size bubbles rising in neat columns. Selina noted the similarity to Batman watching thugs in an alley, and she laid a soft finger on the top of the laptop.
“Any news?” she asked.
“There’s no way he’ll live through the night.”
“It’s okay to admit you feel bad,” Selina said gently. “He was so… not Carmine.”
“I told you the night you encountered Nigma at the Adamas Exchange, a crimefighter cannot draw those distinctions. There can’t be a line between the monsters it’s a pleasure to take down and those that he…”
“Doesn’t hate?” Selina prompted. “See this is what I don’t get, because it’s the only area where you seem to think it’s fine and even laudable to deny reality. I say ‘the last person to legitimately own the thing died in 30 B.C.,’ and you scowl and snarl and grind your knuckles into your glove. I make a joke about ‘practical socialism’ and you’re ready to hit me. Still illegal, other people’s property, grumble-growl-grunt. But you’re allowed to sit there and pretend that… Look, the line exists, Bruce. Whether you acknowledge it or not, it exists. There’s a division. In your mind. If it had been Falcone who had a probably-fatal heart attack when they came for him, neither of us would give a damn. But it wasn’t. It was Finn, and we both feel awful.”
“In all likelihood, he’ll be dead by the time we touchdown in Rio. Bruce, don’t tell me you don’t feel that. I know better. I know when your mouth says one thing and what’s going on between your ears is something else entirely. Look at me: if he pulls through and his ticker somehow holds out through a trial, they’re going to sentence him to at least thirty years more than he’s got. I don’t think it’s a monstrous sin to admit you’re not thrilled.”
“Your opinion of my opinion of right and wrong,” Bruce muttered, taking a drink. “I thought we finished that argument years ago.”
“We did, but we didn’t settle anything,” Selina smiled. “I just gave up. You’re too stubborn.”
They sat in silence until each drained their glasses, then Selina refilled them.
“To the Fate of Maewyn Finn,” she proposed. “I can make you feel better, or worse. Preference?”
Bruce’s eyes narrowed.
“If you have additional information, I expect to hear it before I close the log,” he snapped. “No ‘better or worse.’ All of it.”
“God, Bruce, Psychobat’s not only a bad loser, he’s a bad winner. You won, jackass. You wanted to end the Westies, it’s done. They’re done. There’s nothing I know and you don’t that has any bearing on that. It’s just… I did have some time alone in the dining room with Mrs. Finn, and… there’s something that might make you feel better and something that really, really won’t.”
He thought about it, sipped, and then said “Selina, I’m a detective. I want to know, period. I want all the information available, regardless of how it makes me ‘feel.’”
“Okay, well, you know how we kept hearing that Finn had four sons?” she began, and Bruce nodded curtly.
“I know, and they’re all dead. One shanked in Blackgate. One in a hit by the Georgian half of the Russian mob, one in his war with the Columbian cartels. One was an unsolved shooting. That’s why he never retired to anywhere warmer or more inviting than Staten Island. They didn’t want to move away from the cemetery.”
“Ah, well that’s not what I found out. She had four. He had a fifth. Don’t ask how it came up, but there was a mistress or something in the late 80s. Anyway, he had a fifth child, also a boy... killed in Afghanistan.”
“Well, that is tragic,” Bruce admitted. “And those losses undoubtedly contributed to his becoming the kind of man he was. But for the record, Selina, he killed other people’s sons, and had them killed.”
“Yes, and that’s what brings me to the ‘feel better’ factoid. You remember that bowl I admired on the dining room table? White and blue, with the big orange flowers and all that gold.”
“I remember it was Chinese Imari,” Bruce said with a reluctant smile. “Ironic given Finn’s paranoia about all things Asian. They obviously didn’t know. It’s just, as Gina put it, ‘a pretty bowl.’”
“Yeah, you don’t really think I’d be saying ‘antique porcelain irony’ was going to make you feel better, do you? I noticed the bowl because it’s really unusual to find one that big. And it’s usual to find that particular orangish-red, and it’s unusual for them to have green in addition to the standard red and gold over the blue and white. So, three unusual things overlapping that way, kitty’s whiskers start twitching. Your detective gets off one way, mine does this.”
She squeezed into the seat beside him and started banging away on his keyboard until a picture of the bowl appeared on the viewscreen, expanded to fill all four quadrants.
“It’s early 18th Century Kangxi, probably 1710. Two small ‘character marks’ aka chips to the rim, no cracks or restoration…” She hit a final key, and the picture shrunk down to a quarter of the page in an insurance report that filled the left two screens while the right displayed the police report.
“Disappeared from the Madison Avenue home of Mr. and Mrs. Jules Evewad, June 1986, the night Mrs. Evewad was… murdered by an intruder,” Bruce murmured as he skimmed. “Dog was poisoned, security guard and caretaker attacked. Initial suspicions of a robbery gone bad… Police eventually came to suspect the husband who was conveniently out of town yet surrounded by witnesses the entire time… had her killed for the insurance… could never prove it… You think Finn was the hitter?”
“Yeah, I do,” Selina said thoughtfully. “It’s certainly possible, and I’ve got enough guilt on my plate from what happened to Hagen. I don’t need any more from this. So I’m choosing to believe ‘possible’ is a sure thing. He did it. He killed that woman and he took the bowl as a souvenir. So basically we can stop feeling bad for Maerwyn Finn at any time.”
Bruce studied her lovely features, weighing every word. Then, after a count of seven, his lip twitched.
“Tell me more about this case of yours in Rio?” he asked, telegraphing the density shift to come with a gravel on the final words.
“Well,” Selina purred. “Dias still despises the idea of a dojo. Private lessons only, one-on-one, in his home. There's a houseboy—literally a boy, about fourteen—that works for him. Opens the door, brings a pitcher of water after class, that kind of thing. He comes down from one of the favelas, those shanty towns going up the hills…”