“RRRRGLURRUNGH yngh yngh yngh.”
Nutmeg twitched her nose.
“RRRRGLURRUNGH yngh yngh yngh.”
Whiskers kinked his tail.
“RRRRGLURRUNGH yngh yngh yngh.”
And with a final exchange of ear flicks, it was decided that Whiskers would investigate the new noise while Nutmeg guarded the catnip mouse, fuzzy ball, and furry cushion in Selina-cat’s suite.
Whiskers found the new noise easily enough, in one of the downstairs rooms he seldom visited.
“NRRRRNGH… too young for a hernia,” Tim groaned.
It was a new two-foot. His scent was known around the manor, but Whiskers had never seen him face to foot. Now, here he was…
“RRRRGLURRUNGH yngh yngh yngh.”
…playing with big squares that smelled like the cave place.
“Aeiou,” Whiskers said, both to introduce himself and to inquire how the two-foot got the big squares away from the flying mice.
“Hey there, which one are you?” Tim replied.
“Dick and Barbara said we’re all making amends for whatever we messed up the last time Bruce got hurt… RGLURRU… Now me, I don’t have anything to make up for. All I did was get shut out after B appoints an untried whacko nutjob as his successor… URRngh… who promptly fires me as the sidekick ‘cause whacko nutjobs have to work alone, otherwise someone might, y’know, introduce some element of sanity into the senseless carnage… RGLURRURRR… and then he tries to strangle me when I dare go back to the Batcave… RGLUngh, damn, that was a heavy one…”
“You said it. So I really don’t think I have anything to make up for, but I’m still okay with helping out… NRRRRNGH… Way I see it, the family’s pulling together this time. Makes ya proud to be on the team… RRNGH… Bruce needs this stuff brought up from the cave, Dick’s unavailable, so fine… MPHRRR-AH, got it! So okay, that leaves me doing the heavy lifting on my own. Not such a big… AARUNNGH… deal, really, I mean, it was a labor of Hercules trying to contact Bruce when Az went all homicidal psycho on us last time, so this… RRRRGLURRUNGH… by comparison… yngh yngh yngh… isn’t all that bad. Except…”
“Exactly. Help somebody move their stuff, it’s kinda customary they give you a cold drink.”
“Even in Wayne Manor, even a ‘do it now because I say so’ hardass like BRRRRUGLRR…”
“Begging your pardon, Master Tim,” a formal voice interrupted. “Master Bruce would like you to join him in the study for some refreshment when you are finished.”
“You could have told me he was standing there.”
There’s a lot about crimefighting I don’t get simply because it’s not my mindset—but there is a lot I do get, simply because it’s not my mindset. I come from the other side, where you avoid any solid links between your hand and the empty space on the wall that used to have a Monet hanging in it. You sidestep enough of those potential links, you get a sense for when someone else is doing the same thing.
The problem of the moment wasn’t “crimefighting,” per se, but it was another one of those areas where the hero/crimefighters’ mindset was getting us nowhere, and that left it up to the criminal cat’s.
Dick and Cassie had finally conquered the Watermill roadways and found their way to the lodge. I met them in a secluded spot behind the boathouse, and gave Cassie the paper wrapper I’d found in Fiona’s room. By then, Bruce had called with the game plan: Clark was on the way, and Cassie was to stay with me until he arrived. He would fly her back to Gotham to save time while Dick went ahead with the medical side of the investigation.
I probably should have noticed it then, but Cass is always so quiet, quieter doesn’t really register. Dick went on his way, and I asked about their drive up. When she didn’t volunteer anything, I told her about the case so far. It’s true she didn’t say much, but she never says much. I didn’t know there was a problem until Clark arrived. Knowing where to look, I saw the momentary red-blue streak come down over the water, so I wasn’t surprised when Clark Kent came plodding through the woods a minute later (in a suit and tie that was really too formal for Watermill Lodge).
“Excuse me, do you have a minute?” he called as soon as we were in earshot. “Clark Kent, Daily Planet. Are you guests at that houseparty where the supermodel was found…” He trailed off, and at first I figured it was because with those super-senses of his, he knew we were alone. But then I saw he was staring at Cassie, and his eyes looked like saucers.
“Good Lord, are you okay?”
“Okay,” she said, just above a whisper.
He half-squatted so he was more at eye-level, and said “Are you sure?”
From someone else, the gesture might have been a bit patronizing, but Clark is never patronizing in the cape or out. And the question was simple enough, it was genuine concern. I know. Cats have a highly developed pride mechanism, and if anyone gets all fussy-protective, it raises hackles. This wasn’t fussy over-protective anything, it was genuine concern. But Cassie stopped breathing, squeaked, went white as a sheet, and ran away.
Clark looked at me, bewildered.
“You better go after her. Her heartbeat is… a dozen hummingbirds, and I seem to be making it worse.”
Bruce was stretching at an unnatural angle when Tim reached the study door, and Tim knocked softly rather than risk startling him.
“Bad time?” he asked hesitantly.
“No, quite the reverse,” Bruce said, waving at papers that were just out of reach. “Move those financial statements four inches closer, where I can get at them.”
Tim picked up the papers and handed them to Bruce, who glowered as he took them and set them back on the table.
“I just did something wrong,” Tim said, glancing at the papers.
There was something about that glower. It wasn’t ill temper, although it was the sort of thing oversensitive out-of-town heroes often called ill temper: “Batman being a grouchy bat-prick again.” But Tim knew better. It was a Batmobile glower. His first weeks in the field with Batman, riding home after a Scarecrow encounter or a Mr. Freeze escape, a glower that said “What did you do wrong back there?”
“Oh, I get it,” Tim announced, with a note of triumph that he’d figured it out. “You said to put it where you could reach it, not to hand it to you.”
“And that kind of hair-splitting on the instructions means there’s a Batman reason for wanting those papers on the table, right?”
Bruce’s lip twitched. Tim really was a very promising young detective. Better, perhaps, than Dick had been at his age.
“Correct,” he graveled, which confirmed it was Batman who had asked Tim into the study and that this was not to be a friendly social visit but a training exercise. “The north drawing room where you brought the imaging consoles hasn’t been used in ten years. There’s no reason a visitor would go in there, but if they did—”
“If they did, you only had me bring up pieces made by WayneTech. I noticed. So, head of the company has a couple prototypes in his house for some reason, there’s nothing suspicious in that.”
“Very good,” Bruce nodded. “Whereas this room…?”
Tim looked around thoughtfully.
“OraCom plugged into the speaker phone and three laptops going,” he said, pointing. “Nobody is going to know that’s an OraCom, but you’re obviously doing something big over the phone right now. So… financial statements, spreadsheet and pie charts, a power point presentation with graphs over on that one… It looks like the head of Wayne Enterprises is working from home and there’s a big conference call going on. Substitute Perrier for that pitcher of lemonade, and it looks just like my Dad’s study at tax time, in fact.”
“Good,” Bruce grunted. “I’ve already had one unexpected visitor shown in to see me in here. Alfred would be more discreet with a visitor who wasn’t Clark Kent, but even so, they would pass by the door if he took them to the morning room, the east parlor, or the sun room.”
“So you came up with a visual excuse for the ‘conference call,’” Tim grinned. “I like it.”
“Glad you approve,” Bruce graveled. “Now, pour yourself a glass of lemonade, and, since I haven’t seen your log, you can tell me how it went last night while we wait for Dick to call with the autopsy findings.”
Dick Grayson. Jason Todd. Tim
Drake. All boys.
Maybe it was the murder investigation, the way I felt the Rogues were giving me a better insight into the suspects than I would have looking only at Bruce’s side of the equation. Something just told me that whatever upset Cassie required a different perspective—in this case, a non-male perspective—to get to the bottom of it. So, I followed her into the boathouse. I went in like I approach Shimbala’s pen at the Catitat.
Bruce has warned me repeatedly about Cassie’s fighting abilities. He said not to ever forget, in all her sweet, adolescent fumbling, that she’s a potentially lethal killing machine. Each time he did, I reminded him that I own the largest Bengal tiger in captivity, a number of leopards, cheetahs, and ocelots, and, as if that wasn’t enough, I share a bed with Batman. I know all the rules about remembering sweet-adorable-affectionate is also dangerous-as-sin.
It’s a good thing I did, because that awareness let me see the condition she was in when the light from the door hit her. The poor little thing was petrified.
“Cassie?” I said in the same tone I’d use with a frightened leopard.
“Yes. I’m alone. You don’t want to see Clark, I take it?”
“Fair enough. I’ll go make sure he knows to stay away, then. So he won’t disturb us no matter how long we’re in here, okay? Then I’ll come back and talk to you.”
“Is good. Will talk.”
“Okay, I’ll be back in just a minute.”
Tim had only progressed through a third of his glass of lemonade and a sixth of his early patrol, up to a turn onto Fifth Avenue where he broke up some amateurs attempting their first burglary at Saks, when the phone rang.
..::Well, I’ve got the coroner’s report,::.. Dick announced grimly. ..:: Don’t think you’re going to like it. Official cause of death is cardiac arrest.::..
Bruce’s eyes met Tim’s. Both knew that didn’t rule out murder, it just made it more complicated.
“And this was determined how?” Bruce asked tersely.
..:: He notes micro-aneurisms in the retinas consistent with seizures suffered during a heart attack.::..
“That’s also consistent with diabetic retinopathy,” Bruce said thoughtfully. “What was her blood insulin like?”
..:: Doesn’t say. Bruce, I don’t think you’re getting the picture here. This is a small town. I’m not in a morgue; I’m in a funeral home. And it looks like the medical examiner is also the local G.P. So, it’s one of those situations where, if he knows you’ve got a heart condition or liver disease or whatever, he’s not going to bother with an autopsy and a full blood workup. He figures he knows what killed you and is just looking to confirm it.::..
“Absurd, in this day and age…”
..:: We’re not in ‘this day and age.’ Bruce, I’m holding a piece of paper I got out of a metal filing cabinet, okay? I started on the computer—the ONE computer in the building—and it’s running Windows 95. All it has is the WayneTech accounting suite for small business, and solitaire. And it hasn’t been powered up in three weeks.::..
It was one of those silences Dick remembered from the old days as Robin. The ones after Penguin got away, or the Riddler clue didn't point where they thought it would. On the drive home, there would be this silence that was like: BLACK HOLE! Batman was not happy, and there was absolutely nothing he could do about it.
Then, finally, a terse huff, acknowledgement (but never acceptance) of what could not be changed, and a determined shift to work around it:
Bruce shifted to one of the laptops and brought up a handful of files that Oracle had put together for him.
“All right. Looking through Noel's medical records, there's nothing here to indicate she had ever been diagnosed as diabetic, we can eliminate that straight away. Previous exams and blood tests show normal blood sugar on all counts, including blood work done a little over three months ago. If she had a glucose problem large enough to cause retinopathy, there should have at least been minor variances in her sugar levels.”
..:: Plus, like I said, this is the local G.P. If she was diabetic, he’d know and he wouldn’t be attributing a diabetic symptom to seizures from a heart attack. So we’re back to the cardiac arrest.::..
“Negative. An injection of diabetic insulin could cause the arrest, and would account for the micro-aneurisms in the retina. And it’s nearly impossible to detect unless you find the point of injection and analyze the underlying tissue. Look for an injection welt between the toes, or maybe hidden in a freckle.”
The phone went quiet while Dick examined the body, and Bruce turned to Tim.
“Insulin as a murder weapon. Go.”
“Shoot, knew I was getting off too easy,” Tim said. Then he cleared his throat and recited formally, “One reason insulin kills is that the brain, unlike the rest of the body, can only function on one energy source: glucose. If blood glucose drops too low for too long, the brain dies.
“But chances are the body's attempt to battle the low blood sugar will kill you first. That’s what causes most insulin-induced deaths: when sugar levels fall dangerously low, the body produces massive amounts of adrenalin and other hormones. A strong heart will keep going until the low blood sugar damages the brain, but in other cases, the prolonged load of adrenalin on an otherwise weakened heart—like one who abused weight loss aids (didn’t you say she was a model?), it’s a lot more likely that they’ll suffer a cardiac arrest before any kind of brain shutdown.”
..:: Is that a Robin pop quiz I hear?::.. Dick asked cheerily.
“Yes!” Tim called out as Bruce growled “No.”
An exchange of ..:: Hey, Bro.::.. and “Hey” followed, and Bruce sank a little deeper into his chair.
“Keep searching for that injection welt,” he ordered.
Tim took a deep breath and continued:
“Because insulin is made naturally in the body, it’s nearly impossible to detect as a murder weapon unless you find the point of injection… And that’s where I go off the rails, Bruce, because the medical abstracts start talking about ‘formalin fixed and paraffin embedded subcutaneous injection marks’ and my brain just shuts down. I’m sorry, I just can’t help it. I read ‘Cellular reaction of granulocytic character was present, with an uptake of insulin by inflammatory cells,’ and I start thinking I should make a bag of popcorn and study for my history final.”
..:: Don’t worry, Bro, with me it was ‘birefringent crystalline material like zinc phosphate revealing granular insulin deposits and staining along the lipocyte membranes,’ nachos, and John Steinbeck.::..
“Dick,” Bruce interrupted.
“You had a final on John Steinbeck?”
“Tim,” Bruce growled.
..::Nah, I wrote a paper on Steinbeck. It was American Lit when I was doing the case studies on murder. Steinbeck was poisons. Hemingway was arson; I did real well on that paper too. Ballistics was F. Scott Fitzgerald. But then blood spatter was really interesting, and I tanked the last paper on Henry Miller. Whole semester brought down to a B+ because blood spatter analysis was pretty cool.::..
Bruce settled even deeper into his chair, waves of disapproval pulsing around him as he tried to work out how to blame this on Catwoman. It was a fact that both of these Robins had been much more focused before their first encounter with the shapely cat burglar in skintight leather, and now, his Bat-family of operatives had been a lot more disciplined before Selina joined their ranks.
When I left the boathouse the second time, I found Clark sitting on a tree stump, studying a clump of mud on his dress shoe as if it was only now occurring to him that he should have worn something more casual.
“Were you listening?” I asked, figuring it was a pose. (After all, if he really wanted a more comfortable outfit, he could sprint back to Metropolis and get it, right?)
“No, I figured if she was that scared of me, I had no business listening in. Is she okay?”
“Well, she's a bit freaked… apprehensive… about the trip back to Gotham.”
“You’re watering it down, Selina, which is something I’ve never known you to do. That was more than apprehension. Elevated heart rate, shallow breathing, tense body stance… That was fight-or-flight panic.”
“’Flight' being the operative word,” I told him. “She's scared of flying with you.”
“But that’s impossible. This is Batgirl we're talking about. I've seen her leap off of a thirty-story building with nothing more than a Batline in her grip.”
And there it was: the need for that non-male, non-hero perspective. Because the thought was so foreign to him, he wasn’t even hearing the words when I told him. I had no choice. I was going to have to hit him over the head with it. Superman. I was going to have to bash him over the head. Probably more than once.
“I didn't say she was scared of flying, Clark. I said she was scared of flying with you.”
Confusion knotted his brow as he looked at me at the same angle as that dog of his, like he just can’t fathom that I don’t want him flying up to face-level and pawing at my hair.
“You’re right, I guess I was ‘watering it down.’ It’s called tact, Clark. The truth is, she’s not ‘apprehensive,’ she’s out of her mind terrified. She’s the kind of panic stricken I would describe as ‘reading Stephen King on fear toxin.’”
He let out a long breath as the words sank in.
“It's a matter of trust, then? I mean, it’s not the first time I’ve encountered someone who’s scared to be carried into the sky in my arms, but those were strangers. She knows me; she's seen me dozens of times...”
“Yes, she’s seen you. But there’s never been any talk of your flying her anywhere. Clark, listen to me. Fathers and daughters are a very complicated relationship. And I’m talking about normal fathers and daughters. But Cassie… David Cain instructed his daughter on all aspects of human behavior that she would need in order to kill people. He taught her nothing beyond that, but if it touched on her ability to find a target and exterminate it, then his teachings were very complete. ‘Capes’ fell into that category of things a professional assassin might need to know about. And the lesson on metas was simplicity itself: if it can kill you easier than you can kill it, it should be feared. Avoid if possible. Neutralize if you get the chance.”
He looked like I told him his dog died.
“Selina, she’s seen me a dozen times,” he repeated. “We've been in combat together. And I know she's seen the care I take when taking someone up, always, even in those charged combat situations where every split-second counts, I’ve always—”
“I know. Clark, look, intellectually, she knows the bulk of what Cain told her is wrong. She’s accepted Batman’s teachings in place of her father’s code, and so far, it seems to be working out just fine. But you can’t reason with a clench in the pit of your stomach. No matter what you know intellectually, a primal urge that says ‘run if you want to go on living’ is going to have its say. ‘Father say ‘if it can kill you easier than you can kill it…’ Superman kill easier than I swat fly.’”
“Except I don’t,” he exploded—and there are times, different though they are, that he really reminds me of Bruce. Something about the frustration spike.
“I know that, Clark, and I know this is difficult for you. You have to make allowances for Cassie’s way of talking. ‘Superman can kill’ or ‘could kill,’ it just comes out ‘kill.’ She leaves out little words.”
And that’s when he really looked like Bruce.
“In this situation, I don’t consider that a little word,” he said intensely. “The distinction between what I am physically capable of and what I would actually…” He took a deep breath, apparently trying to calm his own nerves. “Selina, you’re right. This isn’t ‘easy’ for me. He can thrive being an object of terror. I can’t. I… Ever since I put on that suit and went ‘public,’ I've dealt with these questions, these fears. I know my power can be frightening to some, and I've gone to great lengths over the years to try to assuage those fears. I live with the fact that everyone around me is… Every time I touch a human, Selina, every time, I am acutely aware that…”
He sighed again, and I could see him trying to reign himself in.
“I'm sorry, Selina. I'm just... I never expected to have to explain to someone like Batgirl that I would never... I see that symbol on her suit, and sometimes I forget that they don't all think like he does. I forget that underneath it all, she's just a teenage girl... and that, that little girl is afraid to… In Rao’s name, at the height of that mindwipe mess, you trusted me not to drop you into San Francisco Bay.”
I laughed. I couldn’t help it. Poor Clark was already reeling to the point where he couldn’t finish a sentence, and he really didn’t need the shock of being laughed at. Plus, there was a murder investigation on hold. But I couldn’t help it. Heroes are just that fucking adorable.
“You know, from the minute Cassie told me why she was frightened, I knew—I absolutely knew—that conversation was going to come up. Yes, Clark, I knew you weren’t going to drop me when we flew together, but my father read to me from Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, not Vandal Savage’s Commentaries on Sun Tzu.”
..:: Hey, not to change the subject, but if you guys are just hanging out while I do this medical examiner’s job for him, I do have one other piece of intel about that party up at Watermill Lodge,::.. Dick said, pulling Bruce’s focus back to the case at hand.
..:: I don’t know if it’s relevant to the case, exactly, but, in the interests of full disclosure, I know the girl. Gracie. I never put it together until I dropped Cassie up at the lodge and saw her car, that ‘Gracie’ the fiancée this whole weekend was supposed to revolve around is Gracie Haswell.::..
“And?” Bruce prompted.
..:: I knew her in college, that’s all.::..
“Ten bucks says she’s a redhead,” Tim whispers.
..::I said I knew her, not that I dated her, Timothy. She was in at least one of my classes every semester at Hudson. All kinds of friendly, always offering me her lecture notes and wanting to study together. But I always got the vibe it was ‘Bruce Wayne’s son’ she was interested in. You know the type. By senior year, guys in the dorm had officially changed “Haswell” to “Wantswell.”::..
Bruce and Tim grunted quietly and in unison. They did, indeed, know the type.
“Just because she’s age-appropriate doesn’t mean she’s not a gold-digging whore,” Bruce murmured.
“Whoa, that’s harsh,” Tim said, a bit shocked.
“Selina overheard a fragment of a conversation,” Bruce explained slowly, thinking it through as he went. “A while back, Fiona had said her step-mother ‘might be age-appropriate’ for her father, but that it ‘didn’t mean she wasn’t a gold-digging whore.’ It’s a fairly famous quotation within their circle, and we’ve been operating on the assumption that what Selina heard was someone repeating it. And we assumed they were talking about Noel. But how much more likely is it that they were talking about a new marriage, not one that occurred more than fifteen years ago? The words were spoken to Rick Donohue, the groom-to-be.”
“Yeah, but Noel is the one who died,” Tim noted.
..:: Correction, Noel is the one who was murdered,::.. Dick announced. ..:: I found the injection site. I know people who aren’t diabetic have been known to inject themselves for whatever reason, but I do not see this lady hiding the injection in her stretch marks.::..
Tim let out a low whistle.
Bruce emitted an aura of dark foreboding. There was no other crime that struck Batman so powerfully with the burning need to avenge it. A human life had been taken. Trapped in this wretched chair or not, he would do whatever was necessary to find the person responsible and bring them to justice.
I had never done anything like it before, but it felt right.
Once Clark got over his initial shock (and, more importantly, once he stopped taking an irrational fear personally) he lived up to that “S” on his chest. Watching the grace and ease with which he helped settle Cassie’s nerves was like watching Bruce analyze a crime scene; he was definitely in his element. They talked for about fifteen minutes, right there on the water’s edge, and after about five minutes, Clark started teaching her how to skip stones. I don’t know if it was the light touch required to make a stone skip on the water’s surface, or the simple act of teaching her something, but she started to relax. I don’t think she realized it, I think she was focusing so hard on mastering this new thing that she forgot to be terrified. By the time she actually got the stone to skip, she was her old self again. She even smiled up at Clark and thanked him for teaching her, the way you thank a sensei for instruction.
I didn’t think that settled matters as far as her flying the super skies. We had just worked our way back from a dangerously scared leopard to the regulation Saturday afternoon Batgirl. But then Clark asked, very directly and abruptly, if she wanted to go ahead with the back-to-Gotham plan. I really thought he jumped the gun, so I cut in myself and told Cassie that I would go with her. Clark could fly both of us together, so she wouldn’t have to face the ordeal alone, and then he would fly me back to Watermill Lodge before I was missed. What can I say, it’s not my style but, there and then, it felt right.
She held my hand the whole way, but I knew were going to be all right at the halfway mark when it went from a white-knuckle deathgrip to the way Nirvana takes my wrist in her mouth when she wants to turn it to lick this part of the forearm instead of that one. We left her in Chinatown, and she gave Superman a hug before we said goodbye.
Clark flew me back to Watermill Lodge, and, I confess, I figured that would be that. I was looking on him as transportation, not a partner, but he did one of those blink-changes back to Clark Kent as soon as we hit the ground. I gathered he was planning to stay.
“I’m afraid the death of a supermodel is what we in the business call ‘news,’ Ms. Kyle. It’s big news. It’s a very juicy story, in fact. Now, if you folks in the house party have something to hide and want to turn me away, I’ll just have to go into town. I’m sure folks there will be a lot more talkative.”
I grinned. Two ‘folks’ in one low-key threat. I absolutely grinned. The first time I met Bruce’s fop, it was one hell of a shock. Somehow, Clark’s ‘butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth’ routine was hitting exactly the same note. It was certainly possible that this guy was a lot sharper than he let on (and if you bought into the guileless Midwest manner, you would find yourself the subject of a devastating Daily Planet exposé). It was not possible that he put on a cape and saved the world on a regular basis.
In any case, I reacted to his mild mannered threat exactly the way any other member of the household would: I took him back to the house for the cocktail hour. It worked. The family took turns being polite to him in the parlor, and as soon as they got “off stage,” they relaxed. The first time I talked with Nicola, Fiona, Daniel, and the others, they were guarded. This time, every one of them was so pleased to have escaped that nosy reporter, they revealed something they hadn’t shown before.
“You like working with Clark?” Bruce asked, aghast.
..:: All I said was I can see why you like working with him. He’s handy.::..
“If you need to power an ion engine or hold back an avalanche, I agree, he is very handy. But in a murder investigation—”
..:: I’ve got three theories on what Daniel Eagan does for a living: music producer, speculates on the gold market, smuggles Cuban cigars. Also, Richard says Nicola bought a fake Monet a few years back and never recovered from the loss. It was less than it should be, but not cheap. She thought the low price meant it was stolen, but no. Total fake. Richard is the one who spotted it. The cracks in the paint were too regular, that’s a big red flag. Means it was baked to mimic aging, not aged naturally. So he had a paint chip analyzed, and sure enough, the paint was handmade from linseed oil, just like Monet did it, but the linseed oil had post-1945 levels of radiation… Uh, let’s see, what else? Rick wrecked two Corvettes the year he turned sixteen, and he’s been arrested twice: once for marijuana possession, and once for some kind of student protest about antibiotics in milk. Fiona had a little shoplifting problem in high school, but Daddy saw that nothing ever went on paper. Oh and get this, Oliver once hired a consultant to keep him from being targeted by Poison Ivy. How do you get that gig? ::..
“Sounds like you’re doing an exceptional job investigating, Selina. There’s no need to be giving Clark the credit for your own—”
..:: You’re jealous, that’s so sweet. Oh, by the way, speaking of stolen art, Richard Flay also thinks that you dabble. He’s absolutely convinced that’s how we met. Says he can always tell someone that has *cough* ‘a hidden room in their manor with a shadow collection,’ take that for what it’s worth.::..
“Noted. Anything else of direct bearing on the case?”
..::Yeah, I’m pretty sure it was the will that Gracie was looking for in Noel’s room. She’s been staggeringly tactless on that score. Only question is if she’s grasping and crass on her own account or if she’s fronting for Rick.::..
..:: Yes. I’m telling Clark that you were jealous.::..
..:: I just think it’s cute. You don’t care about another fop playboy doing what fop playboys do, but another crimefighter cutting in on your detective action—::..
“Selina, is there anything more about the case?”
..:: Maybe. It’s not based on anything, no evidence, just a hunch.::..
“Hunches have their place in detective work. What is it?”
..:: I think it was Noel that I heard in Rick’s room.::..
“And the ‘whore’ remark was in reference to Gracie. I’ve been thinking along those lines myself. If Noel didn’t approve of the marriage and either Rick or Gracie thought there was some chance of his being disinherited…”
..:: Then that’s why one or both are itching to see the will, and/or would have a motive to off Noel before it could be changed. I’m also thinking, just the nature of gold digging, it’s got to be like casing a robbery target, right? I mean, they’d have to do a fair amount of research just to know who is worth going after. You don’t want to spend six months establishing a cover just to get close to the Pattington tiara, only to find out they replaced all the diamonds with cubic zirconia after junk bonds tanked in the eighties. So, assuming Gracie did her homework—and I definitely think she is the type who does her homework—then she’s be traveling in the more gossipy circles of Gotham’s social cognoscenti before she ever got here. And the fact that she settled on Rick means she’d have checked on all of them, right? Or Rick would never have passed muster as a potential hubby. So she’s presumably got the dirt on the whole clan, from Oliver on down.
..:: Now, having something to tell and actually telling it are two entirely different things, but if I press her a little, if I let on that I know that Noel and Rick had words about her and that’s where this obsession with the will is coming from, I’ll bet she spills. I’ll bet she tells me everything she knows about the rest of them, just to divert suspicion away from herself. She wouldn’t give up anything that implicates Rick, of course, but the rest of the them— ::..
“That’s it,” Bruce breathed.
..:: What? What’s it?::..
..::As in ‘eureka?’ Did I just do that Watson thing and babble right over the solution to the whole thing?::..
“Yes, Selina. You did.”
To be continued…