Welcome Back Agent Whitfield
Tim and Cassie trudged wearily into the clock tower just before noon. After the bus it had been am attempted arson, and after that an arms deal down by the docks involving some of Penguins goons and some trigger happy Chechnyans. It seemed like it was too much to hope for that Gotham’s criminals would take the week off and let them focus on the Keller case. Tim headed for the kitchen in search of caffeine while Cassie joined Oracle in her workroom which Tim and Dick insisted on calling “The Bridge” for some reason. Barbara slid the window that was tracking Huntress and Black Canary’s progress towards a Mexican Drug Cartels compound off to one side with a gesture and brought up the layout for the Federal building to the main screen. Another window held the dossier for Special Agent Whitfield.
“You won’t remember this Cassie; it was before your time” started Barbara.” It was a little over a year after Tim started as Robin that Lex Luthor got himself elected President on a platform of deregulation for Industry, jobs for everyone and sticking it to The Alien. The first thing he did was put people he controlled into every position of power that he could. The second thing was to start turning the government’s resources against heroes. Spy satellites, illegal wiretaps, half a dozen Federal Task Forces aimed at finding out Secret Identities and capturing “dangerous vigilantes”
Robin joined Cassie on the couch Barbara kept in the command center for naps between long hacks. “I don’t mean to alarm you Bab’s, but some ones replaced all of your coffee with this disgusting Chai stuff. “ He took a sip, grimaced, and then handed the mug to Cassie who accepted with a grin.
“As I was saying before the guy with no taste came in, Lex Luthor had largely turned the Federal Government against us and Bruce decided we needed a man on the inside. That’s where Special Agent Whitfield came in. We took advantage of that prostitution scandal from the Law Enforcement Convention that happened in Dallas around then. A lot of people were fired; some were demoted or transferred out of sight. Other people had to be hired or promoted to fill empty positions. We used all that chaos to create a FBI agent that only existed on paper. The FBI thinks he’s on lone to Homeland Security, Homeland thinks he’s doing a deep cover thing with the ATF, and so on. If you asked them nobody knows precisely where he is, and the general assumption if anyone bothers to ask about him is that it’s classified. He’s still an agent in good standing though and he still has legitimate access. We just haven’t needed to use the identity in a while since Lex got the boot.”
“Ok, that’s our way into the evidence lockup at the Federal Building, but I do foresee one problem” Tim interjected. “Bruce and Dick are out of town, and no amount of makeup and hairpieces will make Cass or me look like a 39 year old Federal agent.”
“Jean Paul can do it” suggested Cass. “He’s could be here by tonight.”
“That’s probably our best option then” said Barbara. “Let’s hope he’ll be willing to come; things were a little awkward when he left and he really seems to prefer working solo.”
Jean Paul Valley was in hell. It was the Hell of the missing bracket which causes cascading validation errors through 352 lines of code, forcing someone to work through their lunch break going through each and every line undoing every erroneous attempt the code monkey on the third floor had made to fix the error in the first place, then finally actually fixing the damn thing, and if someone didn’t learn to close their brackets, they were going to get a flaming sword right up their…
“Hey Jean Paul, you got a minute”
Jean Paul winced. Getting a visit from Terry Pritchard halfway through a Friday was never good. He was considered by many to be the epitome of evil amongst mid-level managers of corporate data solution providers.
“I hate to drop this on you at the last minute, but the clients moved the timetable up on their database project, so I’m going to need you to go ahead and come in this weekend and finish up coding the search utilities.” The bastard was actually smirking.
“Are you blind mortal” Azreal demanded from the depths of Jean Pauls’ mind. “Can you not see the evil seething within this creatures black soul? Allow me to smite him in the name of Saint Dumas”!
“Wasn’t your department supposed have the search utilities done already, Terry”? Jean Paul asked coldly. He idly noticed the instant messenger opening on his computer.
“We had the corporate retreat last week, and didn’t get to it. “ Terry replied, “Look Jean Paul, the company really needs you to be a team player on this one. You don’t want to be down here cleaning up code forever do you?”
“Give me control mortal, allow me five minutes and I will wreak justice upon this smug worms body”
Jean Paul ignored the voice in his head and the brown nosing weasel standing next to him as red text scrolled across his messenger window.
We’re getting the band back together. Rooftop in 5. –R
Jean Paul hesitated. It wasn’t like he’d left on bad terms or anything, but it wasn’t like they’d been keeping him in the loop. They hadn’t even called him in on that Rogue War thing a while back, and now they just expected him to drop everything and go back to Gotham?
“Am I boring you Valley”, asked Terry? “Something in there more important than your job”?
“Make it 10” Jean Paul typed into the messenger.
Azreal smiled. The mortal was going to be a team player.
Adaptive camouflage was great, and a variety of stealth technologies were muffling the engine noise, but there was only so much you can do to hide a bat-shaped stealth jet hovering over an office building in the middle of the day. Robin checked the sensor suite. So far no police or news copters were inbound, but it was only a matter of time until someone got curious. Just as he was considering leaving and setting up a rendezvous with JP somewhere a little less conspicuous, the rooftop door opened, and Jean Paul appeared with a box of his personal possessions under his arm. He vaulted onto the wing of the Batjet, and Robin opened the canopy.
“Does Batman know you borrowed his plane” JP asked as he settled into the back seat?
“I promised I’d gas it up if he let me use it on the weekends” Robin replied as he closed the canopy and throttled up the engines. “Hey is that blood on your sleeve?”
“Azreal had to smite some injustice on the way out” Jean Paul replied. “So what’s up? Alien invasion? Did grizzled cyborg Robin from the future warn you about a Crisis Event?”
Robin didn’t respond for a moment as he brought the Batjet up to cruising altitude and set the autopilot. Then he glanced back over his shoulder at Jean Paul. “Do you remember Joseph Keller? They’re letting him out next week. We’ve got to shut him down, and we don’t have long to do it.”
“Seriously; the guy who killed Stephanie is getting out already? What did they put him in Arkham” Jean Paul protested.
“He made a deal with another prisoner, got him to confess to killing Steph. We could get to him, maybe make him recant his testimony, but the damage is already done, “Robin said with disgust. “We’ve got a plan though; the FBI was looking at him for a number of serial killings, but what they’ve got is mostly circumstantial. We have to make it concrete. If we can tie him definitively to at least one of the other murders, we can keep him in.”
“Fair enough, but what do you need me for” asked Jean Paul. “I don’t mind helping out, but I kind of got the feeling Batman was happier with me gone.”
Robin sighed. “That was mostly Selina. I know it’s not fair; but she associates you with Bruce getting hurt. She probably would have reacted as badly if any of us had shown up in the suit. Although in my case she might have laughed herself silly at a 5’7” Batman who voice still cracked. In any case she and Bruce are off the grid somewhere in Eastern Europe. Nightwing is filling in with the Justice League. It’s strictly the junior varsity on this one. Barbara will be running things from the clock tower. What we need from you is an undercover run into the Gotham branch office for the FBI to recover some evidence. Cass will go in undercover with a Legal Studies tour group from Hudson to back you up, while Babs and I run interference on the net.”
“Stephanie was a good kid” Jean Paul said. “She deserves better than to have her killer walk free again. Azreal and I will help you.”
Jean Paul was feeling just a little schizophrenic. With Robin and Oracle feeding last minute instructions into one ear over the oracom and Azreal questioning the righteousness of penetrating a bastion of justice through deception, no matter how noble the cause, it was all he could do to focus on getting across the lobby of the Federal Building without walking into a pillar.
Barbara had done something with makeup to emphasize the crow’s feet that too many all-nighters had begun to form around his eyes. Thick framed glasses had added to the illusion, aging his face by good seven or eight years. Padding beneath his suit suggested a build, that while still fit, had begun the inevitable slide into middle age. His suit was standard FBI issue, off the rack, well maintained, but worn, obviously one of three or four work suits in Special Agent Daniel Whitfield’s closet. Add a few flecks of grey to his blonde hair, and Jean Paul looked like a youngish 45 year old man; or perhaps an old 39, aged prematurely by the job.
“Game on” Robin’s voice came over the oracom. “Oracle and I have been amping up the irritation level in the office since 5:00 this morning. We hacked the environmentals and have slowly lowered the temperature all morning; the FBI offices should be a balmy 45 degrees. Then we routed all the calls for the Boston office here, so they have to waste time redirecting them. We also flashed the bios on the copy machines on several floors so they report a paper jam every 3rd or 4th job. By now, the last thing they want to deal with is wasting time escorting a visitor around. That should cut down on some of the scrutiny.”
Jean Paul walked up to the receptionist desk, paying no particular attention to Cassie’s tour group milling around a painting of J. Edgar Hoover. He waited politely for the receptionist to finish convincing someone that they had the wrong number then showed her the badge Robin had provided from Batman’s extensive badge collection.
“Special Agent Dan Whitfield to see Assistant Director Steiner” he said briskly, “I have an appointment. “
The receptionist scrutinized his identification for a moment. Barbara had taken the picture before trimming his hair and aging his face, and before putting on the glasses so it looked like it had been taken several years ago instead of last night. Jean Paul felt pretty good about how casually he took his id back. Undercover was not usually his thing, and he was feeling a little naked without his flaming sword. He could feel Azreal agreeing with him.
“Take the elevators up to the 14th floor then down the hallway to the right, ask for AD Steiner at the desk.” She handed him a visitor’s badge. “Don’t lose this; they’re really serious about security here.”
“So far so good” he thought as he got on the elevator, noting idly that Cassie had already given her tour group the slip.
It took Cassie longer than anticipated to find a uniform that fit her in the small Custodial locker room, and to borrow a cleaning cart from the supply closet. By the time she had lifted an access card from another janitor, Jean Paul would already have checked in with the Assistant director and received access to the evidence locker. She pulled her cart onto the service elevator and headed for the 12th floor where the cold case evidence was stored.
“You ready to go Batgirl” Jean Paul asked quietly. “I’m about to start stage two.”
“I’m ready.” She replied. “Prepare to deploy the package.”
“Cassie, it’s a wad of paper towels and a vial of concentrated corpse flower extract, I don’t think we have to call it The Package like it’s some kind of...”
“Deploy Package” Cassie demanded.
“Deploying the package” Jean Paul sighed.
Cassie stepped off the elevator and immediately smelled the putrid stench coming from the men’s restroom down the hall. Jean Paul came out of the bathroom gagging slightly and rubbing at watery eyes.
“Hey miss, I think you’d better get in there, it looks like the toilets are flooding in there, maybe the sewers backing up” Jean Paul said, quickly making his way towards the evidence lockup.
Cassie looked up and grinned at the secretary who was staring after the departing Jean Paul with irritation, and maybe a little fear. She pulled a rebreather from the well-stocked cart over her face then saluted the secretary.
Jean Paul walked into the workroom where the evidence clerk had helpfully laid out two sealed boxes containing the little evidence that had been found on the Central City Serial Murders. Despite having no bodies, the disappearances had been upgraded to murder investigations after the Central City Killer started sending body parts with taunting messages to the police.
Taking a pocket knife out, Jean Paul broke the seals on the boxes and opened one of them revealing a number of file folders, evidence baggies and a number of DVD's containing witness interviews. The second box was filled with photographs and profiles of the victims. One thick packet seemed to be and extensive profile of the killer worked up by the FBI psychologist.
Officially Agent Whitfield was there to search the evidence for similarities to a number of recent disappearances in Ohio. Jean Paul sat down carefully noting where everything was and how he was sitting.
“Ok Jean Paul, I’ve got the cameras.” Barbara said into his earpiece. “Look through the evidence for 15 minutes, then return to position one and I’ll loop it. Let’s not leave Cassie in that bathroom any longer than we have to.”
He started with the crime reports, taking them out one at a time, flipping slowly through them and taking notes, then putting them back in the box to take out another.
“I think we’ve got our work cut out for us” he said. “The FBI was thorough, but this guy left very little evidence, and even less in the way of witness accounts. No signs of struggle, no forced entry, the only reason they really believe its Keller is that he fits the profile, and he can be connected circumstantially to three of the victims. They brought him in each times for interviews, but he gave them nothing. “
“Alright Jean Paul, we’ve got enough, go back to position one” Barbara said, as he returned one of the police reports to the box.
Jean Paul resumed his exact position from when he started, and watched as the light on the evidence workroom camera went red. He immediately stood and pulled his chair over to the wall, climbed up on it and when to work on the vent. He pulled the cover off to reveal Cassie, somehow squeezed into a space that really shouldn’t have accommodated a full grown girl. Taking her hand, he pulled her bodily out of the vent and lowered her to the ground.
“That bathroom really stinks, Jean Paul” she complained. “Next time I play secret agent and you be cleaning lady.”
“It’s a deal” he replied, “but there’s not going to be a next time if someone comes in here and catches us stealing evidence.”
Cassie climbed back up on the chair and retrieved her backpack from the vent. She began swapping out the physical evidence with baggies from her pack, while Jean Paul began photographing all of the photos and files with his Waynetech smartphone.
By the time Cassie had finished swapping out all of the DVDs; Jean Paul was finishing up photographing the Serial Profile. He swapped phones with Cassie, and then secured the vent behind her as she began the slow claustrophobic journey back to the men’s restroom. He slid back into position one with seconds to spare before the camera went live again.
With one last look around for incriminating evidence, Jean Paul resealed the evidence boxes, and initialed the seal as required then called for the evidence clerk. He submitted gracefully to the mandatory search to ensure no evidence had been removed from the FBI’s possession, and then headed back up to make his report to Assistant Director Steiner. He would admit ruefully that while there were some superficial similarities, there did not appear to be a connection between the Central City abductions, and the ones in Cincinnati. It took several pointed glances at his watch and an idle question of whether Steiner thought it would be faster to take the tunnel or the bridge this time of day if he wanted to reach LaGuardia in time to make his flight, before he was finally free to head for the Lobby.
Cassie trudged forlornly from the men’s restroom dragging her cart behind her. She dropped the rebreather on the secretary’s desk and shook her head sadly.
“Is total loss. Nothing I could do. Will have to burn building and start over. Bye now.” She said as she entered the elevator. “You can have gas mask.”
She ditched the housekeeping uniform and the cart in a supply closet, and made her way through the service corridors to the steam tunnels under the building. It took her a moment to disable the alarms the FBI has wired the tunnel with, but once that hurdle had been cleared it was a clear shot to the Subway.
By the time she reached the Batcave, Robin and Jean Paul had cleared a number of workbenches and prepared the “Well”, Batman’s holographic interface for displaying case data, to receive the evidence Cassie was carrying.
Robin stepped into the center of the well and with sharp gesture opened the case file and filled the well with images, reports, video interviews and audio files.
“Let’s go to work” he said, grimly.
To be continued...