Someone else was arriving at the entrance to the restaurant.
Bruce Wayne turned around, and saw that it was Sandra. As the waiter escorted her to the table, Wayne looked around the restaurant; nearly every man in the restaurant was following her with his eyes. No wonder, he thought as he stood up to greet her; Sandra was quite attractive. Full-figured, with flowing black hair and dark eyes offset by light colored skin, she was a classic beauty from her native country, Spain.
For her part, Dr. Sandra Villanova was aware of the men watching her; in fact, she was used to it, but it in no way gave her an ego; she simply brushed it off.
"Dr. Villanova, hi!"
"Oh really, Bruce, why so formal?" They greeted each other European-style, "kissing the air" next to each other's cheeks, then Wayne helped Dr. Villanova sit down, and then sat down himself opposite her.
The waiter brought her a glass of water, and a menu for each of them.
"How have you been, Sandra?"
"Fine, Bruce. How have you been?"
Dr. Villanova put her menu down without even looking at it; instead she looked at the mirror on the wall, and studied her reflection.
Without ego, merely acknowledging reality, she thought about herself. She wasn't bad looking, not at all. She exercised regularly, although she noticed she was starting to gain just a little weight, and she noticed that now, in her late thirties, it was harder to exercise as hard as she used to. She was dedicated to her career, her profession -- no, to her research -- but still, she wondered at what price. At times she was very lonely, and she wondered how things would have been if she had had a husband, a family.... She wasn't getting any younger, and soon she might not be so attractive to men.
But, her standards were high; she was in no way going to settle for just anybody, neither was she going to give up her work. She would need someone who was her intellectual equal, someone who would be not just a lover, but a partner and a friend. But she hadn't yet found anyone, she wasn't even close to finding anyone, and she wasn't getting any younger. With these thoughts in mind, she sighed. Bruce Wayne was really sweet, very much a gentleman, but he was just so shallow! Their conversation so far this evening was likely to be only a taste of what was surely to come: more shallow conversation. Still, she was ready for a break from her work, perhaps even a little fun, and she definitely didn't feel like being alone just now. However, as far as her future was concerned, Bruce Wayne was not going to be her type for anything more than dinner and shallow conversation; and, the clock was ticking. She sighed again, as she looked back from the mirror and picked up her menu.
"Is everything okay?"
Bruce Wayne looked worried.
"Sure. Why wouldn't it be?"
"Oh, I don't know. You just keep sighing."
"Sorry. I guess I have a lot on my mind."
"I know the feeling." Wayne smiled, then looked out the window. He could see the street outside, but in the reflection he could also see Dr. Villanova. Moreover, in his peripheral vision, he could see his own face in the mirror on the window frame, and, farther back, he could see Sasha casually keeping an eye on him.
Wayne sighed. Aladdin and his Mujahideen had nuclear weapons; they had them here, in Gotham City! The Gotham authorities were unable, or perhaps unwilling, to do anything about it, or even to acknowledge the danger officially so Gotham's residents would at least know. Batman should be out doing something to protect Gotham City, but, instead, here was Bruce Wayne, under guard, about to have a boring dinner. On top of it all, he wasn't even hungry; and, the clock was ticking.
Nicholas Kyle took a sip of his Scotch as he continued thinking about how his life had become such a mess.
One day, Kyle noticed that one crime syndicate seemed to benefit from the misfortunes of others. He also noticed that these other syndicates were the ones that Donovan was asking for information about. He mentioned that to Donovan. Sure, Donovan explained, whenever one criminal group goes down, another takes its place. There is a demand on the street, a demand for drugs, sex, stolen goods, murder-for-hire, and that demand will get supplied. Naturally, if one supplier suffers some misfortunes, another will step in and take its place.
Shortly thereafter, Kyle was assigned to work with a new partner. The new partner, a more senior agent, a man named Ron DiViglio, knew Donovan; he had been helping Donovan, too.
Kyle expressed his concern one day that he thought Donovan was using them to further the goals of one of the organized crime syndicates. His new partner didn't seem overly concerned. Don't be so paranoid! Besides, he said, so what if he is? Let these criminals fight among themselves; when one syndicate has brought down other criminals, the GBI or the GPD will move in and take down the first one. The end result would be the same, but with fewer officers' and agents' lives in jeopardy.
Kyle then noticed that the rewards he got became more generous: stereo equipment, televisions, tickets to ball games and social events. The favors he was asked to do also became riskier: photocopying files, tipping Donovan off about targets of GBI investigations ("So the GPD can deconflict its operations; but we don't have time to go through channels!")....
One day, Kyle confronted his partner. He had been had, he explained. Donovan was tied to organized crime, and Kyle was doing Donovan's bidding.
His partner Ron explained that he had better just shut up about it. "For a couple of years, now, Nick, you've been doing stuff you shouldn't have been doing; if word gets out, you and I will get in trouble, along with Donovan. Our families might be at risk, too," he added. Don't worry, Ron reassured him, he would see that Nick was protected; that's why Donovan's friends arranged for Ron and Nick to be partners. Ron said he would talk to Donovan's friends, and make sure Nick got more lucrative rewards for his hard work. "In the end, the criminals will get theirs; meanwhile, let's profit off these guys for a while."
After that, Nick began to receive even more generous rewards: envelopes full of cash. But, the things he was asked to do became riskier still.
And so, one day, Special Agent Nicholas Kyle of the Gotham Bureau of Investigation woke up, looked in the mirror, and realized he was dirty: he was working for organized crime.
With these thoughts on his mind, Nick got up from his armchair, walked back over to the bar, and poured himself another glass of Scotch.
His dream had become a nightmare; his life had become a living hell. Every time he thought he saw someone following him, he wondered if that was it: if GBI Internal Affairs was about to bring him down. Now, his house, his life with Selena, everything was at risk. If he tried to go clean, he couldn't prove anything, but someone might go after Selena. If he tried to back out, they could accuse him to the GBI, or someone might go after Selena. His only choice was to go forward, deeper into hell.
He took a long pull on his Scotch, then looked at his reflection in the mirror. It was as if he had been looking in the mirror all along. It was as if every time he thought he was turning right, he was mistaken, and in fact went the other way. His life had become the mirror image of what he had wanted it to be. And now Selena, sweet, innocent, loving Selena, was at risk.
By going forward, however, Selena no longer had to work; the extra money he brought home was returns on his investments, he told her. The important thing is she could be happy, pursue her hobbies without having to deal with bosses or coworkers, go to the gymnasium and work out... she really enjoyed exercising, and Oh! she was so beautiful.
With her reddish hair, green eyes, and athletic figure, she was a delight for Nick.
The trouble was, Nick felt dirty; he felt like he was contaminating her.
His smile having turned to a frown, he took another pull on his Scotch.
The other morning, he and his partner had to go on business and try to intimidate a reporter who was looking into things that shouldn't be looked into. They followed the reporter to the gymnasium; it was the same gymnasium that Selena works out at!
Nick told Ron about that, and expressed concern that Selena might know this reporter, or that Selena might see Nick there, or that the reporter might see Nick with Selena some day.
Ron assured him that he shouldn't worry about that, but Nick had his doubts.
The appearance of that dark figure talking to the reporter was worrisome, too.
Ron told him not to worry about that, either, but Nick was sure that figure was a syndicate enforcer. When would that figure come after Nick?
As Nick thought about the dark figure outside the gymnasium, another dark figure watched him from the shadows upstairs. Silently, it stood like a ghost, deep in the darkness; a phantom in flowing black, its eyes mirroring Nicholas Kyle's every move, his every thought....
A cat approached the dark figure, and Selena Kyle reached down to pick the cat up.
She looked again at her husband, then disappeared quietly into her bedroom.