It was hot as they made their way through the thronging masses of people near the market. Bruce Wayne and his companions were going to the train station. The train would take them to the foothills. From there, they would make their way as they could up into the mountains. They still had several days journey ahead of them.
Somewhere in the back of his mind, something wasn't right.
He looked around.
Off in the distance was a woman. She was taller than the others. She had dark hair, and from the back he might have missed her in the crowd of Asian people. But, she was looking right at Wayne, and from the front, she stood out. She looked Eurasian, a few inches taller than the others, perhaps six or eight inches shorter than Wayne himself. Wayne smiled at her, and she smiled back. She was different from the others, not just in looks, but in demeanor. She was not from around here; like Wayne, she was a foreigner. Wayne found her quite enchanting, but had to hurry to keep up with his companions; after all, it was easier for them to find him in the crowd, than it was for him to find them!
He opened the microwave, set the plate inside, closed the door, programmed the cook time, then pressed the "cancel" button.
He always did that, pressing the "cancel" button instead of the "start" button, and always had to go back and do it again.
With the microwave now heating its contents, he impatiently stared at it, watching the digital clock count down. It was mid-morning already, and he was running a little late; what should have been a breakfast was now going to be a brunch. And, he had a great deal to do today.
Somewhere in the back of his mind, something wasn't right. There was a connection that was almost made, but not quite. It was like someone had programmed his mind, then hit the "cancel" button, and was now programming it again.
Unable to wait for the microwave to finish, he opened the door, took the plate out, burning his finger with it, and hurriedly put it on his tray next to a bottle of drinking water and a bottle of hot sauce. Closing the microwave oven door, he went out of the kitchen, scurried down the hall and, pausing to make sure no one was looking, opened a door and stepped inside. Once inside, he closed the door behind him, walked across the room while looking around to make sure no one was there, and stopped at the grandfather clock.
The grandfather clock was old; in fact, it was an antique from Europe. It had been in the family for several generations. It no longer worked, and a decision had been made by its owner some years back to leave it, and not try to repair it, for fear of damaging it.
He reached up to the face of the clock, and moved the hands to show 10:47 -- the hour when, on the night of June 26th so many years ago, the clock's owners, a prominent doctor and his wife, were murdered, gunned down in front of their only, beloved son. Slowly, the clock moved out of the way, revealing a secret passage. He stepped inside, then activated a control that moved the clock back, closing the door behind him. From there, he hurried down the stairways and corridors through one of the secret passages that led from the main house down into the depths below.
Opening the doorway at the end of the passageway, he stepped out into the Batcave, and froze.
There, twenty feet away at the computer console, sitting on the stool, was a tall, gentlemanly-looking figure. Unsure what to do, he looked around quickly, but it was too late; the figure was already aware of his presence.
"Master Bruce, is your tray full of those dreadful frozen microwave burritos again?"
Bruce Wayne looked down at the microwave burritos on his tray, then looked up at the figure seated on the stool at the Batcomputer.
"I suppose you have that horrid hot sauce, as well."
Bruce Wayne looked down at the hot sauce on his tray, then looked up again.
"All the staff employed here at Wayne Manor, including a kitchen staff replete with not one but two gourmet chefs, and Bruce Wayne is eating frozen microwave burritos with bottled hot sauce."
Bruce Wayne looked down at his tray again, studying what he had hoped would be his brunch.
"Those frozen microwave burritos and that bottled hot sauce will be your undoing." Alfred turned around. "Batman will get taken down by criminals who are smart enough to eat something healthy."
Mustering a guilty smile, Wayne looked at Alfred as he sidestepped over to a nearby counter and put the tray down on it. Taking his bottled drinking water off the tray, he sidestepped back to the doorway.
Alfred turned back around, picked up the telephone, and dialed a number.
"Good morning. Yes, please fix a fresh, hot breakfast for Master Bruce, and deliver it to the Panic Room." There was a pause, then Alfred continued. "Breakfast burritos, please, with some fresh salsa. All homemade, of course," he said, glancing back at Wayne, "and please send down some orange juice, some fresh fruits and yogurt, and some Earl Grey tea." He glanced back at Wayne again, then added, "Make that Earl Grey tea for two, and a glass of cold milk. Call me when it is on its way to the Panic Room, please."
Wayne took a drink of his water, then glanced at the tray that held what was going to be his brunch. So near, yet so far.... Wayne looked back, and saw that Alfred was looking at him and at the tray.
Disgustedly, Alfred turned back around to the console. "You have two riddlers, Master Bruce," he announced authoritatively.