It was getting late now, and the path leading from the village up behind the mountain was getting steeper. They were getting near their destination. There were about two hours of twilight left before it would be too dark to continue, but they were expecting -- hoping? -- to be at the temple in about one hour. Once there, however, they would be able to eat, drink, and rest.
Food, water and sleep, he thought. That is what he needed, especially since he had started feeling ill, on top of the exhaustion from this long trip.
As if reading his thoughts, the master turned around and looked at Bruce Wayne. He stopped, waiting for Wayne to catch up to him. When Wayne got to him, the master stopped him, touching his forehead.
"You have a slight fever, Mr. Wayne," he said, removing his hand, as the others stopped, too. "We're getting close, though. Can you continue?"
"Yes," Wayne said with difficulty. The thin air at this altitude was taking its toll on him, as well, and he was feeling cold now. The hot sun was no longer baking him and the surrounding landscape, and, as the sun was setting behind the mountains, a chill was noticeable in the air.
"Then let's continue. You'll be all right, once you make it to the temple. The priest will be able to help you."
Alfred had stepped out for a moment to bring down breakfast. As he was leaving, he was careful to take the tray with Bruce Wayne's microwave burritos; fortunately, Wayne was now far too intrigued studying his six riddles to notice. A moment later, Alfred returned with a different tray, carrying the breakfast prepared for Wayne by the kitchen staff, together with the Earl Grey tea Alfred had requested for both of them.
"So, then," Wayne began, "this riddler and this cat-woman are both helping me. But, why?"
Alfred set the tray down on the counter, and served himself a cup of tea. "It could be any number of reasons."
"Such as?" Wayne prompted Alfred, as Wayne took his breakfast off the tray. Admittedly, the burritos prepared by the kitchen staff looked far more appetizing than his microwave burritos. And, the fresh salsa looked better than his bottled hot sauce.
Alfred sipped his tea and frowned. He looked down at his tea. Traditionally, Earl Grey tea was black tea with oil from the rind of the bergamot orange, but more recently, the term had come to be applied to green tea and white tea with bergamot oil as well. Apparently, it was green tea that had been sent down to him; he would have to mention that to the kitchen staff. He served Wayne a cup of tea, but without adding the milk that Wayne often drank in it when having it with breakfast.
With a strange look on his face, which Wayne assumed was due to thinking about the riddler and the cat-woman, Alfred looked up and replied, "Perhaps they are criminal elements who were involved in the plot, and were betrayed." Looking at his tea again, he continued, "Or, they could be members of a rival criminal syndicate who see the Mujahideen as growing too strong. By helping bring down the Mujahideen, they level the criminal playing field."
Wayne nodded. "Or, they could be people who lost someone in the attacks that day, and want justice done," Wayne added between mouthfuls.
Fanning his mouth because of spicy flavor of his fresh salsa, Wayne reached for a cup of tea that Alfred had served him. He noticed that it didn't have any milk in it, and Wayne preferred it with a little milk when having it with breakfast. No matter, he thought, his mouth was on fire, and the tea was wet.
"There are many possibilities, but at this point, both the riddler and the cat-woman seem to be helping Batman," Alfred commented. "Still, I would trust neither of them."
Looking down at his tea, Wayne frowned. Traditionally, Earl Grey tea was black tea with oil from the rind of the bergamot orange; at least, that is what Alfred had always taught him. Recently, however, the term had come to be applied to green tea and white tea with bergamot oil. That was not true Earl Grey tea, Alfred insisted. Apparently, it was green tea that had been sent down to him; no wonder Alfred had not added milk to Wayne's tea. Wayne glanced at Alfred and winced: the kitchen staff, he thought, would be getting an earful about this!
"I might not have much choice," answered Wayne. "This cat-woman seems to know who I am."
"Not necessarily, Master Bruce. She was sending clues to Bruce Wayne about significant elements of the case. The appearance of Batman talking to a reporter that was investigating the GBI is significant. Since this cat-woman has her focus on corruption in the GBI, she may have been following that reporter, and noticed Batman quite by accident. She sent Bruce Wayne a clue about the involvement of Batman in the case."
"Then the riddle indicates that she feels these corrupt GBI special agents see Batman as a threat," Wayne thought aloud.
"That's the way I would read it, sir."
"Then this cat-woman is one of the good guys."
"Perhaps, perhaps not. And, assuming she is, she may not know that Batman is one of the good guys," commented Alfred.
"For all she knows, Batman is a syndicate enforcer."
"Those corrupt GBI agents likely view Batman that way. Regardless, it is easy to understand why they feel threatened by Batman's presence."
"That's exactly what I want," agreed Wayne.
"To take the heat off that reporter. I want them to see Batman as the real threat to their operation, and the reporter as only an instrument."
"That makes Batman their main target, Master Bruce."
"And that buys Linda some security and some time to proceed with her investigation."
They both sat silently, as Alfred sipped his tea and Wayne ate his burrito.
"It is a dangerous game you are playing, sir," Alfred cautioned. "Batman may well be in over his head."