Monday, September 17, 2007

The Detective (Touch the Sun) Part 9 of 12

Alfred brought a tray down to the Batcave with a selection of sweet rolls on it, along with more milk, tea, water and orange juice. Bruce Wayne was very physically active, and he believed breakfast was the most important meal of the day, so he generally ate very abundantly in the morning.

There was something else....

The figure hovering near the Batcomputer was looking at the six riddles. Normally, he would have been looking up at his statue of a bat, his drawing of a bat -- two items he very much treasured -- or else looking at pictures of Aladdin and the Gotham Towers.

Now, however, his focus was a different souvenir from his time in Asia: a sun medallion.

The figure looked up as Alfred entered, and immediately zeroed in on Alfred's tray. For all he had wanted sweet rolls, and for the assortment of fresh, hot sweet rolls on Alfred's tray, Alfred knew that it was the pink envelope on the tray that had caught the figure's attention.

"Your sweet rolls come with a bonus this morning, Master Bruce; there's another riddle."

The figure took the envelope and opened it. On the cover of the card was a photograph of a cat, apparently about to be checked by a veterinarian; medical instruments could be seen in the photo, and the cat looked uncomfortable, as if it were in a place it knew and did not like.

The figure opened the card and read the neat, feminine handwriting.

Bruce Wayne is quite the handsome man,
But far too shallow to fathom the plan.
Gotham is ill because of those who mock her;
What she really needs is a lady doctor!

"It seems I'm not the only one interested in Dr. Villanova," the figure commented. "Apparently this cat-woman has been watching Bruce Wayne, and now is interested in Sandra."

"Interested in Dr. Villanova, yes, but not necessarily watching Bruce Wayne."

The figure looked at Alfred.

"Gotham's most eligible bachelor was seen in public last night having dinner with one of Gotham's most interesting bachelorettes...." Alfred commented. "It's all over the tabloids."

The figure frowned.

"Regardless, this cat-woman has an interest in corruption among law enforcement, an interest that she shares with Dr. Villanova," Alfred continued.

"Then Sandra is in danger."

"Hardly," contradicted Alfred. "This cat-woman merely wants to get someone else looking into corruption in the Gotham Bureau of Investigation -- someone whom she considers up to the task," Alfred commented with a certain air of disdain, almost as if he, too, shared a concern that Bruce Wayne would miss the obvious.

The figure smiled at Alfred.

"You're missing the obvious, Alfred," the figure replied with a noticeable air of self-confidence. "Whatever drew Catwoman's attention to Dr. Villanova will also draw the attention of the corrupt GBI agents and their allies. Even if Catwoman had never noticed, we cannot presume they will miss the connection. On top of that, if they are now watching Dr. Villanova, and see Catwoman hanging around, they will suspect a coordinated investigation, and they may consider Sandra to be a critical node in that counterconspiracy. No matter how you analyze it, Dr. Villanova is now in danger." The figure smiled. "Pay attention to your surroundings, Alfred."

"Yes, sir. I told Mr. Fox that the raccoons were back in the Batcave, and he promised to send someone out later today."

"What raccoons?"

"The ones you noticed last night, before you went to dinner with Dr. Villanova," Alfred answered. "The ones that are right behind you."

Hearing that, Wayne spun around and looked. Attracted by the smell of the brunch, an adult raccoon and a smaller one were peeking at Wayne from under a table.

"Pay attention to your surroundings, Master Bruce," Alfred said triumphantly. "You missed the obvious, sir," he added.

Wayne reached for the tray his sweet rolls were on.

"You are only encouraging them by feeding them when they show up!" Alfred declared. "Perhaps they would enjoy those microwave burritos I saved you from this morning," Alfred continued, as Bruce Wayne winced: he had forgotten about the burritos he had heated up and been unable to eat. "Raccoons seem to be particularly fond of garbage," Alfred chortled with a certain disgust.

"Alfred, I need you to call Dr. Villanova, and invite her to a late lunch at Wayne Enterprises. Have Mrs. Jones set something up, and see if Mr. Nygma and Linda can join us," the figure was speaking with urgency now.

"Yes, sir."

"Also, alert Mr. Fox that I will be working out of the Wayne Enterprises location tonight." The figure thought for a moment about the advantages of the Wayne Enterprises location: close proximity to Dr. Villanova's condominium, plus they sometimes have new, experimental equipment there that he hasn't yet seen. "I want Sandra to compare notes with our other investigators, and I want her to be somewhere safe as much as possible. I plan to keep her under surveillance this evening."

Alfred noted the voice: it was Batman giving the orders.

"Understood, sir," Alfred answered. "Might I suggest that you take Sasha into your confidence?" Alfred's question hit the figure like something he had been watching for, but had somehow failed to see. "Mr. Fox and I agree that she is quite special."

The dark phantom watched from the shadows.

He was having trouble concentrating.

He had eaten an exceptionally large brunch, which of course ruined his appetite at lunch. Late in the day, he was still not hungry, and ate only a little, and then only because he knew he should. Now it was almost midnight, and he was hungry again.

In addition to that, to the extent he was able to focus on business, his mind was racing with information.

Linda's information on Belladonna, the GBI wire-tapping operation, tied in nicely with Dr. Villanova's research on corruption in Gotham's government and law enforcement circles.

But Edward Nygma had been the hit of the conversation over the late lunch. His explanation about how the Gotham Towers had been overengineered to withstand fires, yet both had collapsed anyway, supposedly due to fire, got everyone's attention. How had it been phrased? "Exclude the impossible, and whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth." Nygma showed how giant explosions had pulverized the concrete of the Gotham Towers before the towers fell! He also established motive, with his discussion of the stock trades that had been run through the computers during the emergency.

The three of them held a most interesting conversation, and Bruce Wayne had to pretend boredom with the conversation and interest in lunch and in Dr. Villanova, even though he was still full from brunch, and could only think of the investigation. He had a facade to maintain, that of a shallow playboy, and he had already tipped his hand to Sandra too much the previous evening.

There in the shadows he saw a figure move.

It was a medium-sized figure, moving in a manner that could only be described as cat-like.

This was it!

But somewhere in the back of his mind, something was not right.

He was missing something.

It was like when he programmed the microwave oven, then hit cancel instead of start and had to reprogram it again; frustated, he always lost precious moments.

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