Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Vasilissa the Beauty (Part 9 of 12)

Ra's al Ghul turned away from his daughter and looked out the window, as Talia continued.

"For years you have been talking about how terrible a place Gotham City is, and how the world would be better off without it." Beside herself with anger, she walked around in front of him and looked him in the eyes. "Aladdin got his nuclear weapons from you, didn't he?"

"Talia, we don't have time for this. We must move quickly."

"It was you, wasn't it?" Talia angrily challenged her father.

"No, it was not. Aladdin got his nuclear weapons from Gotham City itself! Some of the components and some of the technology came from the corporation of that boyfriend of yours, that detective. Aladdin's nuclear weapons would be impossible without the help of Wayne Enterprises!"

"Bruce Wayne would never permit something like that to fall into the hands of someone like Aladdin!" She stared at her father, an angry moment of comprehension leaving her almost breathless. "You tricked him, didn't you?" she gasped. "You tricked Bruce Wayne's company into helping arm Aladdin with nuclear weapons, knowing Aladdin would use them to destroy Gotham!"

"Talia, it was residents of Gotham that gave Aladdin the instruments that Aladdin will use to destroy their city -- just as it was residents of Gotham that helped Aladdin destroy the Gotham Towers. That is why I have said time and again that Gotham City is rotten to the core, and that is why the world will be better off when Gotham City is a smoldering ruin! Now please, we must move quickly!"

It was early morning on October 30th; Halloween was almost here. Tomorrow would be a busy day for people determined to have some fun, and by tomorrow night, the festivities would be in full swing.

Dr. Sandra Villanova looked at the ad on the website, and thought about its meaning.

As usual, there would be a big Halloween party at the Roma, and everyone who was anyone would be there.

She thought about the girls who would be working the party. Gotham City's escort services would have their very best at a party this important. Cassandra Villanova wondered how many of them had been trafficked to Gotham and forced into a life of prostitution.

It was October 30th, well before dawn, as the plane began its descent for final approach into Gotham International Airport.

"How are you planning to gain Nyssa's confidence, once you find her? If what you say is true, she will be hesitant to trust anyone." Ra's al Ghul looked at his daughter, who was looking out the window at the vast expanse of ocean over which they were flying and the distant shore they were approaching.

"When Nyssa was a girl, she had a favorite doll, given to her by her mother when she died. Nyssa carried it with her always, believing her mother's promise, that the doll would help her mother to watch over her. One day she left the doll at home, and that was the day she went missing." Talia was looking back at her father now. "Her aunt insisted that she go to school without her doll, saying it was time Nyssa outgrew such things. Her aunt has felt guilty ever since. More than guilty, it has ruined her life. She is just heartbroken. It was her promise to Nyssa's mother on her deathbed that she would watch over Nyssa, and then Nyssa went missing. Her aunt suspected immediately that Nyssa had been kidnapped and trafficked as a sex slave, because that has happened to many girls there, and besides that, Nyssa...." Talia paused, out of breath and overcome by emotion.

"Yes, my dear, what about Nyssa?" her father gently prodded.

"Nyssa is beautiful, Father. I saw pictures of her, and of her mother. Nyssa has her mother's blond hair and blue eyes, but she has some of your Asian features. In a land known for beautiful women, Nyssa stands out -- she is absolutely captivating, Father. She's elegant and...."

Ra's al Ghul choked back thoughts of Nyssa's mother.

"Do I detect a note of jealousy in your voice?" he gently asked.

"Father, I love Bruce Wayne, and I know he will never be mine. Since that day so many years ago when you told me Nyssa was interested in him, too, I have known he will never be mine. But, I am not jealous of Nyssa. Rather, we will both cry together, because he will not be hers, either."

"That was years ago, Talia. Haven't there been other men in your life?"

"Father, I am a daughter of yours, not a daughter of the times. If there were other men in my life, you would know about them."

They sat silently, looking out the window at the ocean below.

"You did not finish explaining how you would gain Nyssa's confidence."

"Nyssa's aunt gave me the doll. I have it in my bag in the overhead compartment."

Ra's al Ghul smiled, pleased at his daughter's ingenuity.

"And how did you gain her confidence?"

"By telling her things about herself that only Nyssa's mother knew."

The smile disappeared from his face as Ra's al Ghul pondered the meaning of his daughter's words.

"And where did you learn such things?"

"From letters Nyssa's mother had written to you," Talia casually answered, sipping a glass of wine.

"You have been reading my mail from Irina Raatko?!" exclaimed Ra's al Ghul, making an effort to speak in a low tone of voice.

"To save Nyssa's life!" retorted Talia. "She is every bit as much your daughter as I am, and she needs our help, and I will not let you neglect your fatherly duties to her!" Talia whispered her response firmly, even defiantly. "Nyssa has been sold into slavery, and is working as a high-class prostitute, and I will not live under the same sky with the men who have done this to her -- and neither will you, Father! It is not just your daughter, my half-sister -- it is our family honor!"

With an effort to control himself, an almost invisible effort, so habitual and controlled that it had become, Ra's al Ghul smiled at the stewardess as she walked by. "Another wine for Talia, please, and I'll have the same."

"Certainly," the stewardess smiled back.

"And what is the name of the man who is responsible for this?" Ra's al Ghul pleasantly turned back to Talia, as if discussing a pleasing arrangement of flowers.

"There are many," Talia answered sharply.

"No, but surely there is one who is in charge," Ra's al Ghul said, a deceptive smile on his face for the sake of anyone who might be watching, "and as I live, that man is a dead man, though he does not yet know it. Now tell me, what is his name?"

"Falcone," the dark figure said, staring out into another place at something far beyond the Batcomputer.

He thought about the attack on the Gotham Trade Center, the corruption in the Gotham Bureau of Investigation, the heroin distribution and the brothels in Gotham, the bribery of Gotham's government figures, the businesses that were profiteering off the "War on Crime"....

"No matter how you cut it, it keeps coming back to Carmine Falcone."

They looked at each other.

"Where can I find Carmine Falcone?" he continued.

"He hangs out at the Roma. He will be there for sure tomorrow night. They have a big party there every year for Halloween, and his very best girls work the party. Everybody who is anybody in Gotham shows up there," Sasha explained.

Alfred thought of the irony of what had just been said, considering that Bruce Wayne had surely never been to a Halloween party at the Roma.

"Vasilissa -- Nyssa -- will no doubt be there, probably not too far from Falcone," Sasha added. "She's an elegant woman, and likes to dress as Cleopatra."

Again the irony -- Alfred rolled his eyes at it all. It was late, he was tired, and tomorrow was Halloween -- and Alfred could tell it was going to be a long Halloween.

No comments: