Dr. Sandra Villanova hurried into the restaurant. It was less than five minutes after eight. For business appointments, Dr. Villanova was usually five to ten minutes early; however, for social gatherings, she liked to be just a few minutes after the appointed time, what was, to her way of thinking, "fashionably late".
She stood for a moment looking for Bruce Wayne's table. She knew what kind of places in a restaurant Bruce liked – semi-secluded places, not easily visible from the door, but with a good view of the door area. She also liked spotting Bruce's table before the host or hostess could come to help seat her. Tonight, though, it was tough – the restaurant was nearly full and very animated.
She frowned, and began looking for Sasha, who, Sandra knew, would be keeping an eye on Bruce from a discrete distance. No Sasha, either. Was she in the right place? There was a beautiful, athletic-looking woman sitting near the bar, alone, looking at her. The woman then glanced over toward a table in the corner. There, behind the plants! That was Bruce! So, Sandra thought as the host approached, Bruce had a new bodyguard – and a very attractive one!
She frowned a little more.
"Good evening. Dr. Sandra Villanova. Bruce Wayne is expecting me," she announced, looking again at the woman by the bar.
"Of course," the host answered, and, in that moment, Bruce Wayne stood up and waved at Sandra, who walked over and greeted him warmly. Images of Bruce Wayne hugging Dr. Sandra Villanova would be on Gotham's tabloid websites before midnight, she thought.
Sandra turned to the other guests at the table. "Lucius, good to see you again!"
"Hello, Sandra," Lucius Fox greeted her.
"And Sandra, this is Rachel – Rachel Dawes. She's the one I told you about, who works in the DA's office," Bruce explained, as Rachel held out her hand.
"How do you do," Sandra smiled.
"Hi! It's a pleasure to meet you," Rachel smiled back.
Once again, the master was walking by the fortune-teller's hut. It was very early in the morning, still quite dark. The only people out were the merchants at the market, getting ready for the day's business.
The master looked – incredibly, the fortune-teller, too, was up. A light was on inside her hut.
The master was very curious for more news from Gotham City – reliable news, the kind the fortune-teller provided, about their mutual friend.
But, he thought, there is no way he could bother her at this hour, even if she is up!
He had just decided to stroll through the market, when the fortune-teller's door opened, and she stepped outside.
She looked right at him. "Good morning," she smiled.
"Good morning," he answered. "You are up very early."
"Yes," she answered. "I have been expecting you."
"Even walking over to your table, I overheard the guests at one table near the door talking about this Batman," Sandra commented, as Lucius poured her a glass of wine.
"Yes, Batman and the election," Lucius added. "Right now, they seem to be running neck-and-neck."
"Who? McMullen and Salama?" asked Rachel.
"No," answered Lucius, "the election and Batman."
Everyone except Bruce smiled.
The fortune-teller usually set her table outside somewhere between eight and ten in the morning, then went about her daily routine, which included sewing clothes and making tiny objects of art. She often sold these to supplement her income, but also often gave them as gifts to her clients. She felt as if her talent was a gift from Heaven, so she would not want to charge for "counseling" people, as she described it, though, since it took much of her time, and she had to support not just herself, but her mother and daughter as well, she accepted the gifts that people offered her. Often it was money, but often a farmer would offer her a bag of his produce, or a villager would offer her an article of clothing or something else.
Though she usually received them outside, it would occasionally happen that she would receive guests who needed counseling in her house, and, rarely, this would happen at an odd hour. This morning was such an occasion.
The master sat down quietly, aware that in the next room, behind a curtain, the woman's mother and daughter were sleeping.
"You are concerned about our friend," the fortune-teller said. "So am I. Please, do not stand on formalities," she added – her way of getting down to business, and of letting him know that no gift was anticipated for her services this morning.
"That was terrible, what Councilman McMullen did to his running mate," Rachel opined.
"Wasn't it, though?" agreed Sandra.
"What was that?" asked Bruce, somewhat distractedly.
"Oh, really, Bruce," Rachel began. "While she was preparing for a debate with Councilman Lidden, McMullen decided to stop campaigning in one of Gotham City's northern wards. He didn't consult with her, he didn't even tell her – she found out about it after the debate, through the media."
Sandra shook her head. "It just shows how much he really thinks of her. She's a pretty face for his campaign, and that's it." Sandra sipped her wine, then added, "It's too bad, too, because she is the only one of the three I like. I don't agree with all of her politics, and I wonder how ready she would be to lead Gotham City in an emergency, but at least she's sincere, and of the four – her, McMullen, Salama and Lidden – she's the only one that I think might be honest."
Rachel looked up at Sandra – that was an odd comment. Not many people were questioning the honesty of any of the candidates, though she had just that morning overheard a very key person doing just that, and in a very key place.
Sandra, for her part, feigned interest in the menu, but noticed Rachel's glance.
By the dim light of a small light bulb, the fortune-teller lit some candles, and she lit some incense as well.
This was good, as the mosquito-proofing of her hut left something to be desired, and the smoke from the incense would help drive away the mosquitoes that had made it inside.
The master looked, and made a mental note – it looked like the fortune-teller might need some more incense, and perhaps some more candles.
"But, what about this 'Batman'?" Sandra asked, hoping to steer the conversation a little.
Rachel, being from the DA's office, had some thoughts on the laws that Batman had broken. As a person living in Gotham, she would have to admit being somewhat torn – she did not approve of vigilantism, assuming that was what it was about (there was still concern in Gotham's law enforcement community that Batman might be an organized crime hit man) but, more importantly, she was interested in hearing Bruce Wayne's thoughts. Bruce had in the past expressed a great deal of anger towards Gotham's criminal element, which was not surprising, all things considered, so Rachel wanted to hear how he felt about Batman, before she might offer her own thoughts.
"Did I say something wrong?" Sandra smiled, noticing the silence, and noticing how Lucius looked at Bruce.
"Not at all," Bruce said, with a suddenly charming smile. "It's just that...."
"I think crime and violent deaths are often a little touchy as subjects for Bruce, even though Bruce himself may not realize it," Lucius interjected.
Sandra nodded, smiling at Bruce. "This is very good wine," she began an attempt at changing the subject.
Bruce smiled again. "It's okay, Sandra," he interrupted. There was a pause. "What about this 'Batman'?"