30/30 - Just Casing the Joint

by Darklady

Disclaimers and other information in "Opening Credits"

Rating: G

J'onn J'onzz paused and knocked before drifting through the door to the Batman's personal quarters. Normally he would have found the darknight detective in the monitor room, but Batman had turned the monitor over to Wonder Woman the moment his shift was over. Apparently the day's lack of crisis - whatever the Batman's official policy towards such things - had managed to bore Bruce as well.

That, or there was some crisis waiting in Gotham.

No. J'onn admitted a certain relief as he watched Bruce pull on a tee-shirt. Neither Wayne or the Bat would respond to a disaster dressed so casually. Which meant that Bruce had some... no one would ever all it spare time. Not where Bruce could overhear it. Still?

"Hello J'onn." Bruce reached for a pair of faded corduroy pants. "Finished in Keystone city?"

"Finished with the bridge collapse." J'onn settled lightly on the bed to enjoy the view. True, Bruce was currently going in the wrong direction - clothing wise. But dressing or undressing he was still pleasant to observe. "West is assisting the local authorities with the injured." Which, fortunately, had not been many, thanks to the Flashes' speedy response.

Heading to the closet, Bruce asked, "So what's next?" The question was casual - distracted - but as it lead where J'onn wanted?

J'onn held out an envelope. "This."

"Candlelight Tour?" Bruce eyes flicked down the folded brochure inside. "I don't think so.

"I was thinking of the day trip." Sliding one long green tendril down the sheet, J'onn underscored the line 'see Keystone City's greatest historic homes.' "For our next date."

Returning the sheet to J'onn, Bruce shook out a brightly colored plaid jacket. "I thought the agreement was to do something original."

"And this you've done?"

"Wayne Manor has been on the tour since..." Bruce squinted at his reflection in the dresser mirror. " ... my grandmothers time." A mutter added. "And I haven't yet managed to get it off."

"Perhaps." J'onn watched with interest as a quick comb though and a handful of pomade transformed Bruce Wayne's stylist cut into Matches' Malone's greaser shag. "But have you gone on the tour?"

A pinch of powder gave a thinning edge to the not-actually- receding forehead. "I think I've been to every damn..."

"Not what I asked." J'onn slid closer. "Have you even taken the tour."

"I'd hardly have time when..." A careful mis-comb gave an Elvis edge to the sideburns.

"Exactly."

"Why?"

"Why not?" J'onn slid the tickets onto Malone's breast pocket. "I got these from Wallace - who get them from his wife - who was supposed to write up the tour for the Keystone City Chronicle."

"But?"

The Flash is gong to be busy with the bridge. Plus he got tickets to that new production of Damn Yankees. Which Linda preferred." There was an implication there that Linda was not the only one with that taste. "So Goldie Johnston gets the Stately Homes Tour assignment."

"I thought Goldie focused on Venusians building Stonehenge. Or whatever the World Register is passing off as information these days. Unless you're telling me that this is a haunted mansion?"

"Goldie hasn't sold a story in three months. If she doesn't get a paycheck soon the IRS is going to start wondering."

"Oh." No need to say more. Bruce had the same problem with his own covert personas. Generally not with the IRS, but now and then one of the Gotham gangsters would wonder why Matches had cash when he wasn't taking their jobs. Fortunately, there were generally enough non-arsonous but suspicious fires to give Matches a decent resume.

"Sorry - J'onn." Bruce looked down at his disguise. "I don't think I'll have time to change. I only have about two hours before I have to be at the bar."

"So don't." Shrinking in to a blonder - and female - form, the now-Goldie ran her hands down her 'dates' fraying lapels. "I'll assume Malone doesn't have any actual warrants out. Anyway - this is in Keystone City - who will recognize him?"

Bruce frowned. That was true, but....but...Matches Malone on a Stately Homes Tour? The idea would be funny if it wasn't to ludicrous. Or was that ludicrous if it wasn't funny? His lips began to curl unconsciously.

"Tell you what." J'onn stretched out an arm for Matches' hat. "If we transport down this should only take an hour. After that? I'll go with you on your stake out."

They beamed down behind a cluster of eucalyptus.

Matches checked his battered Timex. "Just in time."

J'onn looked over the strangely uniform company that was slowly sifting onto the brightly painted tour bus. While the age varied a bit - perhaps more then a bit, if the range from fifty to ninety were considered numerically, the gender was constant. And the clothes? Again, uniform was the more then apt word. "Interesting." Bruce seemed to have a set insistence as to age, but as to the other details? "Perhaps..." At J'onn's suggestion zo'ok shifted again. A longer skirt, a print blouse, and a short strand of blue and red beads. Plus J'onn shortened and tucked back Goldie's usually scattered blonde curls.

"J'onn." Bruce shuddered. Actually shuddered. " You look like... my mother."

J'onn hesitated. "Inappropriate ?" Generally Bruce had a sharp eyes for characterization, but? At least half of the females boarding the bus were wearing a similar outfit.

"No, but" Bruce shifted uneasily. "Don't expect a good night kiss."

"Very well." Zo'ok quivered, then contracted at least ten inches at the hem and neckline. "Is that better?"

"Much."

J'onn shook his head. "I will never understand Terrans."

"Oh! Dear!" A sixty-something lady in flowered silk called out as Goldie stepped onto the bus. "I believe the Las Vegas junket leaves from the other side of the building. Just follow the signs and..."

"Thanks. but..." Goldie held out the pair of tickets. "We're here for the Gracious Homes Afternoon?"

"You are?" The lady did a quick half-step back. "I mean... you are... in the right place then."

"Vegas?" The lady gave Matches a hopeful look.

"Nope." Matches held up a hand, just in case another step might take the older lady off the bus completely. "Tour."

The lady shut her eyes. "Oh dear."

J'onn was still questioning Bruce's fashion sense at the end of the short bus ride. Quite a few of the older passengers had been... surprisingly eager... to yield their seat to the new couple. Then to find a new seat for themselves at the other end of the bus. Plus now he noticed that many of their fellow visitors stepped back away as Matches escorted Goldie up the flower lined walkway to the imposing front door. The red jacketed guide, however, moved closer.

Goldie leaned closer, whispering in Matches ear. "I still think I made a mistake."

"No." Matches whispered back, giving one gray haired harpy a wide and evil grin. "Flawless as always."

Was he suddenly blind? Goldie nodded towards the docent waiting at the door. "That woman is staring at us."

Matches grinned. Wickedly. "She just thinks we're likely to steal the silver, that's all."

Then again - maybe he knew exactly what he was doing. Matches Malone wasn't the nicest guy on the planet.

"On behalf of the Keystone City Garden Society, I'd like to welcome... all of you... to VanderHoot Mansion.

Mrs. Betsie VanderHoot fingered her pearls nervously as Matches eased Goldie towards the front of the audience.

"Thank you, Elizabeth, for sharing your lovely home."

"I'm Ilsa Smoot, Vice-President of the Keystone City Garden Club and your guide for this years very special Tour." The lady from the front door took center stage. "Life in Keystone City Society was... quite different... from what some of you might be... used to. But I'm sure that with a little patience our volunteers can help you understand the importance of the VanderHoot contribution to our culture. "

"Ya think so?" Matches looked at Goldie. "I guess I'm gonna learn sompin' on this shindig after all."

A tall woman with two inch fingernails pointed down the cellar stairs.

"Mr. VanderHoot served only the finest French wines, importing it by the barrel. They were decanted in this small butlers pantry.

Matches sniffed near a barrel Labeled Chateau Picard, 1804. Empty. Pity. "Hell of a kegger."

"Beer and local wines," she glared at Matches. "Were only considered fit for the servants.

Matches grinned. "Like those better myself."

A silver-curled matron in lilac chiffon ran her hand half an inch over the gleaming wood of the long mahogany table. "The VanderHoot's had the largest formal dining room in the city. When they added the leaves they could seat as many as one hundred guests."

She frowned at Goldie, who was leaning over for a closer look. "It must be hard for... young people today... to imagine. Most parties are more... casual... I imagine."

Goldie turned back to her date. "You?" she whispered.

"Two hundred and fourteen - last Easter."

"Oh yes." Goldie laced her fingers together - basket-fashion. "I remember that one."

Matches closed his eyes at the memory. "As do we all."

"I'm sure the young lady will like this." This time, the sharply tailored guide waved Goldie forward. "These dishes were designed my the first Mrs. VanderHoot. That shade of bright pink is the rarest of all the porcelain colors, and was never used for any other dinner set."

Matches leaned over to Goldie. "Because most people have taste."

"The foyer chandelier overhead holds over three hundred candles. Fully loaded, it took the butler over an hour to light them all. Of course," the third guide smirked at the other gray haired ladies who were oohing from the doorway. "We won't do that until you... those who are members of the Garden Society... come back tonight."

"Fortunately." Matches whispered.

"It is... large." Goldie stepped carefully around the side of the room. "Even bigger then...."

"Size isn't everything." Matches snorted.

Goldie giggled. "Does that mean this time yours isn't bigger?"

"Mine's big enough." Matches stopped the blush before anyone else could sense it. "You only need that many candles if you're planning on singing opera."

"The Royal Bedroom " Maroon lace floated out as the speaker spun slowly, arms outstretched as if to embrace the crammed display of brocade and gilt carving. "The furniture you see was all imported from France."

She patted the top pillow on the heavily fringed pile. "The beds are shorter then we are used to, because people back then were also short. Today's people's heights are the result of our better diets." Bruce watched her eyes shift uncertainly from the grandmotherly crowd, up to Goldie and Matches. "In most cases."

Goldie raised an eyebrow. "That true?"

"Sieur deVane?" Matches whispered back, referring to the semi- legendary founder of the Wayne line. "Two inches taller then I am. I've worn the armor."

"Unlike the lesser guest rooms, this one was reserved for the Governor, when he came to town, and other civic leaders ."

Matches stepped gingerly over a bit of ruffle that had snuck under the restraining rope. "Makes the guillotine look merciful."

"Have you ever seen anything like it?" The guide sparkled - then faltered as Goldie sashayed past. "Well, maybe... commercially."

"This is the Grand Ballroom." A sharp featured lady in sharper tailoring threw open the tall doors, then stepped back to let most of the visitors go through. She stepped in just behind Matches and Goldie. "The inlaid floor was easily scuffed, so the first Mrs. VanderHoot came up with a clever way to keep it shiny. She required all her servants to wear large... well, I'd guess today you'd call them fuzzy slippers... when they cleaned the ballroom. That way the floor was polished at the same time."

Matches looked at Goldie.

Goldie looked at Matches.

Matches grinned. "I'm imagining Alfred's face."

Goldie shivered. "I'm imagining Cassandra's"

"And here we have the VanderHoot collection of European Masters." Ilsa Smoot reclaimed the end of the tour.

"Dead people as wallpaper." Matches stepped though the portrait gallery with the same enthusiasm most people reserved for mine fields. "Good that West didn't offer those tickets for Kyle. It could disable an artist faster then anything the Bat would ever do."

"Be fair." Goldie aimed a gentle elbow into Matches ribs. "YOUR walls are covered with 'dead people'."

"My portraits are of relatives." Bruce hissed back. "Whose names I know."

Goldie paused before one particularly florid exemplar. 'Man in a Turban' - according to the plaque. "You don't think he's related?"

"Impossible." Matches caught her elbow before it could hit again, and steered Goldie towards the exit. "Nothing sentient would mate with something that looked like that."

"And now for the prize of our collection. Rinehart Von Rolfens 'Woman with Four Cats."

Ms. Smoot pulled back a curtain - exposing (and given her lack of garb Bruce considered that exposed was indeed the word) the peeling oil of a Dutch matron that - also in Bruce's opinion - even Turban-lad wouldn't have married.

J'onn caught the thought. In fact - it was loud enough that he wondered how even the non-empathic locals could have missed it.

"Be nice, 'Matches"." Goldie tried for a glare. Which tactic this particular persona wasn't well suited for, and which seldom worked on Bruce anyway, but since he was too alert for another elbow? "Or else I'll tell Kyle you made fun of the art."

"That is not art." Matches's eyes frosted over to pure-Bruce-Wayne. "That... is vulgarity in a frame."

The guide had, fortunately, missed the exchange. "This special work", she continued, "was purchased from a Dutch collector for eighty million dollars."

Goldie tossed Matches a big smile - since she couldn't get in anything more solid. "Proof that someone must appreciate it."

"Proof that if you have eighty million - it costs eighty million"

"Come on. Rinehart Von Rolfen is famous."

"Not for that, he isn't. You couldn't hire Selina to haul that away." Spotting the sparks in his date's eyes, Bruce shook his head. "Trust me on this. I may not always know what I like - but I do know art."

"Well" Goldie gave a half dance as they caught sight of the formal gardens. "Now for the part that at least I will like. Dessert."

"What?" Matches stopped - and was almost stampeded by the heard of little old ladies rushing onto the rose lawn. A lawn which currently hosted a fresh planting of tables.

"Read your ticket Matches." Goldie moved purposely towards a table for two. "This is the 'tea' tour. Complete with - and I quote - over one hundred unique tastes from the cities finest restaurants and bakeries."

"And most of them chocolate." Matches nodded in mock-cynicism. "Now I know why you took the tickets."

The white-coated teenager sneered at Matches. "Would Sir care for the Chocolate Kir Tart or the Mocha Espresso Cheese Cake?"

"Gimme both." Matches returned the expression - and on him it worked. "It's in the ticket - right?"

"Matches!" The cry turned heads.

Bruce ambled back to the blonde. "Just staying in character."

Goldie put one hand on his shoulder - and the other on the Kir Tart. "You won't eat either."

"But you will." Matches lifted Goldie's spare hand, kissing it lightly before wrapping the fingers around the second dessert. "Waste not- want not."

That earned a snort. "Waist not in your case."

"Which is why I'm not eating them." Matches - or rather Bruce - whispered back in the voice of reason. "Besides - at the price of these tickets?"

"Which you didn't pay for." Goldie moved the four empty plates aside, making room for the two newcomers.

"I can send a donation later." Bruce took a sip of the coffee that Goldie had picked out for him. Caffeine free, no sugar, no cream. "Confess. You didn't want to choose between them."

"What are they..." Matches squinted at the waiters, who were observably delivering long stemmed red roses to all the other tables.

"Donation envelopes." Goldie answered after a blink. At the very Bruce eyebrow, J'onn smiled. "You didn't think they were doing this just for the ticket sales. This is...What was it you called it last Christmas? The polite shake down."

Bruce nodded - then frowned. "Why didn't we get one?" He raised his hand. "Hey! Buddy! Yeh - you!"

The waiter vanished. Bat-style.

Goldie giggled.

"What?"

That brought another giggle. "Guess we don't look like donors."

"Hey! Back there!" Matches waved again - this time at a fast moving shadow behind the rose hedge.

"Matches!" Goldie caught his hand. "You couldn't write a check anyway, could you?"

"No but" Bruce grinned his too-rare little boy grin. "I was enjoying the thought of their faces when..." Pulling out Malone's battered vinyl wallet, he fanned a stack of hundreds.

"You could give it to Ilsa Smoot on the way out."

Matches half-stood. Then slumped back. "Nah. Then they'd know. That takes all the fun out of it."

"Thank you for coming." Mrs. Betsie VanderHoot fluttered as the ladies strolled out the front doors, distributing air kisses. "Muffy. Buffy." She patted shoulders. "Sharleene, dearest, always a pleasure." Another three gray heads, and another flurry of chiffon. "Laurie. Donna. Marcie - Such a joy to see you here. I hope you..." She reached the Malone pair, and stepped back. "Ummm... all... enjoyed the tour."

"Ya. Great place ya got here."

"Oh!" Another step back. Another clutch at the pearls. "Umm. How... kind of you... Mr..."

"Malone." Bruce gave her the smile that somehow - against all evidence - convinced one that the speaker was missing at least one tooth. "Matches Malone."

"Quite a... surprise." Ilsa Smoot hustled up. "We get so few... gentlemen on these tours. And... " A look at Goldie - followed by what was not quite a shiver. "Younger ladies."

"I sorta noticed."

Ilsa moved between the pair and the way back. "Do you have... interest ... in historical architecture?

"Nah!" Matches held out his arm, ready to help Goldie onto the bus. "Just casing the joint!"

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