The Apprentice, part 17

by Chicago

Disclaimers and other information in "part 0"

"I'm almost there, Babs. What have you got for me?" Nightwing's voice was grim, and it echoed over the line with the buffeted sound that came from being on a bike at high speed.

Barbara's fingers were flying over the keyboard. "I've got three possible hits," she reported, trying to narrow it down further. "Masters was connected to businesses all over Gotham, and these are the ones that seem to have the same shadow partners. There's Oswego Greenhouses, over in Coventry-"

"By Arkham," Nightwing stated.

"Yeah. Could be-"

"Too far north," Nightwing interrupted. "Du Bois's hits have all been down south."

"It's possible that -"

"What else?"

Barbara swallowed her irritation at Dick's brusqueness, understanding both his worry and the need to move fast. "The other two are south. HomeMaster, Incorporated has a manufacturing complex down in Old Gotham and The Belisle Group has space in the financial district." She glanced at a side monitor and silenced the perimeter alarm Nightwing had just set off.

"Anything to make either more likely?" Nightwing asked.

"Checking... nothing immediately obvious. You going straight to the roof?"

"Yeah. Dammit! Did you hack the Batcave?"

"There's just maps," Barbara confirmed. "Whatever clue he found, he didn't record it."

Batgirl emerged from the shadows to stand at Barbara's side. "We split up?"

"Negative," Nightwing replied forcefully. "Whatever else happens we don't need to have another of us taken down by Du Bois."

Batgirl glanced at Barbara. "But Batman-"

"Batgirl." He used the Voice, and it brought Batgirl to instant attention. Then his tone softened. "I'm worried about him, too, but we don't know he's found Du Bois. If he hasn't, if he's just dropped off the radar for his own reasons, we don't want to exacerbate the situation."

"I-" Batgirl began to protest, then, "Understood."

"Don't forget your rebreather," he ordered unnecessarily. Then, "I'm almost to the roof. Babs?"

Barbara chewed on her lower lip, feeling the change in the air behind her as Batgirl slipped away to join Nightwing. "It's a coin toss. The Belisle Group has several floors of a downtown building, including a fully equipped gym and their own security division. HomeMaster has one of those old converted warehouses, with all the hidey holes those have. I'm checking employment logs."

Barbara held her breath as she ran the check for Du Bois or Woods or any translation into any language that might match. "There's nothing," she reported. "I got shit."

She heard Nightwing exhale over the line. "Bruce, what did you do?" he muttered to himself. Then his tone sharpened again. "Okay, here's what we're going to do. We're going to swing a loop through the financial district and then back down tothe docks. Rooftops will be quickest. Got an address on Belisle?"

"463 West Wall Street," Barbara rattled off, pulling up a map of the city. "About two blocks east of the land bridge out to Blackgate. HomeMaster is 14 blocks east of that."

"Got it." The tracking dots representing Batgirl and Nightwing were already moving southwest. "Keep on it, see if there's anything else."

"Will do. Oracle out."

She shifted the comlink to standby and stared at the screen for a moment. "Hurry," she murmured.

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