Night of the Hornet
Chapter 7: Hornet in Flight
Disclaimer: Bats, hornets, and robins are all living in my back yard. Doesn't mean I own them. Whoever does, does. If they can make a buck - more power to them. I ain't.
Slash: Charter members of the Mile High Club. If you're still reading best you're not complaining.
Motive, opportunity, and murder. Works for me. Would it work for a DA looking at now nearly a bill? Bromley may have been a blackmailer and a murderess, but she was good with the market. Not enough - maybe.
"Are we go?" I ask the man with all the answers. He was seated at the planes satellite link, playing the keyboard like a honkytonk piano. Weather scan, UP, ahh! Oracle. A glimpse of the icon before her 'face' filled the screen.
The mechanical voice spoke. "Update, Batman. Robin's agent has completed target search, with high probability aquisition of query.."
"Get real, Babe." Sorry, but I hate that voice. "Nobody here but us chickens." That got me a look from Bruce, but he didn't override me.
"OK, Munchkin" Ouch! Miss Gordon is pissed. But it's better then robo-chick. "Seems Casper the friendly ghost got lucky tonight. Ask your buzzing friend if he remembers a hidden closet in the garage tunnel?"
A double glance at Kato, who shook his head. "No. No, we built no 'closet' in the tunnel. Perhaps something from before. It was part of the 'underground railroad'. But...no."
"Well, there's one there now. With fifty years worth of 'spiders and dust and yucch', to quote you-know-who. And a rust frozen lock. Which is good luck, because it also has a big yellow envelope marked 'To Ikano Kato on the Ocassion of my Death'."
Bingo! I don't figure it for a love letter. Well, maybe that too, but in a manila legal envelope? This is magic will number three. Our lucky number. Locked up nice and tight and unimpeachable. Ready to be found by our hard-working friends of the fourth estate. Seems Mr. Britt Reed also had his paranoid side. Leaving the question - are you paranoid if they are out to get you?
Good work, ghost-girl. Got to do something nice for that kid. I wonder fleetingly if they make an 'Intangible Barbie'. Maybe an empty pink box. Late nights make me a little silly.
"Yes, Nightwing, we are go." The Bat was back full force. "Pack down. We leave at first light."
Dull part of the adventure. We leave Kato to sleep on the plane. It was honestly more comfortable than the hotel, and he had had a rough night. I pack down the rooms to 'Bat' standards (fingerprints?, what fingerprints?) while Bruce writes up instructions. Thank you note to the manager weighed down with a hundred dollar bill. For damn sure she would remember us fondly, even if our early check out cost her some sleep. Thank you note to Eddie Begay, pleading urgent business and promising to get back to him. Not so popular, but once the money came in all would be forgiven. Instructions for the Bobsey twins of Nevada mining - Van and Orsdale - sending them back to Reno. No thanks needed there. Just the hope of cash and they'd pant like poodles.
Manager grumbles a it at the wake-up call, but Bruces' platinum card does a lot to make up for it. At full dawn we are officially headed back to Gotham.
I say officially because that is where the plane went. The clearly marked, FAA registered, flight plan filing plane with billionaire Bruce Wayne on board. But that plane landed for fuel in Grand Junction and three other people got off. Three people who walked to another hanger and boarded another plane. New paint job. Flidermouse Cargo. Bruce does have a sense of humor.
"Hi, Earl." Bruce's secret engineer and chief deviser of bat-stuff. Also one hell of a pilot. Probably a lot of other things too, but he never says. Wish he'd come around more, but he works strictly for Batman. Which is probably why Bats has all the best toys.
"Go on back. It's ready." Did I mention he's also a sparkling conversationalist.
"I'm going." Batman would get the full report. I guided Mr. Kato through the cockpit and into the 'cargo bay'. "Welcome to Batplane III" Kato seamed surprised . "I know, the black model gets all the press, but consider how obvious it is. They'd make us on radar. Well, if it showed, they would." I yawned and settled into one well upholstered couch bolted within the spacious interior. "This is the one he uses most."
After a careful look around the well furnished cabin, Kato relaxed into a couch of his own. "A mobile headquarters. How ingenious."
"Three bedrooms, three baths,kitchen, armory, sat-link.....all the comforts of home. " I grabbed a soder from the mini-frig, and at Kato's nod tossed him another. Check the top shelf. Damn. No Chunky Monkey. Alfred's work. " You're in the middle cabin. Already unpacked. Earl's on the right. Bruce and me on the left." I took a deep swallow. Cold and perfect. Life is good.
"Sorry about the shell game. Probably a waste of time, but...."
"Concealment is never wasted.""
Have I finally met someone as paranoid as the Bat? "Sounds like experience talking."
"Britt Reed was - quite skilled."
I perk up at the mention. Kato knows that I'm interested.
"The Hornet was not his only mask. Britt had many 'secret identities'. Gordon Jones, Al Hodge, Warren Hull... I do not think even Lowrey discovered them all."
Mental note. Get a list of the ones Bromley would know and send it to Babs. A few rentals and reservations to keep Carlin occupied elsewhere. Not that he impressed me as a detective, but every little bit hurts.
"Lowery said you were the gadget man." I wonder if Alfred at least packed Choco's. Probably not.
"To make machines, yes. But he first taught me the power to make oneself what one was not."
I'm considering a second can when Bruce comes in holding a thick report. Earl talks to him. "Sunset in nine hours. Central City in four." He is speaking mostly to Kato. I know the drill. "We'll have a final briefing after we land. Until then" he pauses "try to rest."
From Bruce, Kato takes suggestions. Picking up his soder, he nods a polite goodnight and strolls back to his cabin.
Bruce pours himself a cup of coffee, then leans against the counter flipping through his papers. Not his usual focused self.
Might as well be Chinese to me. Except I speak Chinese. "What? She's broke?"
"Hardly. Bromey linked enterprises make up 12% of the mid-city economy."
Nothing to me, but to Bruce it matters. Guess my incomprehension shows.
"Her businesses provide several thousand local jobs."
Leave it to Bruce to worry about that. That why he is who he is. The world's finest.
"Those jobs stabilize local communities. If.... When we take her down, it will panic local capital. A long court battle, with no clear ownership, could hurt those thousands." A disturbing vision only he sees.. "That can't happen. She has to go down hard...and fast."
"Then she will." Not reassurance. Just certain faith that whatever the Bat required would happen. I lean over and take the binder, tossing it on the low table. "You're tired. Come to bed."
All that shoulder tension that I hadn't been able to work out the night before. Besides, I am tired, and grumpy, and chocolate deprived, and I really need a hug. At least. "Better yet, shower first, then bed." That's another thing I need.
I watch Bruce go through his clothes-hanging ritual. I may resent the regimentation it reveals, but the body it reveals - that I enjoy. A private and quite unconscious strip show. Back in Bludhaven I'd just drop mine. In the hamper if I was feeling neat. Here Bruce takes each garment and hangs it for me. Who cares. As long as I can watch him. Even in this his movements are..glorious. The lift of his shoulders, the flex of his back, and his ass....his ass. I could watch that all night. Except that I get impatient. Control is everything. But he is everything else.
I wait until the shoes are on their rack, but the minute the closet closes I drag him to the shower.
Water is heavy, so the holding tanks have to be limited, but the high intensity nozzles make the most of what there is. Airplane bathrooms are notoriously small. I'm willing to squeeze.
The shower door seals tight. Necessary on a plane. The steam zero's out visibility, but I'm willing to work by touch. Like the blind samurai, I trust to my sword. I feel the last of Bruces annoyances wash away with the hot water. Good. The rough nap of his washcloth slides down my back, relaxing my mind and stiffening everything else. Very good. Scrubbing my back while his other hand runs down my chest. Very, very good. But the shower is small.
Kill the water and grab for the bath sheet. Extra large. One size fits two. Still damp when we hit the bed, but who cares. We will trash the sheets anyway. I damn near lost Bruce down there. Now I mean to damn sure get him back. I press against him, every inch of flesh to every inch, seeking reassurance as much as joy. Both are there. My lips press his as his hardness presses my thigh. My hands grip his hips, bucking his firm stomach against my weeping shaft. How I need him. Now.
He feels my fervor, echoes it with hands and lips, reaching and claiming in equal heated haste. One press and his legs roll up to my shoulders, exposing my heaven to my hungry eyes.
Fortunately, Alfred isn't a total kill-joy. He did remember my favorite lavender massage oil.
The landing wakes me. I never wake well, but at least this time I wake happy. Warm and snuggley and in the perfect mood to go back to sleep, except there's work to be done and just maybe not much time.
Central City International is a real airport. We have a reserved hanger on the commercial side. Covered windows. A nice safe place for all our special toys. Which means at least three hours helping Earl set things up. That's the only way that heroing is worse than the circus. No roustabouts. The stars have to do all the work themselves.
Bruce helps, but he's off and on with Oracle. Confirm 'our' landing in Gotham. Make sure 'we' got home safe. Final systems check. Final personnel update. Once we're in the only way out is through.
Kato runs katas. Working out with the new suit. It's light, but not cloth. The movement is different with Kevlar. Three days is not much time to adapt a lifetime style, but he's determined. Looks good from here. Bruce has the better eye. He'll know.
Earl unloads and assembles Bat II. The body-plane. No one else gets to touch it.
I check my de-cell and load extra blades. This is going to be 'eminent danger to self and others'. I am loading for bear.
Bruce checks with the Hard Cases. They confirm bugs planted in all her public offices. They even got a passive tracer on three of her cars.
Kato cleans and loads the gas-gun. I've heard of it, but this is my first real look. Far side of a closet doesn't count. Supposed to be non-lethal. Anything that can knock a man cold at room dilution - that's nasty stuff. Britt wasn't Bruce. They had a body count. I think. Or is that just an urban legend?
Earl set's out our parameter. Laser. Sound and motion. Ground vibration. Roof pressure. Industrial area, so they'll have to be monitored constantly. That's his job. Keep us low. Batman and Nightwing aren't here. If all goes well we never will be. This is the Green Hornet's show.
Final briefing one hour after sunset. The whole crew settles in at our new monitor room.
"Question one. You did not know about the garage 'closet". Not a question, but Kato nods to confirm. " How likely there's something else we don't know?"
"Perhaps...even I did not know all his secrets."
"But then, I did not demand to know." His hands tightened.
Ouch! That stings. Let's not go there.
I clicked a map up to the screen.
"Suggestions?" We have to hit her weak points, and Kato has the best chance of knowing them.
"Few." He gave his full attention to the display. "The city has changed greatly since our time."
Try here. I reclicked, reducing our view to the 1950 borders. Still a lot of turf.
"Civic opera, Keye Concert Hall,..... " He mused. "Central Athletic Culture Club, no." One finger scanning the map. "Ah! The Cincinattis Society." He turned to me. "A 'gentleman's club'. Ladies too, now. Very patriotic. Britt was a member. She is certainly an active member. It is .... advantageous."
I click up the floor plan. Nice old warren of a building.
"Wednesday night dinner. She will attend."
"Risky with a crowd."
"Temporary waiters. They have it catered. It is easy to pass unnoticed."
That gets him a look from the Bat.
"You are certain that none of the other members will remember you. " He glances at the membership list " Some are old enough."
"Better yet." I smile " Any of those old guys hate Bromley and like you? "A loyal 'brother' could make this easy.
"They never met me." A pause. " They were friends of Britt's father . Do you think they would welcome his sons Filipino valet?" A shrug. "No matter. I know the floor plan well."
"Straight Shooter's Road House. It was the Green Hornets 'place'. A speakeasy during Prohibition, and a dive afterwards. The supposed owner ran a craps game in the back. He was harmless. The Hornet used it as a meeting place for gangsters. "Six finger" Malone went out of business after they built the new McNider bridge, but the building is still there. Bromley never went in, but she'll know it.
"Her law firm."
Floor fourteen of the Old Courthouse building. I bring it up. The floorplans do show a 'Bromley' listed.
" She retained her office there. I know little about it. When Britt wished to speak to an attorney, they would come to him."
A short list. So many landmarks were lost or changed.
"The house, of course." She had moved in before the body was cool. Turf war.
I mark these for surveillance. Not a long list, but enough for now.
All resources in place and we are go for part one. I'm on the monitor. Batman will take the wing. Operation Sting is on.
End Chapter 7
KKR - 2003