"Bah, the man's all the way in Egypt. He'll never take the time to come after me." Rupert Thorne was deep in conversation with Peter when Lex stalked into the room.
"Double crossing someone again?" Lex raised one feathery eyebrow, overhearing the tail end of her father's exchange.
Rupert gave his daughter an irritated glance before quickly burring the papers he'd been studying in the pile on his desk. "It's nothing, Lexie. Nothing at all." He turned to his attendant. "Burn the hard copies and make sure the computer files are encrypted."
Peter nodded and, picking up the large stack of papers, left the room quietly.
"One of these days someone is going to take offense at the way you constantly break your word." Lex fixed her angry eyes on her father. "Not to mention, it's giving Thorne Enterprises a bad name."
"Child, you worry too much. No one's ever been able to touch me; not the cops, not the Batman, and certainly not the poor fools I do business with."
Lex bit back the rest of her angry words. She knew the argument was wasted on him. He was stuck in his rut, content to do things the way he'd always done them. Nothing would change until he was out of the way.
"Is there something I can do for you, Lexie? You don't usually grace me with your presence during the day." Rupert's tone was almost fond.
"It's nothing much. I'll be out of the building for the rest of the day. I'm heading over to Green Dolphin Street to check their books and make sure they're ready for the delivery that's coming in tonight." Lex brushed back the tendrils of auburn hair that had fallen free of the elegant bun she wore today as she tried to ignore how much she hated being called Lexie.
Her father nodded absently. "Fine, fine. Isn't that the arms shipment we're sending on to the LA office?"
"Yes, we'll just be storing the weapons for a few days. Stephan, over in LA, is very anxious to get them on the street."
"Keep me apprised." Rupert waited until his daughter had almost left the room before he shared his last bit of news. "Oh, and Lexie?"
She turned back to him, a barely tolerant look on her flawless face. "What now?"
His smile turned malicious. "I wouldn't recommend getting too attached to that little club of yours. Charles thinks they're a waste of money. He's made plans to close Green Dolphin Street, and the others, as soon as I give him control of the company."
To Rupert's surprise Lex didn't say a word, though he could see the fire raging in her smoky eyes. She simply turned her back on him and walked from the room. He laughed as he watched her go: an amused laugh that all too soon turned into a racking cough. With some difficulty he managed to control his breathing and his amusement. "What a son she would have made," he murmured, not for the first time. Then he went back to perusing the files on his desk, making sure Peter had destroyed everything that he needed to.
Green Dolphin Street was nearly empty. The lunch crowd had come and gone and the dinner rush was still hours away. Lex sat idly at the bar, listening to the house combo, Mem'ries, practice. She did not so much as glance at the man who came and sat beside her until the band had finished their song.
"Ms. Thorne." Manuel couldn't wait any longer. He was too pleased with himself. "I got it. Just like you asked. It's perfect and works so fast that whoever you use it on won't even have a chance."
Lex gave the little man an amused look. She tapped the briefcase sitting on the ground in front of her with her foot. Cautiously Manuel bent and picked it up. His dark face grew almost reverent as he gazed on the stacks of bills within.
"How much?" His voice was trembling.
"$250,000," she answered with a bored shrug.
Manuel swallowed hard and hugged the case protectively to his chest.
Lex reached out and took his chin in her black-gloved hand. "Listen to me Manuel. If this works as fast as you claim, and meets my other expectations, I'll double the amount." She struggled to keep from laughing at the expression that crossed his face. The poor man was on the verge of falling at her feet and worshipping. "But I expect your silence about this matter, even after the job is done. If I find one word of this has leaked out you'll be next on my list. Understand?"
"Y-yes, Ms. Thorne." Manuel's eyes had grown wide. He waited a moment to see if she had any further instructions for him. But Lex had turned her attention back to the stage; ignoring him and the package he'd set beside her. The little man, still hugging his money to his chest, took leave of his employer.
Bishop watched the man's exit with a derisive snort. "Is it really wise to give him that much money? He doesn't exactly strike me as the most trustworthy sort."
Once again Lex waited till Mem'ries had brought their song to a close before answering. "Of course he's not. But we'll take care of him later, once our other business is completed."
She picked up the little parcel from the counter and turned it over in her hands. "This is it, Bishop, the keys to the kingdom." An almost serene smile lit her face as she looked up at him. "Let's go. This is hardly the place to discuss such matters."
Rupert Thorne sat propped up by many pillows in the center of his large bed. The single lamp on his nightstand cast a warm glow around him, giving just enough light to finish his reading before falling asleep for the night. He looked up with an irritated scowl at the sound of the door to his bedroom opening.
"Lexie!" Irritation faded to wary affection as his only child slowly entered the room. "What a nice surprise. Have you come to say goodnight to your dear old dad?"
Lex didn't answer but the roll of her glorious eyes spoke volumes.
Rupert gave a small smile. At times like this, with her long curls hanging loosely around her shoulders, she looked remarkably like her mother.
Lex must have noticed him staring. "What?" Her voice held its customary edge, like it always did when talking to him.
"Just thinking about how much you resemble your mother. She'd have been quite proud of you I think." Rupert was fairly certain that was a lie. Adrienne Thorne had been a vain woman, to put it mildly; she'd probably be green with envy to know that her daughter far surpassed her beauty.
Lex shrugged off the half compliment. "All mother cared about was spending your money. I doubt very much she'd be proud. After all, I have goals beyond marrying rich and living the rest of my vacuous life in idle comfort."
Rupert chuckled. It was absurdly comforting to know that Lex held her mother in as much contempt as she did him. "Come sit down, my dear." He patted the bed beside him. "We can reminisce."
Giving the girlie magazine in his hand a disgusted look, Lex sat down on the soft bed. "Reminisce? What in the world do we have to reminisce about?"
"Now Lexie, don't you have any fond memories of childhood that we can share?"
A malicious smile twisted Lex's full lips. "Oh, of course I do, father dearest." She placed her small hand over his, the large emerald ring on her slender finger glittering in the light.
For an instant Rupert returned the smile, then he felt the small prick as something pierced his hand. He drew back quickly and stared at his daughter, and the familiar piece of jewelry on her usually unadorned hand. Tearing his gray-green eyes away from her, he looked down at the tiny drop of blood and the back of his hand. "Alexandria, what have you done?"
"Simply taking what is mine," Lex practically purred.
The realization of where he'd seen that ring before was beginning to dawn on him. "Little bitch!" Rupert struck her hard across the face. Despite his advanced age he was still quite strong; the force of the blow sent her tumbling from the bed to the floor.
Lex glared up at him, red mark already clearly evident of her fair cheek. She stood and held the ornate poisoner's ring in front of his face. "Remember this? I do believe it's the same ring you used on my empty-headed mother. Rather fitting don't you think?"
Rupert was nearly blinded by his rage. "Peter!" he croaked, attempting to summon his assistant. His limbs were beginning to grow heavy and he was feeling uncomfortably warm.
"I'm afraid Peter is a bit preoccupied at the moment. He and Bishop are having a conversation."
"Why? Is this about your mother? Look, I had to get rid of her. She was having an affair, I couldn't let word of that get out." Rupert wasn't sure if it was his fear or whatever Lex had injected him with that was making his heart beat so fast.
"You're a fool, old man." Lex gave him a withering look. "This has nothing to do with the witch that I have the misfortune of calling mother."
"About that Thomas kid then?"
For an instant Lex's cool demeanor slipped. Her eyes flashed. "I was 16! You set me up to be raped. For that alone you deserve this."
Despite the sense of dread he was feeling, Rupert forced a chuckle. "It taught you a valuable lesson though, didn't it Lexie?"
Lex's face quickly returned to its usual mask of indifference. "It did indeed. I knew that day that I'd have to kill you before you could kill me. But this is not about past grievances, this is about here and now."
Fear sank its claws into the old man as his vision was beginning to darken. Rupert attempted to reach out for her but found that his arms wouldn't respond. "Lexie wait! I'm sorry. Whatever it is I can make it right."
Lex shook her head; he just didn't get it. Resolutely she stood and turned hr back on her dying father. She began to walk from the room. Before she reached the door she turned and looked back at him one last time. "Goodbye father. Don't worry, Thorne Enterprises will be in good hands."
Rupert lay there gasping, as it was growing harder and harder to fill his lungs. He would have laughed if it were not physically impossible for him right now. She was killing him for the company! "What a son she would have made," he croaked. Soon his breathing slowed. Alone in his bed, with a magazine full of pornography, Rupert Thorne breathed his last.
The coroner's report listed the official cause of death as a heart attack. Some speculated that the old man had been too worked up by the racy magazine he was looking at. There were not many in the community who mourned Rupert's death.
Still, Lex was the very picture of the grieving daughter as she wept at his funeral. She cried again at the news that her father's old friend, Charles Haskins, had died unexpectedly when he'd lost control of his car and driven it off the Tri-Gate Bridge.
With Rupert and the successor he's named in his will both dead, control of Thorne Enterprises reverted to his only living relative Lex. Still in the black of mourning, her fist act as head of the company was to make a large donation to Gotham Memorial Hospital in her father's name. She made glowing speeches about changing the image the Thornes had in Gotham, and vowed to use her family's vast wealth for worthy philanthropic causes.
The police, of course, were skeptical. Especially when people know to be loyal to Rupert Thorne started disappearing. But with no evidence there was little they could do. Even the body of Manuel Ijames, floating in the Gotham River, couldn't be tied back to Thorne Enterprises.
Lex, for her part, was the consummate businesswoman. She renegotiated many of her father's old deals and ran the company flawlessly. Even the GCPD and Gotham's vigilante protector had to admit that she appeared to be completely law abiding. But they continued to watch and wait, certain that something would happen sooner or later