Apologies to anyone who knows about medicine and medical proceedures. I put it down to artistic licence if its incorrect.
Again thanks to DC comics. I just love writing about the characters although they belong to them.
Dick sat across the huge mahogany desk from Bruce. He had his legs curled under him, his arms folded and resting on the armrest, his head to one side supported on his shoulder. The antique clock on the wall loudly ticked away the seconds.
It was a large office. The décor echoed that of Bruce's study at home. The walls were a warm rich red wood panelling. The lighting subdued apart from the pool of brighter light from a green shaded lamp illuminating the desk. There were heavy drapes at the windows softening the more rigid lines of the Venetian blinds. The main colours in the room were green and gold. Shelves filled with books ran the length of one wall. Dick thought the décor a little old fashioned for his taste but then again it certainly gave it a very comfortable atmosphere. He knew that all the artwork was authentic and expensive, as were the furnishings. The other side of the office was given over to soft seating. A large squashy, extremely comfortable sofa (As Dick knew from experience having fallen asleep on it) and matching armchairs, in rich brown leather, were placed around an ornate inlayed coffee table. Behind was a hidden door that opened up to reveal a well stocked drinks cabinet.
Bruce was in the middle of a phone call and as he answered the person on the other end of the line Dick made faces at him, nodding at each 'yes' and shaking his head at the 'no's'. He shrugged when Bruce was indecisive.
Bruce stuck his tongue out at Dick and Dick feigned effrontery, mouthing 'OH!' back at him.
It had been one of those rare occasions when they had been able to spend some quality time together. Dick, having a day off school, had met up with Bruce here at the office and they had gone out and enjoyed a leisurely lunch together in the quiet out of the way Italian restaurant they both favoured. They had returned to the office and as usual the messages had piled up. Dick had decided to hang around for a while, enjoying just being with Bruce and watching him work. He sometimes wondered how he managed to keep abreast of the myriad of tasks and handle the diversity of different businesses that came under the banner of Wayne Industries. On top of that play the eligible bachelor, attend the charity functions and then be Batman as well.
Bruce had intimated that all his empire would be Dick's one day. He shivered with the thought of all the responsibilities it would bring. He was already being given some insight into the job as Bruce had started to take Dick with him on business dinners and functions. The excuse being that Dick's 'expertise' with certain languages made his presence as an interpreter invaluable.
Dick had hated the stiff and starchy atmosphere at first. The tuxedo he was obliged to wear made him feel uncomfortable. He envied Bruce's apparent ease. At least they were spared most of the paparazzi attention at these events. Then he had found he had begun to enjoy the gatherings. Some of the business dealings and small talk were over his head, but he was surprised to find he was beginning to understand some of it, Bruce often explaining as they went.
Of course it was amusing to see the way the female guests buttered up to Bruce, competing for his attention. It was also alarming that some of the older ladies chatted him up too just to get to Bruce, equally so when it was a beautiful younger one too. He was always the youngest there and he sometimes rode home alone with Alfred, when their cunning ploys worked.
Bruce still tended to keep him from the events that would draw media attention, although he often felt a little disappointed, he was beginning to understand why. It was for his own safety and peace of mind Bruce had told him.
He hadn't understood until he had read some of the speculative gossip in the not so reputable dailies. He had almost come to the conclusion that there were two other people living in the manor besides himself and Bruce, the way they wrote about them.
Bruce replaced the handset.
"I'm sorry about that." He said, "I don't know about being the boss and being able to delegate, I wonder anyone can function when I'm not here."
"I guess because you are so good at what you do?" He spread his hands and shrugged.
"Hmm." Bruce pondered. " I reckon it's about time I started bringing you in to the office and showing you the ropes. It would take some of the pressure off me."
"What!" Dick exclaimed. "Me? I'd bankrupt you in days."
"Oh I don't think so. It's never to late to learn, and besides what are you going to do during summer vacation?" Bruce asked smiling and attempting to look as if he didn't know. "I think a little work experience wouldn't go amiss."
"Oh thanks, I was hoping to get a little time to myself, well with my friends." Dick protested. "Its not as if I'm idle the rest of the time."
"Well I guess a couple of weeks of R and R wouldn't hurt, but I would like you to start getting more familiar with the business."
Dick sighed heavily.
"I guess you're right, as usual. So what are you expecting me to do?"
"I could make you start at the bottom and work your way up through the ranks, but I can see there would be a problem there, you know being the 'boss's son' and all that. So I reckon I'm going to throw you in at the deep end. I haven't quite sorted out what you will be doing yet."
Dick's eyes were wide. Did Bruce really trust him that much?
"Oh don't panic, I wont give you anything you wont be able to handle." Bruce assured him. "Have I ever done that?"
"I guess not." Dick conceded. "I suppose the upside to this is I get to see more of you."
"Oh no! I hadn't thought of that!" Bruce said with mock alarm, laughing. "I will just have to make sure I have more meetings to attend."
"Yeah, ok very funny." Dick said pretending to be affronted.
Bruce surveyed the pile of messages Margaret had left on his desk with some dismay.
"It looks like I'm going to be busy here a while. What do you want to do?" He asked Dick.
"I was going to hang round a while, but I think I'll get home and get some homework done, maybe hit the gym later. How late do you think you will be?"
"I have no idea. Hopefully not too late, but you never know what will come up."
"Ok, I'll get off then, leave you in peace." Dick uncurled himself from the chair and stretched. "I enjoyed lunch by the way." He paused as he reached the door. "You want me to tell Alfred anything, or are you going to let him know? I mean so he knows what to do about dinner and stuff."
"Just tell him I may be a little late and I will ring when I'm about to leave." Bruce instructed.
"Righty oh, see you later, have fun." Dick disappeared through the door.
Bruce could hear him chatting with Margaret and Betty. Dick was a favorite with them and they both tended to spoil him when he came to the office. Margaret surprised Bruce, as she would let her usual 'professionalism' slip where Dick was concerned. Betty was such a homely woman and she mothered him mercilessly.
"I think it would be better that he work up here, I can imagine the disruption it would cause if he was working in any of the other departments. Goodness the typing pool would never be the same again." Bruce thought to himself smiling at the memory of the first time Dick had come in to the office and had come up through the other departments instead of using the private elevator. Dick had certainly turned a few heads.
Bruce drew in a deep breath and began to sort out the messages in order of priority.
Margaret came hurrying through the doors in an uncharacteristically agitated state.
"Bruce there's a problem down in the garage, its Dick, he's collapsed!" She said anxiously.
"What!" Bruce exclaimed jumping up from his chair and hurrying towards the door.
"Security just called up, they have called the ambulance."
Bruce was in the private elevator and descending to the garage before she had finished the sentence. His heart was racing with anticipation at what he would find. He willed the elevator to move quicker.
The car hissed to a stop and the doors slid open, Bruce was through the doors before they were fully open.
He could see two of the security guards standing near Dick's car. He hurried over.
Dick was laid on the floor, on his side.
"Mr Wayne, we have called an ambulance." One of the guards informed him. "I put him in the recovery position, as the medics said to."
Bruce dropped to his knees and bent over Dick. He was unconscious, but there was no obvious visible cause. He brushed the hair back from Dick's ashen face.
"Dick." He said quietly. Turning to the guards, "did you see what happened?"
"Mr Wayne, we saw him come into the garage, on the CCTV. He stopped and spoke to a guy, looked like he was giving him directions. He then came over to his car and then just keeled over as he was trying to put the key in the lock."
"So you didn't see anything else, or anyone else? Who was the man?" Bruce pressed the guard.
"No Mr Wayne. The man was here for an interview; he had all the proper papers. As soon as we saw Mr Grayson go down we came to check and called the ambulance, then upstairs to inform you."
Bruce turned his attention back to Dick. The sound of a wailing siren could be heard getting closer. As the ambulance screeched into the underground garage the lights and siren echoed around the space. One of the guards directed it to the spot where Dick lay. The paramedics jumped out and hurried across to Dick.
Bruce moved aside so that they could examine Dick, but hovered agitatedly.
One of the paramedics quizzed the guards as to what had happened, as the second began to attach various wires to Dick.
The paramedics began to look very concerned. Noticing this change Bruce was becoming extremely worried.
"What is it?" he asked "What's wrong with him?"
"Who are you?" one of the paramedics asked him.
"What! I'm Bruce Wayne, his Father." He said with some incredulity that they didn't know him.
"Sorry, look we have no idea what it is that is causing this, but he does appear to be in quite some physical distress." He informed Bruce.
"We are just trying to stabilise him then we will transport him to the hospital."
"Ok which one? I'll follow in my car."
"Gotham's City" the paramedic informed him as he turned his attention back to the readouts from the monitor.
Bruce turned to the guards who were still hovering unsure as to what to do.
"I want the CCTV footage from the time Dick and I came back from lunch to when this happened examined closely and a copy on my desk ASAP. I also want the log in records," He ordered.
"Yes sir." The guards hurried off to comply.
The Paramedics had moved Dick onto a stretcher so that they could put him in the ambulance. He was still attached to the monitor and had an I.V. drip running into his arm.
Bruce followed the stretcher to the back of the ambulance. As they lifted Dick into the back he again brushed Dicks hair.
"I'm following you in the car." He told him, hoping Dick could hear him.
Bruce hurried across to his car and he had the engine running as the paramedics slammed the ambulance doors shut.
As they pulled away they turned on the siren and blue lights. Bruce followed close behind. His heart was in his mouth. Dick had looked so deathly pale.
"Let him be alright." He prayed as he negotiated the traffic, paying little attention to the speedometer.
Hitting the hands free dialler he called the house. Alfred answered. Bruce rapidly explained the situation as he swerved into the hospital driveway and hunted for a parking space. Giving up he saw the ambulance that had transported Dick at the emergency entrance. He pulled into the space behind it.
"Alfred I'll call you back, I have to switch my mobile off in the hospital. Just hang tight." He cut the connection and switched the device off as he entered the hospital.
He asked the receptionist for directions and hurried in the direction she indicated.
He found Dick in a cubicle surrounded by doctors. A female doctor barred his way.
"I'm sorry but you can't come in yet." She told him.
"I'm his father." Bruce protested.
"I know but we need you to let us do our job, there's nothing you can do for now." She told him gently but firmly. "Look the waiting room is just there," she pointed, "someone will come and take his details from you and we will let you know when you can see him."
Bruce reluctantly turned and went to the waiting room. He couldn't sit down and paced back and forth, frantically considering the outcome.
A Nurse came in and managed to persuade him to sit down long enough for her to take down Dick's personal details.
"Have they found what's wrong?" Bruce asked her.
"I'm not sure, but I will go and see what's happening for you. Would you like a coffee?"
"No!" Bruce snapped. "No, I'm sorry thank you." He added realising his rudeness.
"Its alright, I'm used to dealing with worried parents. I'll go see what I can find out." She hurried away.
Bruce sat on the edge of the seat his face in his hand's, he rubbed his face as if trying to wash it without water. Whatever was wrong was something serious; he knew that from the reaction of the paramedics and Doctors. His own gut feeling told him too. Just what was wrong he had no idea, which made it worse.
"Master Bruce there you are." Alfred appeared through the waiting room door. "Are you ok? Is master Dick alright?"
"Alfred what are you doing here?" Bruce asked him with annoyance jumping to his feet.
"Sir I had to come and bring you this." He handed Bruce an open envelope.
"What is it?" Bruce tugged the folded sheet of paper from the envelope.
"Sir with your mobile switched off and the switchboard here so busy it was quicker to bring it than try and contact you here." Alfred explained as Bruce scanned the letter. "I took the liberty of ringing the police on my way here."
Bruce sat down heavily on the chair, staring at the single sheet with disbelief.
"No!" He said softly. "No, no, no, no, no, no!" He shook his head as if trying to get some grip on the situation.
"Sir, are you alright." Alfred said with concern for his employer. Bruce covered his face with his hands again, the letter drifted to the floor. Alfred put his hand on Bruce's shoulder as he stooped to retrieve the piece of paper.
Drawing in a deep breath Bruce tried to pull his racing thoughts together. He felt physically sick.
"Ok we need to inform the doctors first. It will give them something to work on. Then the police will need this for forensics I suppose. I also need to get in touch with Professor Bergstrom and get him over here as soon as possible."
"I'll contact the professor." Alfred assured him, handing back the letter.
"Thank you Alfred, I don't really want to leave Dick right now."
"I understand sir."
As Alfred left two detectives appeared together. Followed by the female doctor that had spoken to Bruce earlier.
"Before I hand this over to the Police I think you had better see this." Bruce said to the Doctor, holding the letter out to her. "I would also like to have our own doctor in on this if you have no objections."
The doctor was reading the letter her eyes growing wider with every sentence.
"Err no, no objections at all. Who is he?" she said distractedly.
"She. It's Dr Leslie Thompkins. I have also taken the liberty of having Alfred contact Professor Bergstrom. He is the best man in this field."
"Mr Wayne we do have a toxicology department here" The doctor said looking up, seeming a little affronted.
"I'm Dr Verion Devane by the way. I am in charge of your son's case, or at least I thought I was." She eyed the police with some distain.
"I'm sorry but I'm sure you can appreciate given the circumstances we'll need as much help as possible. I only want what's best for Dick."
"I'm sorry, my remark was uncalled for. I understand. I know of Professor Bergstrom if anyone can help it will be him."
One of the detectives was now reading the letter having taken it from Dr Devane; the other was reading it over his shoulder.
"Mr Wayne I'm detective Vespucci and this is my partner detective Bateman." Vespucci proffered his right hand for a handshake and indicated with his left. "We have been assigned to the case." To the doctor he asked.
"How is Mr Grayson?"
"He is extremely ill, although he appears stable at present. We are preparing to move him to the I.C.U."
"When will I be allowed to see him?" Bruce asked her
"Let us get him settled in I.C.U. first then you can." She said kindly. "Look I have to go I'm needed." She said as her pager sounded.
"Mr Wayne I understand you have encountered this man before?" Vespucci asked.
"Yes he had my butler Alfred kidnapped. Batman found him, but Kai Han disappeared. He said his intended target was Dick then, and promised to strike again." Bruce informed him. "He is getting bolder, signing his name, because, before, we didn't know it was him for certain to begin with." Bruce added.
Detective Bateman read the letter out loud.
"Mr Wayne, by now you should be attending your beloved adopted son in the hospital. I am sure the doctors will be struggling to ascertain the nature of his 'illness'.
He has been given a dose of a poison that will kill him in approximately 4 days time, depending on his state of health to begin with. I can assure you he will suffer a great deal in the meantime and death will be a most welcome consequence for him.
That being said there is an antidote that will counteract the poison rapidly and effectively, even at the eleventh hour.
I have that antidote.
So Mr Wayne your dilemma is, do you have the doctors try and identify the poison in time and risk losing him or do you comply with my demands in exchange for the antidote?
My demands are the same as last time.
"What were his demands before?" Vespucci asked.
"He wanted two of his cohorts releasing from the Penn'. It was Lily Harper who was in charge of that case." Bruce told him.
"Ok Mr Wayne we will get back to you, if anything else happens and you hear from this guy again call us." Vespucci handed Bruce a card. "You can reach us on this number at any time. Oh before we go, what do you intend to do?"
"About the demand? I have no intention of giving in to him. Professor Bergstrom is the leading expert in the field of toxins and poison. If no one else can diagnose the cause he can I'm sure." Bruce explained. "Dick and I have an agreement that we would never give in to demands in this type of situation. It was the same when they kidnapped Alfred; he too has agreed the same. I will put up a reward though if anyone can help find this fiend. Lets say $500.000."
"I see. Well I'm sure we can find some means of negotiation in the meantime." Vespucci assured Bruce. "We will be in touch." He said as they left the waiting room, giving a halfhearted wave.
"Mr Wayne." The nurse reappeared breaking Bruce's thoughts. "They have moved Dick up to I.C.U. So if you want to go up now they will let you see him once they have him settled"
"Thank you, how's he doing do you know?" Bruce asked he his voice trembling slightly.
"They will explain things to you in I.C.U. Try not to worry too much, he's going to need you to be strong for him I'm sure." She told him trying to convey some sympathy.
Bruce just nodded and headed out of the room. He paused and turned back to the nurse.
"I'm sorry, which way?"
Dr Devane greeted Bruce at the entrance to the I.C.U. She instructed him to use the alcohol hand gel from the dispenser by the door.
"You need to use it on coming in and leaving." She told him. "I have to ask you to restrict visitors to yourself and close family only." Guiding Bruce through the double doors and down the hushed ward.
"I don't think that will be a problem, there will probably be only myself and my Butler Alfred."
"Ok. He's in here." She said stopping by a cubicle, the partial glazed screen dividing it from the main body of the ward.
"I'll leave you alone with him for a while then I'll come and explain what we think is happening to him and hopefully what our course of action should be." She stood aside to allow Bruce to enter.
Dick lay on the bed surrounded by machines intermittently beeping and blinking, and attached to his body. He was covered with a thin white sheet.
Bruce walked over to the bed almost afraid to look at Dick. Sitting down on the chair left by the bedside Bruce leaned forward towards Dick. He was still very pale, his Dark hair accentuating the whiteness of his skin.
Bruce laid his hand over Dick's. It felt almost too warm. To his surprise Dick turned his hand over and grasped his, weakly.
"Dick?" Bruce leaned over closer to Dick's face.
Dick's eyelids fluttered slightly, he turned his face towards Bruce and his lips moved almost imperceptibly. A small groan escaped from them.
"Its ok, don't try and talk, save your strength." Bruce crooned gently, again pushing the stray lock of hair from Dick's forehead back. This time it stayed put, because of the dampness caused by the beads of sweat on his forehead.
"Bruce." Dick croaked despite Bruce's instruction. "Bruce what's happening to me?"
"Don't you worry yourself about it." Bruce tried to assure him. "The doctors are doing everything possible to sort it out."
Dick rolled his head back and forth across the pillow in some distress. Bruce put his hand on Dick's forehead to stop him.
"Shhhh come on now you have to be strong, we will fight this together. I'm not going to leave you I promise." Bruce assured him forcefully.
"Just tell me Bruce, what's wrong? I know you know and you're not telling me!" Dick said forcing the words through his clenched teeth. Beads of sweat were forming on his forehead again.
Bruce shook his head. Even in such a state Dick was not going to be fooled. He sighed.
"Ok will you promise me you'll calm down? Then I will tell you what we know."
Dick nodded weakly, turning his head to face Bruce. Bruce briefly outlined the situation, but omitting the part about Dick only having four days to live. Dick remained silent for a few moments when Bruce had finished just watching Bruce's face.
"How long?" He said eventually.
"How long what?" Bruce asked trying to sound puzzled.
"How long have I got? You left that part out. I need to know."
Before Bruce had a chance to answer him Dr Thompkins came hurrying in.
"I got here as soon as I could, Alfred called me." She puffed. "I've had a quick word with Dr Devane." She added as she came over to the bedside.
She checked the monitors briefly before turning her attention to Dick.
"Oh sweetie what have they done to you?" She gently stroked Dick's cheek. Dick gave her a brief look before his eyes closed and he drifted off into unconsciousness again.
"My goodness what a palaver, its like feeding time at the zoo out there!" The voice made both Bruce and the Doctor turn.
"Professor! Thank you for coming so quickly" Bruce greeted him. "What do you mean?" he added.
"The front of the hospital is swarming with press, it was all I could do to get in." The Professor explained.
Bruce looked at Dr Thompkins.
"Where they there when you came in?"
"I came around the back as I parked up in the staff car Park so I couldn't say."
"Well never mind that now we have a patient to see to." The Professor bustled over to the bedside. He began to examine Dick.
Bruce and Dr Thompkins just looked at each other and shrugged.
I'll need to have a conference with his medical team and I will need to have blood and urine samples ASAP." He barked at no one in particular.
Bruce had moved to the nearby visitors lounge. He had been loathed to leave Dicks side but there had been so many medical staff in the small cubical, he had felt it prudent to withdraw for a while whilst they did what they had to do.
Someone had brought him a cup of coffee but it sat going cold on the small table.
"Master Bruce? Master Bruce?" Alfred's voice broke through his thoughts.
"Oh I'm sorry Alfred I was miles away." Bruce apologised.
"No need to apologise sir." Alfred assured him. "How's the young man?"
"Oh Alfred I wish I knew. He looks so ill." Bruce told him shaking his head.
"Sir I took the liberty of getting the CCCTV footage from your office. I've copied it to a disc so you can view it on the laptop." Alfred patted the case he was carrying. "I thought you would not want to stray far from Dick right now." He added. "It would also seem the press have got wind of Dicks collapse and are baying for information." He went on.
"Hmmm, I wonder if Kai Han leaked it as he did your kidnap?" Bruce speculated. "Oh thank you." He added. "I don't know what I would do without you."
The TV was on in the visitors Lounge, turned to a news channel. It was just before the top of the hour and the last advert was just fading. The station logo morphed into the opening credits and announcements of the top stories narrated by voiceover.
"In this hour, Billionaire Bruce Wayne's adopted son is poisoned, the scandal surrounding the disgraced senator intensifies. In the trial of Robert Howard new evidence is uncovered. This and more news and sport."
The picture switched to the anchors sat behind their desk."In breaking news we have just learnt that Richard John Grayson, the adopted son of multi Billionaire Bruce Wayne, is seriously ill in Gotham City Hospital's intensive care unit. A spokesman for the hospital said that. 'Mr Grayson is in a critical but stable condition at this time.' We were informed that Mr Grayson has been poisoned. The exact nature of this poison is as yet unknown. It is believed that this is another attempt by Kai Han to get the release of two of his men from the penitentiary. Kai Han kidnapped Mr Wayne's Butler Alfred Pennyworth previously with the same set of demands although Batman rescued him. A £500.000 dollar reward has been offered to anyone with information leading to the capture of Kai Han and or the discovery of the antidote."
Alfred muted the sound. Bruce leaned back in his chair, his face betraying his distress.
"I am sure it will work out alright Master Bruce." Alfred tried to sound upbeat.
"Oh Alfred, its hard this one, on the one hand I know I have an agreement with you not to give in to these kind of demands, on the other its tempting to give in when I see Dick suffering so much." Bruce indecisively.
"You must be steadfast Bruce, young Dick knows and understands, he will not blame you in the least." Alfred tried to assure Bruce.
Bruce rubbed his face in exasperation.
"I'm going back to sit with Dick again." He told Alfred as he stood up and stretched as he headed to the door.
"I'll get back and man the phone, is there anything I can bring you when I come back?" Alfred asked him.
"I'm not sure Alfred."
"I'll sort out some clothes for you sir, you will need a change."
"Ok thank you, I'm sorry to have to put on you and leave you to deal with everything."
"All part of the job Sir. All part of the job." Alfred assured him.
Dick was very still. Bruce wondered how anyone could look so pale. Apart from the dark bruise like circles around his eyes there was not a hint of colour in his face.
Bruce sat down in the chair at the bedside and leaned forward, his elbows on the bed.
Dick's eyes were closed. His long dark lashes swept his cheeks.
As if to acknowledge Bruce's presence he stirred slightly when Bruce's elbows pressed down on the mattress. He didn't wake.
Bruce took up Dick's hand and squeezed it gently.
"Oh Dick, what am I to do. I cant bear the thought that I may lose you, but on the other hand…" Bruce dropped his head and rested his forehead against Dick's hand, his eyes closed. He felt the fingers twitch and he opened his eyes to study Dick's face.
Dick opened his eyes with a great deal of effort. They felt as if they were weighted with lead. His eyes struggled to focus.
"Don't you dare!" He hissed. "Don't you dare give in. Promise me Bruce. Promise me." He pleaded with as much force as he could muster.
The effort took its toll and he sank back into unconsciousness once more.
Bruce sat quietly watching Dick. He was struggling with himself. He didn't want to leave Dick's side, apart from the odd comfort break, but he felt he should be out as Batman seeking out the solution. The thoughts wheeled round in his head making him dizzy. He dropped his head on to the bed, Dick's hand still in his.
"Mr Wayne are you ok?" It was the nurse; she had come to do Dick's obs'.
Bruce sat up wearily.
"Yes I'm ok. How's Dick doing, medically speaking that is?"
"He appears to be fairly stable at present. I suppose though its early days yet." She told him. "Boy is he a popular guy, the switchboard is ringing off the hook with calls asking after him."
"Really?" Bruce said with some amazement. "Well I never!"
"Yes, and although it was only on T.V. a short time ago there are masses of flowers and stuff arriving already."
"What!" Bruce said incredulously.
"I know, they don't allow flowers on the I.C.U. but there are some gifts and cards arriving which we may be able to bring up for him."
"Ok, erm is there a phone I can use?" Bruce asked.
"Yes its over there by the nurses station." The nurse pointed.
Bruce dialled the house and got the busy signal, he redialled and got the same. After several attempts he got the ringing tone. Alfred answered almost straight away.
"Wayne residence." Alfred sounded a little weary.
"Alfred it's me Bruce."
"Oh sir is everything ok? Is Master Dick…."
"He's still the same. Alfred what's going on, I couldn't get through?"
"Sir the phone has never stopped ringing since I returned. Master Dick's friends are franticly worried also. They want to know about visiting. I have told them they will not be allowed to see him."
"That's ok Alfred. Look set up an automated message so that you are not tied down. Suggest that just one of Dick's friends be nominated to call, and then inform the others. Maybe I can arrange that one of them gets in to see Dick." Bruce instructed. "I'm going to ring the office next. I'm sure they will have experienced the same problem, plus I haven't let them know the situation yet and I bet Margaret and Betty are beside themselves with worry. Especially after the news bulletin."
"Sir I did ring and let them know. I haven't given them an update yet though."
"Ok Alfred I'll call and put them in the picture. I'll get them to set up an automated answer service too. I'll have a look at the CCCTV footage see if I can get any ideas as what happened.."
"Very well Sir, you will be staying overnight I take it?" Alfred inquired.
"Alfred I can't leave him."
"No sir I understand."
"I will call you if I need anything."
"Very good Sir." Alfred said becoming 'the Butler' again as he put down the receiver.
Bruce dialled the office, using his private line that was not listed.
"We were so worried, what's happening, we saw the news." She asked before Bruce could speak.
"Dick is very ill, but so far holding his own. I can't say what will happen when we get nearer to the deadline, but I have managed to get Professor Bergstrom here and he is already on the case." Bruce told her. "Margaret I will be here at the hospital, I don't want to leave Dick, just in case. So you will have to ring Alfred if you need to get hold of me urgently."
"Ok I understand, Bruce, all the staff here have asked me to pass on their good wishes and love to Dick. Both Betty and I send our love too. You know we will be here to help if you need us."
"Thank you Margaret, I will tell Dick when he wakes. I have to go."
"Bruce can we come visit him?" Margaret asked
"Margaret they have restricted visiting, not only because of how ill he is but for security reasons. But I have said that I will see about just one of his friends visiting, so maybe if it was just you, they may let you see him for a brief visit. No one else mind you."
"I understand, better let you get back to him. Give him a big kiss from Betty and me."
Bruce broke the connection and smiled wryly to himself. He wasn't sure how Dick would react to him if he gave him 'a big kiss' even in the state he was in right now.
He hurried back to the cubicle where Dick still lay unconscious. He settled back down into the chair at the bedside. It was going to be a long night.
He remembered the laptop and disc Alfred had brought. It sat on the cupboard stood against the opposite wall.
"Might as well make some use of the time whilst I can." He muttered to himself as he went to retrieve it. He settled once again in the bedside chair.
The flickering light from the screen illuminated his face casting an eerie glow. Over and over again he watched the images captured by the cameras from the underground garage.
Just what had happened he was at a loss to ascertain. Maybe Dick had been given the poison elsewhere?
The nurse again coming in to do the obs interrupted his concentration.
"How's he doing?" Bruce asked her.
"He's still fairly stable at present." She informed him.
Bruce turned his attention back to the screen.
"Hang on!" he told himself jumped back a couple of frames. "There! That has to be it." He said out loud.
"Mmmmm, what has to be it?" Dick asked him coming around as Bruce had shouted
"Dick when you were in the garage, the guy who spoke to you, do you remember?" Bruce asked rapidly leaning close.
"Humm," Dick struggled to clear his head. "I think so, yer, he asked the way up to the offices he had an interview." Dick's eyes began to close again
"Dick, stay with me…Can you remember him touching you?"
Dick rolled his head on the pillow trying to keep conscious.
"Yer, he patted me on the shoulder when he said thanks." He mumbled. "My right one I think."
Bruce lifted Dick's right arm and scrutinised the top of his arm. Running his finger across the bicep he could feel an almost imperceptible lump under the skin.
"What are you doing?" The nurse had returned and looked startled by Bruce's actions.
"Do you have a magnifying glass?" Bruce demanded.
"Why, what?" the nurse stammered unsure.
"I think I know how and where he was injected. I need a magnifier to confirm it." Bruce told her.
"I'll go look hang on." The Nurse hurried off.
Dick was eyeing Bruce with some concern.
"Bruce what?" he tried to ask the question but his voice failed him. He shifted a little uncomfortably. A grimace of pain shook him.
Bruce put his hand on Dick's shoulder Dick grasped at Bruce's free hand and held it, his grip tightening as the pain reached a crescendo. Bruce returned the grip. After a few moments Dick's hand went limp as he sank thankfully into unconsciousness once more.
The nurse hurried back in with a magnifier.
"Here." She handed it to Bruce.
Bruce held it over Dick's upper arm.
"There look." He indicated with a finger to the nurse who took the magnifier to examine closer.
"Yes it certainly looks as if that's where the poison was injected." She agreed.
"I think you had better page the doctor." Bruce advised her. "Dick just had a really bad attack of pain before he passed out again."
The nurse hurried to the nurse's station without comment, then returned a few moments later and took the readings from the monitor and went through the obs again.
Both Dr Devane and Professor Bergstrom entered the cubicle together.
Bruce briefly explained the events to both of them.
"Hmmm I wonder?" The Professor mused examining Dick's arm. There could be a residue at this point. We may be able to get a biopsy sample that would give us a more concentrated sample of the poison."
Dr Devane sent the nurse to collect an instrument tray.
"Mr Wayne, Dick's obs show his temperature has risen again. I am hesitant to give him any medication until we know what we are dealing with. I wouldn't want an adverse reaction."
"I understand. It's difficult though. Professor, have you any idea as to what he has been given yet?"
"Bruce I think I have it narrowed down to a couple of possibilities. Given his reactions and everything. It just takes time to run the tests. I'm going as fast as the tests will allow. Any shortcuts could lead to a false diagnosis that could be just a fatal. I have already ordered several antidotes that will cover the possibilities."
The nurse returned with the tray and the Doctor took a small sample from the top of Dick's arm. Placing a dressing over the site when she had done. She handed the sample to the Professor who hurried away without another word.
"Ok, look it's getting late. I assume you are staying here, just call if anything happens. Apart from the obs you wont be disturbed." The Doctor told Bruce.
Bruce nodded. Sighing he sat down again.
"We are doing all we can." Dr Devane tried to assure him.
"I know." Bruce said quietly. "I have never felt so helpless though."
"Try not to get too upset, Dick will need you to be strong for him. I'll see you in the morning, barring any problems, or breakthroughs."
Bruce settled back in the chair. It was looking like a long, long night ahead.
Bruce opened his eyes. He felt as if every muscle in his body was screaming in protest when he tried to move.
He had eventually fallen asleep in the chair, after what had seemed like endless hours of watching Dick. The nurses had come and gone in a comforting rhythm, checking on Dick every half hour throughout the night.
They had been kind enough to bring him a coffee now and then. He had been offered a bed in a room reserved for family members who chose to stay, but he had declined, wanting to stay near Dick.
Dick had remained quiet during the night, either unconscious or asleep. Thankfully he had not appeared to have another attack of pain either.
The clock above the nurse's station proclaimed it was seven thirty. Bruce checked his watch it said the same.
He stood and stretched with some difficulty, yawning.
"Master Bruce, good morning." Alfred appeared at his side. "How is the young man?" He asked with concern.
"He has had a quiet night as far as I can tell, thank goodness."
"That's good." Alfred said with some relief. "I brought you a change of clothes and some toiletries Sir. I will stay with the young man whilst you go change and freshen up."
"Thanks Alfred. Is there still a lot of press outside?" Bruce asked accepting the overnight bag Alfred handed him.
"Not quite as many as there was yesterday but still a considerable number have camped out."
"Seeing as you are here I'll take the opportunity to stretch my legs and see if I can find some breakfast. I'm sure they will page me if anything happens. Do you mind? Have you eaten?"
"No sir I don't mind you need a break. Don't you worry." Alfred assured him.
"Alfred, how can I do anything to find Kai Han when I'm here? I don't want to leave Dick though. My hands are tied as far as, well, you know."
"The commissioner called several times for Batman." Alfred told him, glancing around to ensure they were not overheard. "I just let the automated answer cut in. he did seem a little put out in the end." Alfred added. "Look go and change and get freshened up. Have something to eat and then we will work out something. You will think clearer then."
"Your right, as usual Alfred. Ok I'll try not to be too long."
"Sir, take as long as you need. I will have you paged if anything happens." Alfred patted Bruce's shoulder in a rare show of affection.
Bruce bent over Dick and whispered in his ear.
"I wont be long. Alfred's here now, so don't fret."
Bruce reluctantly withdrew.
Alfred kept watch, but Dick didn't stir. Alfred was sure that the young man was visibly paler than he had been the night before, if that was at all possible. The dark smudges around his eyes were now edged in red. His lips had an ominous bluish tinge. Dick's dark locks were stuck to his head with sweat.
A nurse came into the cubicle.
"Hello, I'm Beth, I'm taking over from Carol. She's on annual leave as from today. So I will be Richard's' named nurse from today."
"Pleased to meet you, I'm afraid Mr Wayne has just stepped out for a break. I'm Alfred his Butler." Alfred introduced himself.
"Oh that's ok, I'm just going to do Richard's obs anyway."
"We call him Dick, it's what he prefers. He may think he's in trouble if he hears you call him by his proper name." Alfred laughed quietly. "I wonder though he seems a little sweaty, could I get a bowl of water and give him a wash, make him a little more comfortable?"
"Of course, let me do his chart first. Then I'll go get some water." Beth agreed. "Now then young man lets see how you are doing." She addressed Dick.
Dick's eyelids fluttered at the sound of her voice.
"You waking up sweetie?" Beth asked him as she continued to check his vital signs.
Dick mumbled something, but didn't open his eyes fully. As the blood pressure cuff inflated, tightening around his arm, he moaned softly.
"I know it can be uncomfortable, nearly done." Beth soothed him. She made notes on the chart.
"How is he?" Alfred asked her.
"Well there isn't much change from last night, his temperature has been fluctuating a little though. Otherwise he seems stable at present."
"I suppose that's something to be grateful for." Alfred said with some relief.
"Yes I guess it is. I'll go get the water so we can give him a wash down." Beth disappeared off down the ward.
"Alfred?" Dick asked weakly.
"Yes young Sir." Alfred sat down to get closer to him.
"He went to get changed and get some breakfast. He has been here all night." Alfred told him.
"Ok, err what was that about giving me a wash? Not a bed bath already? I didn't see the nurse is she a looker?" Dick grinned. "She sounded nice."
"Young man!" Alfred exclaimed. "You get worse. I do believe you are getting as bad as Bruce where the ladies are concerned."
"Me? No way…." His sentence was cut short as a spasm of pain raked his body. "Argh! Alfred!" He curled up with the pain, clutching at the mattress.
Alfred at a loss to know what to do rubbed Dick's arm and back.
"Dick, hang on the nurse will be back in a minute." He assured him. As if in response to his assurances Beth appeared.
Without speaking she put the bowl of water on the side table, hit the alarm button and bent over Dick. Alfred stepped back to allow her room to check him.
"Tell me. What's wrong, come on." She insisted as Dick curled up tighter. "Try and lay back."
"I……cant. Argh!" Dick cried out. "It hurts, God it hurts!"
Dr Devane hurried in. Seeing what was happening she went straight to Dick.
"Ok where does it hurt?" She asked as she too checked the monitors, then as Dick shifted position and sat up hugging himself she put her arm around his shoulders and supported him.
"Ask …me…an …easier… question." Dick gasped through the pain. "Like… where… don't it hurt?"
"I take that as you are in pain all over." The doctor surmised.
"You bet." Dick gasped. "Ooohhh." He rocked back and forward with each spasm. He was sweating again profusely.
"His heart rate has gone up and temperature." Beth informed the doctor.
"Ok. Come on try and lay back. I know its difficult but try and breathe through the pain." Dr Devane told Dick gently pushing him back onto the bed.
Dick sucked in a gulp of air as if trying to steel himself against the agony. Before the Doctor had him fully laid back he dropped the rest of the way, his head hitting the pillow.
"He'd fainted, mercifully." The Doctor announced. "I hate this, how can we treat him and stop this when we don't know what he has been given? I could risk killing him quicker if I gave him something for the pain."
"What's happening?" Bruce asked as he arrived back.
"Sir, Master Dick just had a really bad bout of pain. He seems to have fainted."
"Is he ok?" Bruce asked the Doctor.
"Well he certainly isn't in pain now." The Doctor told him tersely. "I'm sorry I shouldn't have snapped at you. I just feel so frustrated not being able to help him adequately." She added quickly.
They all turned as Dick moaned and began to come around.
"Who hit me?" he asked.
"Haven't lost your sense of humour yet I see, so I guess there's hope yet for you." Bruce told him trying to sound upbeat.
"Ok I guess we had better get on with that wash." Beth suggested. "May make you feel a little fresher at least."
Bruce was sat in the chair beside the bed reading the book Alfred had so thoughtfully packed in the overnight case.
Dick had been sleeping on and off all morning, thankfully he had not had another bout of pain as bad as the one earlier, although he had been troubled by short spasms on and off.
Beth popped her head around the door.
"Mr Wayne there's a lady at the ward entrance asking to see you. She says she's your P.A. Security asked me to check with you."
"Ok I'll come and see."
Bruce dropped his book on the side table and followed Beth out, and made his way to the main doors.
Margaret was stood patiently waiting on the outside.
"Its ok," Bruce indicated to the Policeman guarding the door. "I will vouch for her." Bruce held the door for Margaret to pass through.
"Pheww! It's like trying to get into Fort Knox!" she declared.
"I know but it's to stop anyone getting to Dick, seeing as its attempted murder, well so far anyway." Bruce explained.
"How is he anyway?" She asked.
"Come and see for yourself." Bruce guided her towards the cubicle. "I'm afraid they will only let you stay five minutes though"
"He's asleep." She observed as she neared the bed.
"Just speak to him." Bruce told her.
"Dick." Margaret spoke softly. "Dick sweetie."
Dick slowly opened his eyes. He drew in a breath through his nose.
"Hi Margaret." He said as if exhaling.
"Hey, how you doing?" she asked him in the motherly fashion she reserved exclusively for addressing Dick.
"Oh you know. Still here I guess." Dick smiled.
"Look I've brought you this." She showed him the balloon she had brought with her. "They wont allow flowers on this ward. I'll tie it to the headboard." She told him as she did so. The brightly coloured balloon proclaimed 'GET WELL SOON'.
"Then there's this." She produced a large envelope from her bag. "It's been signed by everyone." Noticing Dick was having a problem moving she added. "Shall I open it for you?"
Margaret pulled out the card from the envelope and showed the front to Dick. It had a cute teddy bear in a hospital bed on the front. Then she opened it and showed him the numerous signatures and messages.
"Would you read some of them to me?" Dick asked her. "I seem to be having a problem focusing."
"Of course sweetheart." Margaret began to read some of the names out with the comments.
"The card says 'Heard you were feeling poorly, hope you will soon be hale and hearty'
Betty signed and put, 'Get well soon." Then some of the typing pool signed, some of their comments are unrepeatable. Of course there are hundreds of kisses." Margaret laughed. She continued to read out some of the other messages.
"Oh and some of the businesses we deal with have asked that I pass on get well messages to you." Margaret remembered to add.
"Tell everyone thanks, its really kind of them." Dick bid her.
"Of course I will."
"Margaret I'm sorry but…" Bruce began.
"I know. I've got to go darling; I need to get back anyway. I only popped in my lunch break."
Margaret stooped and kissed Dick on the forehead.
"You fight this you hear." She whispered into his ear. She kissed him again. "Love you."
Margaret moved to the door.
"Bruce don't worry, everything is being dealt with at the office. Most people who have called have understood the situation. So you wont need to bother about anything there."
"Thank you Margaret, I knew I could rely on you to keep things running smoothly. Would you thank everyone for their patience too?" Bruce asked her.
"I will. There's no need to come out, I'll find my own way." Margaret took Bruce's hand and squeezed it. "You take care of that young man of yours." Margaret told him as Bruce had started to accompany her.
"Ok and thanks again." Bruce told her, his gratitude apparent in his eyes.
Margaret smiled as she turned to leave. She had nothing but admiration for this man. There had been a time when she had thought she was falling in love with him, maybe she still was? She had been tempted to kiss him just then. She felt she was lucky just to be able to work for him, and was totally devoted and loyal. She was used to his foibles and sometimes-odd behaviour, having been with him for many years, since being recruited from the typing pool.
She grinned to herself as an analogy sprung to mind. She could see herself as being Miss Moneypenny to his James Bond.
"Steady on old girl." She mentally admonished herself, shaking her head to dispel the thoughts.
The Room was richly furnished in rich reds and gold's. Well room was not quite an accurate description of the space. The walls were formed by heavily embroidered drapes, falling from a central point almost tent like. Never the less it was a large area, divided from the cavernous expanse of the building that was currently Kai Han's centre of operations. At either side of the 'entrance' stood two commanding elaborately carved jade Dragons.
Ornately carved tables were dotted around each one bearing a vase or ornament. On a sideboard was a rack holding a set of swords.
The air was thick with incense that spiralled up from burners dotted about.
On a low divan a bored young oriental looking woman wearing a skintight black sheath of a dress, split to mid thigh, and high-heeled jewelled sandals was laid idly leafing through a magazine and smoking a long cigarette.
Over to the left of the room was a huge desk. This too was elaborately ornate.
Kai Han was sat in a large chair behind it. He was immaculately resplendent in an Armani suit. His crisp shirt almost glowed it was so white.
In front, sat on chairs designed to make them sit lower than Kai Han were two of his cohorts.
They had their heads lowered as Kai Han berated them with a torrent of abuse in rapid Chinese.
"I have become sick and tired of your constant incompetence. How can you sit there in front of me and tell me you have nothing to report? All I need you to do is infiltrate the hospital and get me a status report on Bruce's young pup! Do you expect me to do it myself?
"N, n, n, no!" One of the men stammered. " Security is pretty tight. We tried getting someone on the cleaning staff but as it's a specialised team on I.C.U. we cant."
"Excuses, excuses, all you are giving me are excuses! I am finding it difficult to believe that Wayne is not even attempting to comply with my demands. How he will be able to live with the fact he has caused the death of someone he professes to care for I will never know." Kai Han hit the desk making everyone jump.
"I don't want to hear any more procrastinations, I want news and soon. There are only three days left before the brats demise. I will have to send Wayne another message to give him a reminder. Now get out and do what you are paid for." He said forcefully pointing in the direction of the exit. As they rose to leave Kai Han called to the woman and beckoned her towards him.
She got up from the divan sullenly and slung the magazine down. She then crushed the remains of her cigarette in the large crystal ashtray on the table at her side.
"Come here," Kai Han growled in annoyance at her slowness, "and take that look from your face. Remember you are only here because you amuse me. I can just as easily throw you back on the streets. Don't forget I have your fate in my hands. If you displease me I may decide to give you to the men to enjoy before I dispose of you!" he threatened.
The Girl changed her expression from that of sullen acceptance to that of seduction and hurried over. Inside she was shaking, as she knew what to expect when Kai Han was in a bad mood. He had taken his frustrations out on her several times and she still had the bruises to show for it.
Kai Han patted his knee indicating she should sit.
Dick had again drifted in and out of sleep. He had moaned and tried to move in his sleep but the wires and I.V. had restricted his movements. He rolled his head from side to side now and then as if trying to shake the pain away.
At each noise and movement Bruce immediately turned his attention to Dick until he was certain he had settled again, occasionally shushing him or stroking his hair back and gently reassuring him till he quietened.
Beth drifted in and out checking on Dick every half hour.
Otherwise it was very quiet. The I.C.U. was not, thankfully, very busy. There were only three other patients who were all recovering from major operations. One of those was due to be moved to the high dependency unit.
Security were thankful for this as it made their job a little easier due to there being less visitors in and out.
Bruce checked his watch. It read 5.45pm. It had been a long day so far.
As if on cue Detective Vespucci appeared.
"Mr Wayne." He greeted as he came in. "How's the young man?"
"Detective." Bruce acknowledged. "He's about the same at present. Any news?"
"Nothing right now. The Commissioner has been trying to contact Batman. He says he keeps getting an automated message. At first he said it was saying that Batman was unavailable and would get back to him. Now he says it's saying that Batman is aware of events and is investigating Mr Graysons case, and will contact the Commissioner if he learns anything."
"Hmm, I suppose its reassuring that he is helping out. I mean he was instrumental in finding my Butler Alfred. Maybe he is being low key deliberately."
"Maybe who knows with this guy? I mean I don't really like the idea of a vigilante like him running around, but even I have to agree he does get results where we haven't even got a lead." Vespucci told Bruce. "I have had reports that the Batmobile was seen around Gotham last night."
"That's good?" Bruce ventured. "Isn't it?"
"Well I suppose so." Vespucci conceded.
Bruce smiled to himself. Good old Alfred. He was obviously indulging himself. Often when he was unable to get away from some obligation, Alfred would cruise the city in the Batmobile in order to maintain a 'presence'. Bruce knew that Alfred enjoyed this immensely, and that he was more than safe within its armoured shell.
"I take it we haven't heard from Kai Han again yet?" Vespucci asked.
"No but I am sure he will not be happy at the lack of response and be in touch again soon."
"I take it then your stance is not to negotiate at all still?" Vespucci glanced at Dick as if challenging Bruce's decision.
"Detective, despite what you may think, I have an agreement with Dick not to. He has already told me he does not want me to give in whatever the consequence. It's not easy to do believe you me, but I have to respect his wishes."
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean any disrespect. I have two grown children of my own and I would find it impossible to be able to do what you are doing. I think you are both very brave." Vespucci said sympathetically. "Ok I have to go, you have my number?" Bruce nodded. "Ok call if you hear anything."
"I will. Thanks." Bruce told him. "I'll walk with you to the entrance, I need to stretch my legs."
"Its not the most comfortable of places to be for visitors is it?" Vespucci sympathised again.
"I guess not, but there is a comfortable lounge with a small kitchenette area, and a room with bunks in for family members to use."
"Oh so its not that bad then?" Vespucci conceded. "Ok Mr Wayne either myself or my partner will keep you up to date when we can. Bye for now."
Vespucci headed off down the corridor in the direction of the elevators. As the doors slid open he stood aside to allow a young girl to exit. She headed towards Bruce, who had moved across to lean against the wall opposite the I.C.U. entrance. He was gazing out of the window and didn't notice her approach.
"Bruce!" The girl greeted him warmly. Bruce spun round.
"Why Tina. I didn't see you I was miles away, I'm sorry."
"That's ok, I understand." She told him "I don't suppose there's a chance I could see Dick is there?" She asked hesitantly. "I know we were told close family only but, well, we had a draw on who would come and I won."
"I think it would be ok just this once. After all I know your parents have been kind enough treat him as one of their family, so, come on I'll take you to him." Bruce put his arm out to guide Tina. He introduced her to the Guard stood at the I.C.U. entrance, then they continued down to Dick's cubicle, after using the alcohol gel.
Beth was at the bedside just finishing the obs.
"I'm just doing my last check, then I'm off duty." She told Bruce. "The night shift nurse will be Katie. I will introduce you to her before I go," she noticed Tina, "and I'm guessing you must be his girlfriend?"
Tina blushed. A small chuckle came from Dick who was awake.
"Well not exactly, I'm just a school friend. I got nominated to come visit."
"OOPS sorry. Me and my big mouth. Ok I will pop back before I go with Katie." She bustled out.
Bruce indicated that Tina should approach the bed.
"I will leave you two alone whilst I go visit the bathroom then get a drink. Ok?"
"Thanks Bruce." Tina acknowledged as she sat in the chair Bruce had vacated earlier.
"Hi babe." She greeted Dick gently. "How you feeling?"
Dick turned his head to look at her. She was startled by how pale he was, but tried not to convey her distress to Dick.
"Shitty." Dick summed his condition up in one word.
"Oh that good." Tina forced a laugh. "Honestly?"
"Honestly." Dick grinned. "You got the short straw then?"
"We all wanted to come but Alfred told us that visiting was restricted because you were so poorly and because of security." She told him. Oh I've got this, she held up another 'Get Well' balloon. Its from all of us." She explained. "Who brought the other one?"
"Margaret came by earlier." Dick said. "You can tie that one on there too if you like?" Tina obliged.
"I've got several cards too. The younger kids all made one for you."
"That's nice thanks, Tina I, I'm. Could you open them for me and tell me what they say. I'm struggling to do anything much. I'm kinda weak. Sorry."
"Of course I will babe." Tina opened the first card in the pile and read the greeting. She held up the hand made cards in turn for him to see.
Noticing Dick looked a little distressed she paused.
"Hey what wrong?" She asked concerned.
"Oh, nothing, well, its just a bit…. You know? Having everyone be so nice." He stammered.
"You know we all love you to bits." Tina told him. "Judging by the amount of flowers, soft toys and cards accumulating downstairs so do a lot more people!"
"You're kidding me?" Dick looked startled.
"Nope! I had a quick look at some of the cards and I didn't recognise one name. You're obviously quite a celebrity."
"Yer, right." Dick said with some disbelief.
"No its true. They keep speculating as to your condition and what the outcome will be on all the news channels and in the papers. They have so called experts pontificating all the time."
"Goodness. I guess it rubbed off from Bruce?" Dick smiled.
"Dick, what just is happening?"
"Well basically, I was poisoned, and I only have a few days to live unless they discover the antidote."
"Oh please no!" Tina put her hand over her mouth. "Have they no idea what it is then?"
"Not yet. This guy Kai Han has the antidote and wants Bruce to get two of his men outta prison, then he will hand it over. Or so he says." Dick explained.
"But they are not going to do as he asks?" Tina said with some disbelief.
"Nope. I told Bruce he had better not either." Dick told her. "If I die then so be it."
Tina felt the tears well up in her eyes.
"How can you say that?" she cried.
"Because I have faith that Bruce will find a means to get the antidote in time. But I'm not afraid to die either."
"Oh Dick, is it really that bad?"
"Tina please. It's taking me all I have to keep going right now. I need you, and the other guys to be strong for me."
Tina hung her head ashamed to have become so upset in front of Dick.
"Hey come on cheer up. Give me a hug?" Dick asked her. " I can't really managed to give you one right now. I seem to remember you offering to give me a hug if I ever needed one."
Tina sat on the edge of the bed and slipped one arm around Dick's shoulders and the other across his chest encircling him. She hugged him gently putting her cheek against his, turning her head briefly to kiss his cheek. His head dropped against her shoulder.
"How's That?" she asked him softly.
"It feels real good." Dick assured her. "Real good. Thank you."
"That looks cosy." Bruce commented as he came back. "Tina I'm sorry but I have to ask you to go now. The Doctor has said to limit the time of anyone visiting to about five minutes. I hope you understand?"
"Sure, I understand." Tina extricated herself then bent over and kissed Dick gently on the lips. "See you later babe." She told him.
"I hope so." Dick told her. "Tell the guys thank you."
"I will, and don't you go giving up on us now, y'hear." She ordered him. Kissing him again she turned to Bruce.
"Thank you for letting me visit." Tina placed her hand on Bruce's arm
"It must be so hard for you too. You take care of Dick and yourself." Tina stood on tiptoes and gave Bruce a quick peck on the cheek, then turned and hurried away before anyone noticed the tears welling up.
Bruce stood for a moment his hand on his cheek where Tina had just kissed him. It was a fleeting gesture he wasn't accustomed to. Yet it had touched him deeply as it had been sincere in its intention.
"Bruce!" Dick gasped. "Bruce!" he cried out "Help me!"
Dick's whole body was contorted with pain; sweat was pouring from him a he tried to sit up. Bruce hit the alarm button then grabbed hold of Dick and held him close in an embrace. Dick grasped at Bruce's clothing. He was hyperventilating. The monitor began to sound an urgent tone.
Dr Devane, Beth and another nurse hurried in.
"Mr Wayne please stand back." Dr Devane barked as Beth reset the monitor to halt its urgent siren.
Bruce tried to move away but Dick had such a grip on him it was difficult.
Beth and the other nurse came around to the bed and grasped Dick's shoulders. Dr Devane took his legs.
"Come on, lay back so we can see to you." The Doctor urged firmly.
"I cant, I cant. Please! No, no, no, no." Dick's cries were becoming frantic.
"Give me a minute." Bruce asked the Doctor. "Dick, come on now, listen to me. Listen to me!"
Dick had his head buried in Bruce's shoulder and he was shaking visibly.
"Dick listen to me, hear me. You know how to do this; we've done this before. Come on take a deep breath in. Come on, a deep breath in. That's it, now let it out." Bruce instructed him.
"Keep listening to my voice, follow what I tell you. I know you are in a lot of pain, come on. Do as I say."
Bruce quietly and gently began to talk Dick through a routine of relaxation. Instructing him to sink mentally deeper into a place where he was free of pain. It was almost hypnotic. Eventually Dick began to visibly relax and the tremors ceased. Bruce carefully lay him back down on the bed.
"Wow that was impressive." The Doctor declared. "Where did you learn to do that?"
"Oh it was part of some martial arts training I did." Bruce said dismissively.
"Well it certainly worked."
"It kinda only works on Dick because I guess he trusts me. I never had it work properly on anyone else." Bruce explained.
"No matter. At least he seems peaceful now. I'll just check him over."
As the Doctor did so Beth introduced the second Nurse to Bruce.
"This is Katie she will be on duty tonight."
Bruce acknowledged her with a nod.
"Ok I think he is alright now. Well as all right as he can be. I'll be back in about half an hour unless he has another attack like that before then."
"Thank you Doctor." Bruce took up his station in the chair beside the bed again. Katie adjusted the sheet covering Dick and checked that the I.V. tube was still running smoothly.
The Doctor hurried away. Beth leaned over Dick and bid him goodnight, then left with Katie.
"Bruce, I'm sorry for making such a fuss." Dick said so softly Bruce could barely hear him.
"Hey it alright. I know you're in terrible pain, its understandable." Bruce assured him.
"I held it in when Tina was here, didn't want to let on, would have upset her too much." Dick's voice drifted away.
"I know, but you must rest now." Bruce insisted.
Dick shifted slightly uncomfortably.
"Bruce, it's getting worse, I thought it was bad before but now…" Dick screwed his eyes shut.
"What do you want me to do? Should I give in to Kai Han's demands?" Bruce asked him.
"No never." Dick said firmly. "Never. He may not keep his side of the bargain anyway."
"Ok, I hear you. Now try and rest. You want me to help you again?"
Dick had spent a restless night, the pain had got worse and he had begun to retch on and off. Having nothing solid in his stomach it had only added to the agonising spasms of intense pain.
As the clock ticked around to 7am he sank into a fitful sleep. Bruce was exhausted. Being awake all night was nothing new but this was taking its toll. He was beginning to get really worried. He felt so helpless
His calls to Professor Bergstrom had met with disgruntled annoyance, so he had no idea as to the progress he was making. He knew though that the professor was doing his job, he was always a just little grumpy when working.
During the night the Doctor had suggested that they were going to consider putting Dick on life support if and when his condition deteriorated further, hopefully buying them more time. The idea filled Bruce with dread. It had a ring of finality about it.
"Bruce." Dick croaked. He was now so weak he could barely talk.
"I'm here." Bruce told him softly. "Shhh."
"Bruce, I need to talk with you. I need to tell you…" Another spasm cut through him. "If I'm gonna die, what I want you to do."
"Time for that later." Bruce tried to stop him.
"No! Now, whilst I still can." Dick forced the words out. "Please."
"Ok, ok, Calm down."
Dick drew in a sharp breath noisily as another wave of pain swept over him.
"Let me get the nurse then she can be a witness."
Bruce was just about to leave when Beth appeared.
"Good morning." She greeted them both warmly.
"Good morning, I was just coming to find you." Bruce smiled. "You must have read my mind."
"Is something wrong?" She asked concerned, moving across to the bed.
"I need to tell Bruce what I want him to do when, no, if I die." Dick struggled to explain.
"I was going to ask if you would write it down and be a witness? I would like it to be as legal as possible."
"Of course I will." Beth acceded. "Let me go get a notepad."
"There ok? Now just try not to get upset." Bruce sat on the edge of the bed and patted Dick's hand.
"Ok I'm good to go!" Beth breezed in again with a pad and her pen poised.
"Ok take it slowly. Ok?" Bruce told Dick firmly. He knew this was going to be one of the hardest things he was ever going to have to listen to. He had to be strong but he could already feel the sadness rising in his chest.
He turned and sat with his back to the headboard and slipped his arm around Dick, so that he was cradled against his shoulder. This way He could hide his face so as not to betray his emotions to Dick.
"You comfortable? Ok?" Beth pulled the chair Bruce had just vacated across to the bottom of the bed and sat pen at the ready.
Dick nodded, then paused as the agonising paroxysm overtook him again. Bruce hugged him close till it passed.
"Ok". Dick began. "First, Bruce please promise me you wont be too sad, don't mourn me too long. Please. Just remember all the good times we had. Don't do like you did over your Mom and Dad"
"I'll do my best."
"I would like to be buried with my Mom and Dad and I want my old circus costume to be buried with me." Dick paused to allow Beth to catch up. "I would have liked to have worn it, but I reckon I've outgrown it now." Dick smiled weakly.
"I'm sure that can be arranged." Bruce agreed.
"There's that old chest at the back of the closet. I haven't opened it since I came to live with you. It's got all the archives of the Flying Graysons in it, right back to the very first ones. Photos and flyers and stuff. Even some film and videos of some performances."
Dick tensed up, fighting the next wave of pain.
"Bruce, the key for it's on my key ring. Take a look at it all, anything you don't want to keep, maybe you could give it to a museum? If you think it would be useful?"
"I guess I haven't got much else, but I want Alfred to have my Crash helmet, the one with the painted bird on it. He has always admired it.
My friends might like to raid my t-shirts." Dick laughed softly. "Well they are always trying to borrow them. Everything else is yours, such as it is."
"Ok, but what about your money?"
"Dick you aint exactly destitute you know."
"I know you have never spent all your allowance so that will have accumulated plus the interest. I also made some investments on your behalf, which will have amassed a sizeable amount, plus the trust fund I have set up for you."
"How much we talking about?"
Bruce whispered in Dick's ear. Dick's eyes widened.
"Nope, and that was last time I checked, could be more by now."
"Oh my!" Dick curled up again "Argh!" He gasped.
It took a while before the pain subsided enough for him to continue. He grasped Bruce's hand for support.
"Ah." He breathed in as the pain dropped to a point where he could cope again.
"In that case I think I would like you to set up a grant scheme so that orphans like me can get funding to go to college or university or get some training. Also get grants to start up a business if they have a good idea."
"That's a wonderful idea. You could call it the Grayson Trust or something." Beth interjected. "Oops Sorry."
"No its ok, I agree." Bruce assured her.
Dick lay with his eyes closed trying to deal with the pain, his head rested against Bruce's shoulder. Bruce could feel, by the heaviness of his head, that Dick was exhausted by his efforts.
"I'm sorry Bruce." He whispered. "This is just too hard." A tear trickled from the corner of his eye and down his cheek, to be soaked up by Bruce's sleeve.
It was all Bruce could do to stop his own tears from welling up. Beth too was visibly moved.
"Sweetheart can you manage to sign this?" She handed Dick the pen as he nodded.
Bruce took the pad and held it for him. Dick scrawled his signature, and Beth taking back the pen, signed too.
"Ok I'll leave you two alone for a while."
Dick remained resting against Bruce. The warmth from his body seemed to ease his own tormented body a little. As he was drifting off he felt Bruce run the back of his fingers down his cheek. It felt so comfortable, this rare expression of affectionate intimacy from Bruce.
His mind drifted back to a time he remembered when his Dad had wrapped him in a blanket and held him in his arms when he had been ill with, had it been measles? No matter, he just remembered that feeling of being warm, comfortable and safe, and, no matter how ill he felt, that his Dad could make it better.
"Bruce, promise me one more thing. Bring Kai Han to justice." Dick said in an almost absent minded way.
Bruce could no longer hold back his tears, but he didn't make a sound so as not to give himself away. Dick looked quite peaceful laid cradled in his arm. His breathing told him that he had, now, thankfully, fallen asleep. He felt a kind of contentment he had not felt before, despite the desperate situation. He laid his head back against the headboard and closed his eyes.
He had to get out and see if he could track down Kai Han.
Dick stirred again. Pain cruelly rousing him.
"Bruce, its ok. You don't have to stay I will be alright." He said as if he had read Bruce's thoughts.
"Bruce I know you. You need to get out and do something. I don't mind. Honest."
Bruce sat forward. Drawing his arm from around Dick he turned to face him.
"But I promised…"
"I wont hold you to it." Dick interrupted. "By my reckoning I've got another day. So whatever happens you can be back for when, well you know. I think I would like you to be here then."
"Are you sure?"
"Bruce will you get outta here."
"Ok but I will call Alfred and get him to come and sit with you."
"Fair enough. Now go on times a wasting."
Bruce felt so guilty as he sat in the back of the cab heading back to the Manor. Alfred had made sure his car had been taken back there after he had abandoned it.
He had called Alfred and he was already on his way to the hospital to sit with Dick.
Mentally he estimated the time he needed and his course of action. He knew that he had to work fast that was for sure, so he needed to plan very carefully, albeit rapidly.
Paying the cabbie he hurried into the house and headed straight to the Batcave, via his study,
hidden deep below the Mansion. Alfred had thoughtfully left the lighting on and had booted up the various high tech computers and machines. The Batmobile was sat brooding on its pad. Bruce knew it too would be fuelled up and ready to go.
He was just about to don his suit when the phone rang. It was the diverted line from the main house.
"Bruce Wayne." He announced.
"Ah Bruce." It was Commissioner Gordon. "They said you were at home taking a break. Just thought you should know. The Gotham Times just received a letter, purporting to be From Kai Han."
"What's he want now?"
"Well nothing more than he already demanded. He just said he thought you were a very cruel father and asked how you could stand by and watch your son die like that. Well that sort of thing. He addressed the question to the paper anyway."
"Bastard!" Bruce spat.
"I'm sorry?" Gordon sounded shocked.
"Me too, forgive the outburst. It's been a strain to say the least. Does he think I'm enjoying this?"
"Who knows what he thinks."
"Have you heard from Batman?" Bruce asked him. The irony of this question not escaping him.
"No I just keep getting an automated response saying he is on the case. I'm told he has been seen out and about. In fact I was going to try again after I spoke with you."
"Ok. Commissioner, I gather there has been no response to the reward offer either."
"Not as yet."
"Ok well I'll up it another $25000."
"Very well Bruce. I'll call if there's any more news." Gordon broke the connection.
Within a couple of minutes the direct line into the cave rang.
Bruce snatched the receiver up.
"Batman at last. I thought I would never get a hold of you."
"Commissioner, I can assure you had no need to worry. I was out searching. Seeing as Mr Grayson has so little time I didn't want to waste any of it waiting for your call. I thought my message would have made that clear."
"Yes I'm sorry it's just that, well, I'm sorry." The commissioner was apologetic. He knew that Batman was probably right. "I'll let you do your job then." Gordon rang off.
Bruce felt a little bad at having been so abrupt, but it was just a fleeting feeling as he hurried to don his suit.
He was just about to hurry over to the Batmobile when something caught his eye.
He smiled as he picked up the foil wrapped sandwich and flask Alfred had so thoughtfully left for him.
Whether or not he would have the time or even remember to eat it was another matter.
Starting the engine he set the clock on the dashboard to countdown the time left. Settling himself more comfortably in the seat and strapping himself in, he took a deep breath and roared off down the tunnel.
DAY FOUR. (AM)
The ward was hushed. In the cubicle where Dick was laying the only sounds were the hiss and clicks from the machines. Over night he had begun to deteriorate rapidly. The doctors had taken the decision to put him on life support as they had previously discussed.
Dick lay unmoving his eyes closed.
Dr Devane knew he wasn't unconscious or asleep, but so weak he was unable to keep his eyes open or move by himself. Too weak even to react to the agony he was in. In turn this was affecting his vital organs ability to function on their own efficiently. The Doctor was hoping this would buy them some extra time.
She was still at a loss to know what else to do. Apart from an I.V. supplying him with essential fluids and nutrients there was nothing else they could do to intervene pharmacologically as any other drugs could be contraindicated until they knew the precise composition of the poison.
Alfred sat quietly by Dick's side. He had contacted Bruce several times to keep him abreast of the situation. When Alfred had told him about Dick being put on the machine he had wanted to return straight away. Alfred had managed to persuade him to continue on the search for Kai Han's whereabouts.
Alfred had spent the time reading and doing the crossword. Occasionally chatting with the nurse who was now permanently stationed in the cubicle. Now and again he had slipped out for a 'comfort break'. During the long night, after they had put Dick on the life support. Alfred had managed to catch some sleep, but he had found himself waking at the least sound he thought he heard Dick make.
With all the tubes and him being so very weakened Alfred knew that it would be difficult for Dick to communicate if at all. It was going to be a long vigil.
The security had advised that no other visitors besides himself and Bruce were to be allowed to see Dick. Alfred had overheard some of the relatives of the couple of other I.C.U. patients' grumble about the security measures. He had taken the time to go and speak with them. He tried to explain to them why it was necessary because of the continued threat to Dick's life. He hoped they had understood, they had made all the right noises but it didn't mean they had done.
He sat with his eyes closed. Although not a deeply religious man he found himself offering up a silent prayer for the discovery of the antidote and Dick's recovery.
He knew that if Dick passed away it would devastate Bruce. Would he ever recover from it? Would the torment he had gone through after the death of his parents return? Would he be able to handle it again?
"Don't think like that." He gave himself a mental shake.
Beth was checking Dick and noting the data on the machines.
"You ok?" She asked noticing Alfred watching her.
"Oh, I think so, as right as anyone can be in the circumstances."
"Forgive me for saying this but you seem to be quite close to Dick. I mean where do you sort of fit in?"
"Well I'm officially Mr Wayne's butler and am employed as such," Alfred explained, "although after his parents were murdered I took care of him, so I guess we have developed a very unique bond. I've also developed a great deal of admiration and affection for this young man. He has told me he sees me more as a grandfather figure than a butler. I feel quite flattered to be thought of in that way."
"Oh that's so nice. Didn't Dick's parents get murdered too?"
"Yes." Alfred said simply, directing his gaze towards Dick. His eyes betrayed the sadness he felt. "Wont be long before he's joining them either." He thought to himself.
"I can imagine that he's quite the heart throb." Beth observed. "I know several of the other nurses have expressed their envy at me and Katie getting to take care of him and meet Mr Wayne too." She added. "I have to say he is rather cute to say the least." She cocked her head on one side to look at Dick.
"You don't know how many times I've heard that. As Dick has got older that type of attention has certainly grown. Would you believe there is a 'fan club' on the Internet for him?"
"You are joking?"
"No. You should see some of the things they write about him on there! What some of them say they would like to do with him is certainly unrepeatable. There is a similar site for Mr Wayne."
"What do they both think about it?"
"Oh I doubt they visit the sites, but I think they both view it with some amusement." Alfred told her. "I actually had to point out the sites to them, when I stumbled across them. Dick's initial response was bemusement at why. Bruce is used to the media's attention so it didn't bother him in the least."
"Aww. I will have to have a look, maybe join." Beth giggled. "I've become a fan of yours already." She addressed Dick smoothing his hair back gently. "I think you are so brave."
She blushed. "I'm sorry, that was rather unprofessional of me."
"Its alright." Alfred told her. "I'm sure he appreciated it."
"Hope so. You know, and again I hope you dont mind me saying, I do think that Mr Wayne is doing the right thing by not negotiating, hard as it is. People like, what's his name?" She paused.
"Kai Han." Alfred offered
"That's him. They shouldn't be pandered to at all. Maybe it's the only way they will get the message."
Alfred looked down at Dick.
"I know but it's the aftermath that's probably going to be more damaging. Oh I can't allow myself to believe Dick will lose the battle." Alfred rubbed his fingers hard against his brow.
"I think that as Dick was so very strong and healthy to begin with it's helped. He is obviously fighting to stay with us." Beth came around the bed and patted Alfred on the shoulder. "Oh I forgot. I noticed you doing the crosswords and stuff so I brought this in, its sudoku. I can't get into the things, I thought you may like to have a go." She retrieved a thin book from the table and handed it to Alfred.
"Thank you that was most thoughtful of you." Alfred didn't like to say he found the puzzles terribly easy, seeing as she was obviously being so kind. "Maybe they will be a distraction." He thought.
Flipping through the book he found that it also contained other puzzles of a similar vein to the sudoku ones. Towards the end of the book they were listed as very hard and did seem to present a little more of a challenge. Fishing his pen from his inside pocket he set about solving them.
Alfred rose from the chair and stretched. His eyes ached, as did his head. He felt hot and uncomfortable. The atmosphere in the I.C. was quite dry he felt.
"I'm going to take a break and nip down to the canteen and get a drink and a bite to eat." He told Beth. "I shouldn't be too long."
"Ok, don't worry if anything happens I'll have you paged."
Alfred stooped over the bed. He put his hand gently on Dick's shoulder.
"Dick, I'm just going to get a drink and some food. I wont be long I promise. You are in safe hands with Beth here. Ok I wont be gone long."
Although Dick didn't respond Alfred felt that he had heard him and understood.
"See you in a bit." He told Beth as he left.
Once away from the ward he found a quiet corner and called Bruce.
"Alfred. What's happening?" Batman answered the call with trepidation in his voice.
"Sir things are much the same at present. Dick's condition hasn't changed since last I spoke with you. How are you doing?"
"There have been some significant developments, but Kai Han is proving as elusive as ever. Alfred I haven't time to go into details now I'm following a lead."
"I understand Sir. I'll call if anything happens here." Alfred broke the connection.
Alfred sat at a table in the canteen watching the people going about their lives. Nurses, Doctors and interns hurrying and bustling in and out like a tide ebbing and flowing. Men and women with worry etched on their faces, wandered in, unsure of just what to do. Mothers scolded wayward children, bored by the whole experience, who in turn howled in protest. At points around the large room a solitary figure of a man or a woman, seemingly numb with shock or grief, sat staring out, or studying the untouched drink in front of them, in much the same way as Alfred, appearing to be unaware of the chaos around them.
He picked at the sandwich. It had looked more appetising when it had been in its wrapper, but the bread had proved to be soggy, the salad limp, and the 'meat' in no way at all resembled the description given. He pushed the plate away. At least the coffee had been passable. He had considered the tea but as usual that struggled to resemble anything like tea either.
He glanced at his watch. He had been away merely half an hour. It felt longer. A shadow fell across him as someone slid into the seat opposite.
"Mind if I sit here?"
Alfred shrugged and muttered an acceptance. There did seem to be several empty tables.
"You're Alfred Pennyworth aren't you?" The stranger asked.
Alfred looked up in suprise.
"Err yes and whom might you be?" Alfred replied a little hesitantly. He looked the man over suspiciously.
He was a little on the 'stout' side and was sweating as if he wasn't used to exerting himself. His face was a little florid. He had dropped a tan raincoat over the back of the chair beside him. He was wearing a shirt and tie, pulled loose, and black jeans.
"Possibly press." Alfred concluded.
"My names Kellerman, I'm from…"
"The Gazette." Alfred interrupted him recognising the name.
"You got me."
"What can I do for you? As if I didn't know." Alfred asked his voice dripped with sarcasm.
"I was hoping that I could get an exclusive story."
"Just how did you manage to get in here anyway? Security is pretty tight." Alfred continued.
"Oh I got lucky, my dear Mother-in-law took ill and I had to visit with the wife. So I thought it was too good an opportunity to miss."
"Really, you don't say?" Alfred was making no effort to disguise his annoyance. "I don't think it is my place to offer any comments at this time." He said making his English accent all the more pronounced.
"Aw come on buddy, I mean what would it hurt to tell me how Dick is doin'."
"I am not your 'buddy' and I repeat. It is not my place to comment on such medical issues." Alfred began to rise from his chair. "Now if you will excuse me."
Kellerman stood up too.
"Oh come on Mr Pennyworth I mean we haven't had any info on what's happening, The Times got the letter from Kai Han, but nothing else has been said." He was out of breath already trying to keep pace with Alfred. "I mean why isn't Bruce Wayne here with him? Not exactly the actions of the 'anxious parent' is it?" He puffed.
Alfred stopped and pulled himself up this full height, standing as if to attention. He was hanging on to his temper by a thread.
"Mr Kellerman, I assure you Mr Wayne is more than worried, as am I. He is taking a well earned break, hence my presence here. I assure you that if I see anything in the paper suggesting otherwise you will not only incur Mr Wayne's ire but mine too."
"I suggest Mr Kellerman that you leave now before I am forced to call security." Alfred turned smartly on his heel and marched off leaving Kellerman standing."
There hadn't been any significant change in Dick's condition. Alfred had alerted the security to the presence of the press and they had taken extra measures.
The two detectives, Vespucci and Bateman had dropped by briefly, but they had wanted to speak to Bruce. Alfred had told them that Bruce didn't want to be disturbed at home. As they hadn't any real new information they left the message with Alfred.
Shortly after Commissioner Gordon had popped in. He too had wondered why Bruce didn't seem to be taking any calls. Alfred explained that Bruce needed a break and that he would be returning soon.
"He may have switched the phones off as the press have been pestering him." He told Gordon. "They still 'ring' as far as the caller is concerned."
Gordon had seemed a little uncomfortable when stood beside the bed. As Dick seemed unresponsive he was at a loss to know what to say. He offered his get-well tidings, made his apologise and left.
Alfred had resumed his vigil. He had updated Bruce on events earlier. He has assured Alfred he would be back sometime in the late evening.
The hiss and click of the machines had a somewhat hypnotic effect and Alfred found himself nodding off. He kept jerking awake, but eventually lost the battle.
The Nurses had changed shifts and Katie was now on duty.
"Alfred." She shook his arm gently. "Alfred."
He jumped awake, startled.
"What? Is it? Dick?"
"I'm sorry to startle you. No Dick's still the same." Katie apologised. "I brought you a drink."
"Thank you my dear." Alfred felt rather silly at his outburst.
"Mr Wayne called, he asked me to tell you he is on his way. He says he shouldn't be too long, maybe fifteen or twenty minutes."
"Thank you again."
"That's ok, all part of the service." Katie smiled. She quite liked this polite older gentleman. He had an air of no nonsense efficiency about him. Yet he had shown a softer side, one she thought he didn't show easily. She imagined he would be quite a formidable person if crossed.
She resumed her seat at the desk and busied herself with the charts and paperwork.
Alfred sipped the drink appreciatively.
The morning news anchorman was giving a report on the financial and other problems plaguing one Gotham's civic dignitaries, since he had been caught with a prostitute. He paused briefly, pressing his finger to his earpiece.
"I have just heard that there is a spokesperson for Gotham's City Hospital preparing to give a statement. I'm going to hand over to our reporter Matt Hart at the hospital. Matt, can you tell us what's happening?"
The picture jumped to the scene outside the main entrance of the Hospital. Reporters and cameramen could be seen hustling to get the best vantage point. The cameraman taking the pictures panned round and the reporter came into view.
"Ok, Jason, we have been told to stand by for a report on Richard Greyson, Bruce Wayne's adopted son. This is the first statement since we learned of him being poisoned almost five days ago."
"Matt do you have any indication as to what the situation is"
"Not yet, they have told us that the statement will be read in a few moments time, they are just giving us all time to assemble before they do."
"Have we seen Bruce Wayne at all? Is he there?"
"No Jason, I haven't seen him, in fact there have been rumblings that he hasn't even been here all the time. Of course we have no proof of that he may just have been keeping a low profile. It can't have been easy for him. Especially after Kai Hans accusations in the press that Mr Wayne was not concerned in any way about Dick's welfare, as he would not negotiate for the release of the antidote."
"Thank you Matt, I understand there has been much speculation about that, but even the police have remained tight lipped as to what their course of action has been."
"Yes Jason that's right…Hold on I think they are ready to make the statement!"
The cameraman zoomed in to the area where some microphones had been set up. The flash of bulbs and whirling clicks of cameras could already be heard. Reporters with hand held recorders jostled for a place. Others, with pencils poised, stood as close as they could get.
The doors of the hospital slid open with a hiss. Two security guards stood aside and allowed a grim looking Dr Devane followed by Commissioner Gordon to walk between them. They walked over to the microphones. Dr Devane was holding a single sheet of paper.
Gordon stood to one side and gestured to Dr Devane to approach the microphones.
The flash of lights and click, whirl of cameras increased alarmingly. Dr Devane held up her hand, trying to indicate she was about to speak.
After a few moments the noise settled to a point where she felt she could begin. She cleared her throat as a means to assess the mikes sound levels. She paused and began again.
"Thank you," She nodded to the waiting press. "I'm Dr Verion Devane. I have a short statement to make. I will not be taking questions afterwards. A copy of the statement will be made available to you."
She shifted uncomfortably; she wasn't used to doing this kind of thing and felt extremely nervous. She drew in a deep breath and lifted the paper.
"It is with great sadness that I have to announce that Richard John Grayson passed away at ten minutes past six this morning."
She paused again to let the news sink in. After a slight pause the assembled press went wild and the noise reached a crescendo. Despite being told that no questions would be taken questions were being shouted from all sides. It became impossible for Dr Devane to continue with the statement. Gordon shouted something in her ear and then took her elbow and guided her back inside the hospital. The security guards took up a position either side of the doors.
The camera panned out again and the reporter came into the shot.
"Sad news Jason. It was certainly a no frills statement and we still have no idea as to any details. Maybe when we see the full statement it will tell us more."
"Sad news indeed. Matt, will you stay there in case there are any further developments or statements?"
"Of course Jason. We will be here for a while yet."
The news anchorman shuffled his papers and continued with an obviously pre prepared 'tribute' to Dick. Showing clips of him appearing with Bruce and some archive footage someone had been able to dig up of him performing with his parents.
In Kai Han's lair his men were creeping about, trying to avoid his attention. He had been sat brooding for some time after hearing the news of Dick's death.
He wasn't sure at this point just what to do.
The men he had despatched to the hospital had been unable to gain access to the I.C.U. but had brought back confirmation that Wayne's brat was truly dead.
Although he had no remorse he found it hard to believe that Wayne had let it go so far. He had even been so audacious as to shun him totally, not responding in any way to his demands.
Had he underestimated this man?
The more he sat there and ruminated on the situation the angrier he became.
The young woman was sat on the sofa watching him. She was afraid to move in case she made him angrier. She knew from experience he was unpredictable and could change from this silent sullen mood to one of explosive violent conniption in a flash.
Suddenly Kai Han slammed his fist down on the desk with a tremendous crash, making the young woman jump. She cowered back the storm was breaking!
As if to echo her fears Kai Han began to wage a war on his surroundings, shouting and yelling violent threats and curses in rapid Chinese.
He picked up a vase and threw it in her direction it shattered on the floor beside the sofa.
He rampaged through the space tearing and breaking everything he could. He seemed to have forgotten that the woman was there. She had managed to hide cowering behind the heavy sofa.
No one came to her rescue.
His tirade lasted for several minutes, till with one almost superhuman effort Kai Han grasped the edge of his huge ornate desk and lifting, upended it.
He stood panting looking around as if to find something else to destroy, he noticed the sofa and headed towards it. Hearing the woman's squeak of fear, he leaned over the back of it.
He grabbed her by the hair and dragged her over the back. He held her down by her throat, spitting vile and vulgar threats.
Gasping she fought vainly to escape but this only fuelled his anger.
With his free hand he grabbed the neck of her dress and with one short sharp tug he ripped it open.
She again tried to fight back, slapping his hands away, now fearful for her life.
Laughing Kai Han slapped her hard across the face, stunning her.
He dragged her to her feet still holding on to her hair. Holding her at arms length he looked her up and down. Then he kicked her feet from under her and she fell backwards onto the floor, shards of pottery and glass crunching under her body. He knelt down his knees astride her then sat on her.
He hit her across the face again and again until her ears rang and she felt that she was about to pass out.
All she could hear was his maniacal laughter.
She felt him grab her bra and rip that from her body, then he hooked his fingers in her panties and they too were torn apart.
She had squeezed her eyes shut, tears where streaming down her face, her nose running with blood and mucous.
Over and over he hit and punched her, till after what had seemed like forever he flipped her over onto her stomach.
She knew her nightmare was only just now beginning.
Outside the men he employed stood with downcast eyes. They knew only to well what was happening to the woman. They also knew that to intervene was suicidal.
Besides, they told themselves by way of salving their consciences; she had only been a two-bit whore and drug addict.
Some of the men had already slunk off. They had no intentions of hanging around to be abused. It wasn't worth it.
Batman sat in Commissioner Gordon's office, He had his cape drawn around him and his head down so Gordon couldn't see his face clearly.
"So what have we got so far?" Batman asked, his voice low.
"Well we were able to pick up a couple of guys from the crowd in front of the hospital. They were known to us for other crimes. So far we have no other leads. That where we were hoping you could help."
"I want to question the two you picked up. Is that ok?"
Batman stood and went to the door.
"I want to bring Kai Han to justice, he cannot be allowed to get away again. I feel responsible as he escaped me before. This man is very clever though and seems to have a sixth sense as to when he is in danger of being detected and located. Its almost as if someone is hiding him."
"I agree Batman, I am sure Bruce Wayne will be most grateful to you, as we will be."
Commissioner Gordon spoke to an empty room. Batman had vanished.
"I wish he wouldn't keep doing that!" He declared.
Batman's questioning of the two detained in the cells had proved somewhat fruitful. Free of the usual constraints he was able to employ a rather more hands on approach.
Armed with the information he had been able to locate Kai Hans last known hide out.
He stood on the roof of the building opposite and surveyed the scene. The building he was watching had once been a large nightclub and dance hall. Remnants of fly posters advertising long gone bands and events plastered the walls.
Most of the windows were painted, so he couldn't see in. In the short time he had been watching there had been no movement or activity.
Had the information been bogus or was he too late. Kai Han seemed to have a sixth sense when it came to knowing he was about to be found and always managed to slip away. Had it happened this time?
Whatever happened Batman remembered his promise to Dick that he would bring Kai Han to justice. He would continue to pursue him however long it took. He couldn't afford to allow this man to destroy everything he held dear.
Deploying his grappling hook he swung over to the roof of the defunct nightclub. Surveying the roof he decided that a direct approach was going to be better.
"Damn the consequences." He thought to himself.
Sliding down the rope he landed lightly on the cracked pavement close to the front of the building.
The double doors were padlocked but batman made short work of cutting the padlock. He opened the doors a fraction and slipped inside.
The foyer was dark, dank and damp, paint peeled from the walls and ceiling. Abandoned signs were piled to one side. Continuing on Batman, using his torch, tried each door off the foyer in turn. After he had tried a couple he hit on the one leading to the main hall. He slipped through the door and stood surveying the scene.
It was one of total destruction. Heavy drapes dangled from the ceiling, torn down in places with holes torn in them. Inside the drapes the scene was even worse. Broken furniture, pottery and glass were mixed together.
Batman scouted around the room, before turning his attention back to the centre's chaos.
He stopped silent and still. He had heard something.
A small sound alerted his attention to the overturned sofa. He made his way over to it.
Huddled, on her side, in a tight ball was a woman. She was totally naked and obviously in some distress. He body betrayed the evidence of having endured a sustained and vicious beating.
She gave a small whimper.
Batman knelt beside her.
"Its Ok don't be frightened, I'm going to help you. Can you tell me who did this to you?" He asked her.
The woman just tried to curl up even tighter, whimpering with fear and shock.
Batman tore a piece of drape down and wrapped it around her. He then slipped his arm around her shoulders and lifted her. Cradling her in his arm he repeated the question.
"Kai Han." She said with difficulty through her bloody swollen lips. Her face too was swollen and bruised. One eye was totally closed. Lumps of hair had been torn out by the roots leaving her scalp sore and bleeding.
As if sensing she was safe with this strangely dressed man she let her head drop against his chest.
Batman called for an ambulance. After giving them directions he turned his attention back to the woman.
"Can you tell me where he's gone?" He asked her gently.
She gazed up at him, her head lolled back against his arm
"No, they all just left me." She began to cry, her tears mixing with the blood on her face.
Batman gently hugged her against him.
"Its ok the ambulance is on its way." He assured her. "Please if you can tell me anything…"
The woman was shaking.
"I promise I will make sure you are kept safe if you will tell me what you know. Its ok for now. I will come see you at the hospital later when you have had your injuries treated."
He assured her.
"I will make sure you are protected till then. Do you understand me?"
She nodded. The closed her eyes and slipped mercifully into unconsciousness.
Batman remained holding her until the paramedics arrived and took over. Then he slipped away.
Once the paramedics had left he began his search of the building again. It was apparent that everyone had fled. He needed to search for clues to see if there was any indication as to where they may have gone. He carefully sifted through the debris, but to no avail. Despite the destruction there where no clues.
Batman threw a half broken vase across the room in angry frustration. He stamped on another piece of broken ornament grinding it under his heel into dust.
Sat in the Batmobile he considered his options. He felt angry with himself. Kai Han had obviously got away again. He would have to re-evaluate his options. He promised himself he would pursue Kai Han to the ends of the earth if he had to.
How long he sat he didn't know. He was suddenly roused from his thoughts when the screen on he dashboard lit up, illuminating the dark cab.
It was Alfred.
"Sir is everything ok?" He asked, "It's been a while since you were in touch and you didn't seem to be answering your cell."
"I'm sorry Alfred I was a little preoccupied with my thoughts. Alfred Kai Han has disappeared again. He left a young woman behind. He had beaten her so badly she was too hurt to tell me anything. I'm going to go see her now and see if she will speak to me. If I can offer her some protection maybe she will. I'm sure Gordon will be able to offer some form of witness protection."
"Very good Sir. I hope that you can find some information that will help. Kai Han certainly leads a charmed existence. One has to wonder if he is getting some help from somewhere."
"It certainly makes you think that. Alfred I'm sorry I will check in after I have been to the hospital. Actually I think I will come home after. I'm getting rather tired."
"Very good Sir. You do not seem to have been sleeping properly at all. If you call when you leave the hospital I can have a meal ready for you, you haven't exactly been eating properly either."
"Ok Alfred I will."
Gunning the engine Batman headed off in the direction of the hospital.
The young woman was in a side room off the main ward. She lay with her eyes closed.
Batman slipped into the room.
"Please don't be afraid." He told her as her eyes opened at the sound of the door closing.
"I'm not." She mumbled groggily. The nurse had told him that the woman had been given a hefty dose of pain relief.
"You saved me." She mumbled again her swollen mouth hampering her speech. "Why?"
"Why not?" Batman asked her gently.
"I just wanted to die, if Kai Han finds out I'm here and thinks I've talked to you, he will kill me anyway. Besides I'm not worth saving."
"That's not true. Everyone deserves a chance." Batman assured her. "Look if you talk to me I have made sure that you will be taken care of. Given a new identity and a fresh start. It will be far away from here."
"You mean that? Why would you do that for me? No one ever did anything nice for me before."
"I guess there's always a first time. Don't you want Kai Han to be brought to justice?"
The woman looked away. She wasn't sure what to do. Something told her she could trust this strange black clad man, but she was so afraid. Kai Han's influence reached far and wide and she knew he would track her down eventually.
"Look think about it," Batman told her, "If you decide to talk then call this number and leave a message. I will get back to you."
"Mr," She said hesitantly, "What do they call you?"
"What do you need to know?" She asked he voice trembling.
"Anything you can tell me that will lead me to Kai Han."
"I really don't know anything. After he did this to me, well when I came to, everyone had just gone!" She began to cry.
"Its ok. Look if you can think of anything at all then call, I wont press you now. The police have a guard on the door so you are as safe as we can make you."
"Alright." She closed her eyes again the drugs making her sleep.
Back on the main ward Batman spoke to the Doctor on duty, enquiring as to the woman's condition.
"She will just about recover physically, but as to her mental state, well your guess is as good as mine." The Doctor explained. "She has quite severe injuries, including broken nose, ribs and sternum. A fractured skull and cheekbone. Her jaw was dislocated too. She has numerous cuts and bruises including internally.
On top of that she was brutally raped vaginally and anally. It looks as if a sharp foreign object was used in the rape as well. She may never be able to have children as a result of her internal injuries."
"My God!" Batman exclaimed.
"I'll say," the Doctor went on, "It's a long time since I saw anything quite so bad as this."
"The barbarian! I only hope she will be able to remember something that will give a clue to where he has flown to. I am determined to bring him to justice." Batman told her
"Well I think he aught to be given the same treatment as he gave that poor woman."
"I agree to a certain extent but he needs to feel the true force of justice. We can't let vengeance cloud our judgement. Forgive me I have to go. Thank you."
"No worries." The Doctor said to the retreating figure. To herself she thought. "Strange man, kinda nice though in an odd way."
Bruce having showered was sat at the kitchen table. He was bare footed and chested, wearing just a pair of sweat pants, and had the towel still around his neck. His hair was slicked back, still wet.
He was devouring a huge bowl of thick home made soup, tearing off lumps of fresh bread from a loaf and dipping them in the soup.
He hadn't realised how hungry he was until he had smelt the aromatic broth. He tore another piece of bread and wiped it around the bowl to collect every last scrap of food.
"Would you like some more?" Alfred enquired. "Or would you like some dessert?"
"Mmmmm, what have you got." Bruce mumbled his mouth still full.
"There is some apple pie and custard Sir." Alfred told him with a disapproving look at his master's display of bad manners.
"Sorry Alfred. Apple pie sounds fine thank you. Would there be any chance of a cup of tea too?" He asked looking a little sheepish.
"Oh I'm sure I can manage that."
Alfred cut a slice of pie and added the steaming hot creamy custard. He placed the bowl in front of Bruce who attacked it with the same gusto as he had the soup. Smiling Alfred busied himself with preparing the tea and washing the used dishes.
He turned to place the teapot on the table.
"Oh dear!" he exclaimed quietly.
Bruce had finished the apple pie and had pushed the bowl aside. He had put his head on his arms on the table and had fallen asleep.
Quietly gathering the dish up, Alfred allowed Bruce a few moments. Then he gently shook his shoulder.
"Come on young man, let's have you to bed."
Bruce stirred then opened his eyes.
"Oh Alfred I'm sorry."
"Its quite alright. I just don't think I could carry you upstairs nowadays sir."
Bruce smiled warmly.
"You haven't called me 'young man' in a while either."
"Never mind that Sir, now come on go to bed." Alfred ordered a little embarrassed that Bruce had heard him.
Bruce rose slowly from the chair and headed off upstairs to his room.
He threw himself down on the bed and immediately sank into a deep dreamless sleep.
The young woman was upset that she couldn't provide any clues as to the whereabouts of Kai Han.
Batman tried to reassure her that he wasn't angry and that despite everything she was still going to be given the chance of a new life.
Because of her facial injuries reconstructive plastic surgery was not going to be a problem. The surgeon had just informed her that he would be able to alter her appearance. Even alter her eyes so as to lose the oriental 'slant'.
"But who is going to pay for it all?" She asked. "I have no money at all."
"That has been taken care of, and before you ask, they have asked to remain anonymous. In fact all your hospital bills are being taken care of."
She cried, tears coursing down her face. Never in her life had anyone done something so kind for her.
"Is it possible for you to make sure they are thanked then?" She managed to ask through her tears.
"I am sure we can. Now you get some rest. It's going to be a tough time. We will have to do several procedures and they will be painful, so you need to build up your strength."
"I'm sure it wont be as bad as what I just went through. Thank you Doctor."
As the surgeon left Batman came into the room.
"I thought I would come and see how you are doing. I wont be able to visit you again, after today you begin the journey towards your new life so its best that you cut all ties, including your brief involvement with me." He told her.
"I just wish I had been able to be of more help. I feel pretty useless."
"Don't you worry yourself about that. You did your best."
"I just feel so, what's the word? Humble? I mean still getting all this help and all."
"You just go and make the best of the rest of your life."
"Will you still try and catch Kai Han and make him pay for what he did. I mean what he did to that poor young man. Oh I do remember something!" She exclaimed.
"What's that?" Batman pressed gently.
He used the poison on one of the men first to see how it would affect him before he used it on Mr Wayne's son. He had the body thrown into the river. I know it don't help find him but if they find the body at least they will know who killed him."
"Ok. Look I have vowed to do all I can to find him and make him pay for his crimes. I promised Mr Wayne, the police and myself. Now I make the same promise to you. I have no idea how long it will take but I will find him."
"You know you are nothing like what they say you are." The woman smiled, with difficulty. She beckoned with her finger to him. As he bent towards her she slipped her hand around his neck and pulled him closer. She kissed his cheek gently. "Thank you again. I will never forget your kindness."
Batman stood upright again and bid her goodbye.
"Goodbye." She called after him, as he seemed to just vanish before her eyes.
The morning dawned overcast and rainy. Patches of blue hinted at the promise of clearer weather later.
The kitchen was warm and inviting. The savoury aromatic fragrance of frying bacon with the more delicate undertone of mushrooms filled the room.
Alfred placed three generous sized rashers onto a thick slice of bread. Then added the sliced mushrooms. He topped it off with another equally thick slice of bread. Pressing down on the 'doorstop', (Alfred's apt description), he cut the sandwich into four.
Putting the sandwich on the table he enquired
"Yes please. I'm going to enjoy this."
"You know Alfred it's getting a bit boring just hanging about."
"I'm sure there is something you can be doing."
"I know but come on just how long am I going to be 'dead' for?"