Linny made it to the front door of Brewed Awakenings with three minutes to spare. The wooden frame surrounding the large bay window gave the outside a rustic appearance, while the interior was that of a modern coffee shop.
She glanced up and saw that the sign overhead was in the shape of a steaming mug, the café's name printed on it in bold red lettering. Through the permanently foggy window, she could see that there was a moderate amount of people lined up at the till, jittering in place as they waited for their evening caffeine fix.
There were individuals from all walks of life; impatient businessmen, burnt out college students, and exhausted housewives. Linny caught herself staring pensively as a few of them fidgeted in place; being so close to complete strangers was always awkward, sometimes uncomfortable, and had once made her squirm.
There was no way of telling who you would meet in a coffee shop. Had she not been permanently banned from the place, she would have considered stopping by more often, due to her tendencies to people watch. Linny glanced down at her own apparel and wondered if she seemed a little too conspicuous.
Seeing as it was just a coffee shop, Linny had thrown on a pair of jeans and a simple red tee, which she had then thrown a grey hoodie over. She had also put a messy bun in one of her old wigs and slipped into a pair of black flats. The finicky woman didn't usually use makeup, but had covered her own eye color with brown cosmetic contacts and the sprinkle of freckles on her cheeks with concealer, further improving her disguise.
Batting some of the brunette hair of her wig out of her face, she cautiously stepped into the small yet comfortable building, cringing as the tinkling of overhead wind-chimes announced her entrance. A few bored gazes flitted over to her before straying towards more interesting objects.
I guess I fall in with the dress code.
She stood there awkwardly, nervous as she scanned the place for a familiar face, before spotting a seemingly abandoned container sitting innocently enough on a table set in the back of the café. With a twinge in the pit of her stomach, Linny meandered towards the table, her gait casual and confident as she idly fretted over the possible contents of her "gift."
Just because I can't see him doesn't mean he doesn't have eyes and ears all over the place…Deciding that stalling would not prevent any premeditated plans from occurring, the wary blonde in disguise eyed the telltale green box, before allowing her curiosity to take over and tilting the lid off with an air of trepidation.
Having been prepared to make a run for it, in the case of more explosives rearing their ugly head, Linny would admit to being a little dumbstruck when her gaze landed on the earpiece that sat innocently enough in the box.
She wasn't too keen on the idea of having an electric device Nygma had full control over, so close to her brain, especially with his history of fiascoes involving his fondness of brainwave manipulation.
Then again, she was aware of the fact that failing to do so would get her nowhere, and potentially blown up, depending on the circumstances.
Linny glanced around, only to realize that most of the small crowd in the shop was pointedly ignoring her. The young woman took a calming breath, slipped the small device over one ear, and waited.
A series of beeps, followed by a short crackle of static, nearly made her jump out of her skin, before the noise smoothly transitioned into a familiar voice.
"Nice to see that you could make it, Ms. Portelli. I apologize for my absence, but a more pressing matter requires my attention, and I find myself needing to divide my focus appropriately." Linny nodded stiffly, fully aware that he would have eyes and ears strewn all over the place, even though scanning over crevices and corners yielded no evidence of any cameras or bugs.
"Not like I had much of a choice, but I appreciate the sentiment. Would I regret asking what other business might be preoccupying you?" A loud thump, followed by a crackle and pop, flowed out of the earpiece, the timing almost too convenient.
Sudden movement caught her eye and Linny realized that she had been standing there like an idiot. Collecting the box that her "gift" had come in, the woman waved slyly at a rough looking man staring at her through his peripheral vision from his seat, the gesture hidden as a scratch of her neck. He nodded in response, a fake yawn hiding the movement, as well as displaying the inch-long question mark brooch pinned snugly to his shirt collar.
"You will figure it out, eventually, I assure you. I'd like to focus on the matter at hand, however. My abilities to multitask are refined, but my powers of concentration can only stretch so far, at this time. You understand." Linny nodded, wanting to be rid of the situation she had found herself in. She casually sat herself across from the goon, smiling sharply as she placed the box in the center of the table.
"Then allow me to simplify this for both of us. Ask what you brought me here to ask, and I'll answer what I can." The unnamed man collected the box and brought it outside of her vision on his lap. His grin was a little unnerving and Linny found herself diverting her gaze to an action painting on the wall behind him.
The voice on the other end of the line was smug with a sharp edge to it.
"Let's hope that what you can answer is what I ask for." The box was set on the table and slid back to her, the goon standing up and taking his leave immediately. When Linny peered inside, her eyes narrowed slightly from what she saw, but she remained seated and staring at the framed abstract art.
For once, she thanked her father for putting her through training for high-stress situations. Her exterior remained relaxed and her face calm as she willed her muddled mind to form words through a mouth full of lead.
"Fire away." She mumbled, taking sudden interest in the wall beside her as Betsy, the café's owner and Linny's biggest concern, stepped out from the back room.
If she had been mean before, the incident with Linny years ago, shortly followed by a close call with Zsasz, made the middle aged woman's bite far worse than her bark.
"Now then, I'm not much for looking into matters not pertaining to my interests," Linny subconsciously nodded in agreement, unable to picture him as anything other than narcissistic, "but I couldn't help but notice a particular pattern of results while cross-referencing several completely unrelated topics.
Just imagine my surprise when a familiar name continued reappearing on my radar." The blonde allowed herself to slump forward, the brawny looking man stationed by the door outside indicating that she was penned in, while the long-winded manner in which Nygma worded his sentences indicating that she would not be leaving very soon.
She decided to interject, however, before his speech turned to rambling.
"So, you have some kind or other of incriminating evidence to hold against me or my family. There's no doubt that you already know that we all have access to lawyers for that sort of thing, so I'm guessing it's information that will screw with my personal life.
So, if you're going to go about blackmailing me, then please get to it. The threat of a bomb going off near me, I can handle; but this is just painful."
Three "tsk's" chided her from the other side of the call, and she could just imagine the vein in his forehead throbbing as he held his composure flawlessly.
"Who ever told you that bluntness was the key to these types of situations, I wonder? Either way, this is not the case, and I'd suggest you hold your tongue in the presence of unnamed strangers. You may land yourself in an entirely different kind of trouble." The sharpness of his tone was not lost on Linny. She made a mental note of his suggestion, though, as she glanced around the room.
Besides Betsy, who was occupied with a rather long line of customers, there was no one else whom she could guess was paying any attention to her seemingly one-sided conversation. The thought did not comfort her in the slightest.
"Fine. You would be the authority on these kinds of things, I'd guess, but dancing around the issue is boring me. What do you want?"
"A true mover and shaker; Just like your father, I see. Very well. Follow the Map and you'll have your answer." The call then abruptly ended and Linny was left with a useless earpiece and the item she had been left with.
"…Map?" She cautiously picked her "present" up from inside the box, and studied it for a moment, before determining that it looked like a normal Rubik's cube, to her.
"Crap." Without another word, Linny stood and made her way out of the coffee shop, turning the cube idly in her hands.
It has to be something I completely suck at, right? Right. Biting the inside of her cheek, the distraught woman wandered down the sidewalk, headed in the general direction of a park she had always passed but never bothered to visit. She figured settling herself down somewhere to fiddle with the frustrating puzzle was her only option.
"I could have been one of those kids who deconstructing and reconstructing things, but no; I was given Barbie's and tea sets. Damn it, Dad…" A pang went through her chest at the memory of her care-free childhood, but she swallowed it down, eyes focusing on the object in her hands.
Welp, let's see if I can crack you open.
Disclaimer: I do not in any way, shape, or form own any of the characters affiliated with any of the Batman franchise. I only own the characters I have created.
I have very few excuses as to why this took so long. I was lazy, had some writer's block, and I suck at prioritizing many things. Bummer. But! I've recaptured my plot bunnies and locked them up tight in my head. They hopefully won't escape any time soon. Here's hoping the next update won't take too long.