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Chapter 30 – Infiltration
Her specialty was infiltration. Blending in seamlessly with the crowd and being as unobtrusively normal as could be. She could be a wealthy investment banker from Boston or a claims adjuster from Albuquerque. Selina could cajole, tease, smile, coax, flirt and flounce her way through any obstacle with little effort. If it took physical force or wit, she was more than ready for whatever the mark had in store for thieves.
Therefore it made perfect sense for her to attempt her tried and true method of weaseling her way to her quarry – putting on a fake smile, false identity. The mask she'd long locked up inside her own mind was retrieved, proverbial dust smudged off, and it slid smoothly back on as her face became something entirely not Selina – opaque and unreadable, inviting and cold all at once.
She practiced in front of the vanity an hour each night. Bruce found some excuse to snag Helena and occupy a different room while Selina went through the motions. Selina had an impression that it was hard for him to watch her put on a face he thought unnervingly similar to the one he'd ditched in the past.
Bruce's body was beginning to deteriorate into a less than peak condition for a man of his years. The role he'd taken on as a force of justice and morality didn't spare any cartilage in his joints. He held the worst of the pain at bay by exercise, diet, and meds. But the strain was evident. He was angry at the physical limitations preventing him from going into the field with her.
"Happy being married to a cripple?" he said to her one afternoon after Waller had dropped the job in their laps quite literally.
"Well, it does sort of give us the Jane Eyre dynamic." Pointedly said down to his face, she was deeply regretting goading him into a sparring match in the side yard. At one point the prior tenants of their home, blue blooded to the core, had this parcel landscaped for croquet. They'd gotten rid of the croquet stands and smoothed out the grassy space with a hedge border. Helena was busy rocking herself from side to side on her back like one very cute upended tortoise, Bat sitting sentinel on her blanket for any wayward bug or hedge villain that might have enough pluck to harass his personal heater human.
"Jane Eyre?" he groaned, vertebra popping as he stretched out beneath her. Selina eased the arm off of his throat and settled her weight comfortably onto his torso, toes digging into the springy grass on either side of him.
"The whole rags to riches woman brings a reclusive, eccentric but wealthy man who ends up crippled into the light dynamic?"
"True. But I'm not hiding a crazy wife in the attic," he argued. His eyes silted in thought. "Yet."
"Now when did Bruce Wayne get into a Brontë novel?" she teased. "Didn't know they taught romance literature at Princeton. Or that you'd even be bothered to take a class in it."
Any line of inquiry into Bruce reading old, old romances was derailed after he latched his hands onto her sides and spent a full ten minutes proving his less-than-crippled state by getting her arms into a pretzel knot behind her back, sitting his full weight onto her poor tailbone until she cried uncle. Weeks passed and soon enough the prep work had come to a point where the op was ready for its first phase. Selina packed, tucked some away paperwork into Bruce's desk. Everything was done save for one last bit of business.
She crept as quiet as she could into the nursery from their adjoining suite, tucking a curlicue of silky dark hair behind the rounded shell of one tiny, perfect ear. It was impossible to find a flaw with Helena, though. Everything down to the little toenails or sooty lashes ringing her pretty eyes was perfect. But her face was scrunched up in what Selina took to be a dream, soft breathing escaping her puckered mouth.
"Bye, sweet girl." She plucked up Helena, cradling her face to steal a kiss and dab up a bit of sleep drool with her sleeve. Their kid could pack in napping like no one's business. Helena slept through the jostling and Selina took her leave after tucking her back into the crib.
Bruce was waiting by the idling Jag, his look stormy as she maneuvered herself around her husband's body to open up the trunk.
"Babs is going to help us with tech support and John is going to be on standby. If you need to be pulled out of there under any circumstance, you sound out and we'll create a diversion big enough to divert security. Give you enough of an opening. He can be in Metropolis in under thirty." Bruce was either hovering or just anxious.
Selina turned and sealed her mouth over his own, not minding the bit of scruff he'd accumulated over the past two weeks of letting it grow. He was rattling off more priorities for her to mind as she parted her lips in a smile against the dryness of his skin. She took a moment to close her eyes and remember the smell of him and the faint taste of mint, satisfied that at least she had enough tactile memories of her husband to last her a while if this turned into a month long affair of separation.
"You sure you don't need a ride to the station?" he asked for the third time, his mouth thin and tight as he watched her load up the back of the Jag with the one bag of possessions. She'd buy a new wardrobe on the new charge card in Metropolis. This job couldn't afford risks being taken by bringing along personals of Selina Wayne née Kyle for sentimentality's sake. She left everything behind on jobs. Only this time it was an actual life she was tucking away for safekeeping – Bruce and Helena. Even Alfred, Leslie, John and Babs. She'd let them become liabilities to a trade she'd thought she would never pick up again.
"I'm a professional, you know." It sounded borderline petulant and completely unwarranted, but it was what Bruce needed to hear out of her. He sighed, exasperated.
"Just be careful. The last thing I need is for you to come home on a stretcher or worse. I can't do this whole single parent thing and I'm too broken in for a new wife," he jibbed, coaxing a snort out of her.
"You barely could make your own bed before I came along. You're stuck with me until death do us part. Remember?" she asked, tilting her face up towards the sun. He took her chin between his fingers to level her eyes with his own, tucking her shades up to pin her with a stare. Bruce had a way, much like her own, of being able to root a person to the spot with one look.
"Careful. Be careful," he enunciated, "and be sure to keep in mind what's waiting for you at home. I love you." Bruce picked the kidney punch moments to drop the three little words on her. Selina tucked her face into his chest while squeezing him into a tight embrace, whispering her own "love you" before composing herself.
"Later, Mister Wayne," she drawled, drawing him down for one last kiss before she shrugged off the pangs of anxiety, marched herself into the Jag, buckled up and fought back the knot in her throat as Bruce's figure receded in the mirror as she drove off.
The wig was something of a work of art. She had contacts that had dropped off parcels and handed off equipment over the last month of prep. This particular piece was naturalized and bleached into a muddled corn silk color but long enough to be styled. Bleaching her eyebrows with some peroxide worked out better than expected, and she simply just slathered on more mascara to hide her decidedly dark lashes.
Apartments didn't come cheap, but she managed to lease a two bedroom walkup in midtown Metropolis and a garage space for a used sedan she'd bought at a lot in the commercial district. It was easier to buy secondhand and use cash. Less of a paper trail, less faces to remember your own face in the transactions. Muddled the pool of suspects to a web of previous owners when your plan came crashing down – which was always a possibility.
Never steal from those you can't outrun. She was close to breaking that cardinal rule in doing this job for Waller and the good old US of A. She was a stickler about sticking to her code, but the alternative to not doing Waller's bidding equated to an extended stay in a federal penitentiary via Waller's black bag ops and file of dirty secrets.
Selina Kyle may have been given a clean slate and expunged from every database in the world, but Waller apparently believed in hard copies. Or knew someone who did have Selina's file.
Fake credentials were needed for this op. She wore the wig and a prosthetic nose – pert and upturned, damn it – to confuse facial recognition software. It was better to be on the safe side. LexCorp was mainly invested in technology and she didn't want to run the risk of being recognized. The disguise and her husband's deadlock on tabloid snapshots of the both of them out in Gotham paid off after a tense month of waiting. No one recognized who was under the cosmetics and synthetic material.
The fake credentials got her through to a small opening in Legal at LexCorp. It did turn into a month long affair, but the secreted visits to Gotham via the rail over weekends and regular secured feed video chats with Bruce and Helena saved her sanity. Selina realized that this job would be worlds easier if she hadn't married – had a baby. Slipping deeper into the roles and the masks that she created for herself were as easy as breathing before Bruce happened. Now she felt on edge. Like her skin was practically cracking at the joints from the strain of staying on her body.
One opening that got her further into the job was her boss. She pitied the poor bastard. Fred Copland was a middling busybody that was stuck between the ironclad heel of Luthor and Legal's own head of department, Allen Wainwright. Copland's wife was probably fucking their driver. Kids never called after they'd graduated college. His handicap in golf was steadily creeping into the triple digits. All of this was confessed to Sadie Kelowski. Sadie was a leggy blonde from upstate New York – Manitoba. Graduated from Northwestern with an MBA and standard enough grades to make the cut for a few firms in Chicago and Portland.
She'd moved to Metropolis for a change of pace and had plucked up this job after her old boss at the Portland firm had forwarded a shining letter of recommendation to Wainwright. The head of Legal had gotten one look at the dark eyed woman and handed her off to Copland to avoid backlash from his already suspicious wife. He didn't need some doe eyed Bambi flittering around his office space to tempt him.
Just as well. Her plan hit that hitch and worked out well enough. Originally it had been Wainwright she was targeting for coercion. But Copland was high enough in the corporate food chain.
Sadie was sitting in the plush swivel chair situated behind the chrome and granite monstrosity of Copland's desk, thumbing the pit and pendulum that was knocking around on its axis. LexCorp had rigidly built firewalls in their own mainframe, and it seemed each department was confined to its own network of information while one master matrix controlled the vast database. Secular, effective, and a pain in the ass to hack. Quoted from Bruce and Babs themselves.
But they'd been making headway into parsing through the information to narrow the search. Selina would drop by Copland's terminal before systematically recycling through her list of other access points – Trish Pemberton was at lunch and out of her office in HR. The R&D group would be in a board meeting near four in the afternoon. And of course there was the thrill of Sadie "getting all turned around in this new place" and ending up in Ray Lewis' office near Luthor's own private bank of offices.
Sadie had a habit of touching whatever jewelry she was wearing that day in seemingly unconscious gestures. She'd make her way to these access points and touch the dangling pendant hanging from the herringbone chain around her neck, or reach up to touch the pearl earbob. No one really noticed the flicker of the security feeds as she made these little gestures. Security took no notice of these fleet few seconds of grainy static before the feed returned to normal and Sadie's presence was absent on the screen. There was a wide margin for human error.
The pattern Sadie established was random enough for the program installed in the little sleek stick drive to slip into the LexCorp mainframe undetected and without suspicion. For now she waited, legs that ended in Tory Burch heels digging into the plush office carpeting as she swiveled mechanically around. The soft ping of the program gave her pause. Sadie turned, varnished nails tapping out a command in the prompt box. Luthor had buried his treasure under a pile of data, but it seemed that Ray Lewis had some connection to said treasure in a classified, coded email from Luthor dated yesterday evening. It'd been deleted and scrubbed from the system, but Bruce and Babs had fished it out with their combined genius. Sadie's eyes scanned the email and a smile curved along the line of her red mouth.
"Bin-go." Sadie's voice was usually high and sweet with its unassumingly chipper lilt, but this time around it was smooth and dark with satisfaction.