Disclaimer: I don't claim any rights or ownership and I'm not trying to make a profit.
AN: I'm sorry this took so long to post. I'm having a major case of writer's block with this story right now.
Chapter Six: Mordrid
It was warm, but Bruce didn't take off his jacket. Last night had left a few bruises and he didn't want to have to come up with new excuses if the police ask about them, so he just took another long drink of ice water, before answering the question.
"No, I have no idea why anyone would want to kill me, at least nothing beyond the usual. Being CEO of a multi-billion dollar company has been reason enough to draw trouble before." He looked anxiously over at the two detectives sitting across from him, "You really think that bullet was meant for me?" The fear in his tone must have been convincing, because one of them, a pretty blond, hastened to assure him.
"We aren't certain of anything Mr. Wayne," she said, "We're interviewing several of the guests from last night's event. I wouldn't worry too much if I were you." She leaned forward and smiled, in a way that wasn't very professional and yet drew a smile from Bruce in return.
"However," growled the other cop, giving his partner a slightly irritated glance, "You and Mr. Fox were the closest to the window and the trajectory of the bullet took it less than two inches from your head. We can't say if this was a condescendence or not, but that and the fact that Wolverine was on the scene, has us concerned that this was indeed an assassination attempt."
"Wolverine?" Bruce asked, turning a little pale. "Surely he wasn't-?"
"We're fairly certain he didn't fire the shot," the female detective said hastily.
"But he may have been driving the plane," put in her partner. "He's a very dangerous mutant and the fact that he has tried to kill you in the past and then shows up the night a bullet flies by you ear isn't the only reason we're concerned." He tossed down some pictures of Deadshot, one of him in costume, one a mug shot. "This man look familiar?"
Bruce picked up the pictures and pretended to examine them, but his mind was seeing Floyd as he'd seen him last: dead on the roof of the Good Will. Before coming home this morning, he'd told Gordon where to find the body. It didn't take the world's greatest detectives to recognize Wolverine's handy work. Hopefully a citywide manhunt would be enough to keep the mutant from running around in broad daylight.
"I've never seen him before," Bruce reply in answere to the cop's question.
"Floyd Lawton, also known as Deadshot," explained the man, "He's an assassin for hire and we're pretty sure he was the one who fired the shot last night."
Bruce looked up, "Have you been able to catch him?"
The detective frowned, "He's dead. His body was discovered in one of the eastside suburbs."
"Oh. Oh my God! That's terrible!" exclaimed Bruce.
"We don't know who hired him," put in the female detective, "But the evidence leads us to believe Wolverine was the man who killed him."
Bruce glanced between them, "You think they were working together and then the mutant turned on… on this man," numbly Bruce set the photos back on the table his wide eyes still looking down at Floyd's face.
"It's a possibility," the lady detective said.
"It's also possible that Wolverine may be hoping to finish the job himself. Which is why Commissioner Gordon would like to provide you with police protection."
"I…" Bruce glances between them, "I appreciate that, but I don't think it will be necessary. All nonessential employees at Wayne Tower are taking the rest of the week off. I expect I'll be safe staying in my own home all day long."
The cops looked at each other, "Nonetheless, we're going to have a couple patrol cars outside and I hope you won't mind if they come by the house and check on you every few hours." They stood up. Clearly the issue wasn't up for debate.
"GPD is doing everything they can to catch Wolverine and find out who is behind the attack, Sir," said the lady and handed Bruce a card, "Call us if you remember anything, or if you see anything suspicious."
Standing up as well, Bruce took the card, his mouth still open in confused protest, "I really think your patrols will be of better use-"
"This is for the best, Sir," the lady assured, smiling at him one last time as she pulled on her jacket.
"Yeah," growled the man, "GPD would hate to see Gotham's most eligible get a bullet in the head. Come on Sandy."
They left and Bruce's weak faced anxiety fell into a steel hard glare.
"I see the police have gone," came Alfred's smooth British voice and Bruce turned, as the butler began gathering empty mugs and glasses. "Did I hear correctly? They're leaving guards around the house?"
"Complete waist of resources," growled Bruce, impatiently tossing Sandy's card to the table, "Wolverine could be ripping the city apart, as we speak and GPD waists men babysitting Richboy Bruce Wayne."
"Hrm…" said Alfred not sounding very concerned, "Well since "Richboy" Bruce Wayne promised to stay home all day, maybe you'll find the chance to do a little reading, Sir," Alfred said and took a thick manila envelope from under his coat, "This just came for you from Mr. Fox."
Bruce snorted as he took the documents, "I told Lucius to take the rest of the week off. I have more important things to deal with than company stuff." Nonetheless, Bruce tucked it under his arm, as he headed toward the clock, "I'll be down in the cave, for the rest of the day Alfred. Regular cups of coffee would be appreciated and try to keep the cops off my back."
"Of course, Sir," Alfred replied dryly, "After all, it's not like a few hours sleep ever did a body any good."
Three hours and four cups of coffee later, Bruce was sitting down in the cool darkness of the batcave, the pale gleam of his computer screens reflecting off his face and hands. Just because Batman didn't go out at day, didn't mean work came to a halt. Bruce did some of his best detective work down here. The phone he'd discovered at Deadshot's cash had turned up some good leads. As he'd expected the most recant calls had traced back to an overseas bank. It hadn't been easy, but after running his best hacking programs and making a few of the right calls, he'd managed to find and trace Floyd's accounts. Three million dollars had been forwarded to him the day before and he was currently running a program to trace where the money had come from. So far 75% of it had come from various business, most of which were headquartered here in Gotham and all of which were tied to Oswald Cobblepot, aka the Penguin. Bruce was fairly certain the rest of the money would eventually be traced to back to the same source.
Leaning back, he took out the book of matches he'd found in Floyd's pocket and turned it over in his hand. The Iceberg Lounge, owned by notorious ex-criminal now "respectable" businessman, the Penguin. Bruce knew Cobblepot was still dealing in dirty business and illegal trafficking, but why would he spend millions to kill Bruce Wayne and what did Wolverine have to do with any of it? Possibilities and theories flew through his considerations, as he chased them around in his mind, like a dog chasing its tail. It made his head spin, but he could land on no satisfactory answer.
Sighing, Bruce took a gulp of coffee and pushed it all aside. It would all become clear eventually, but right now he needed to give the mystery a little space. To distract himself, he picked up the closest thing on hand, the envelope Lucius had sent to him.
Deftly, he tore it open and began flipping through the pages. Gradually he frowned and leaned forward, turning on a small lamp so he could see better. Before him were several files on Colonel Stryker and Kurt Van Dyke. Clearly much of what Lucius had dug up was classified and just as clear was the fact that, even with Lucius's connections, only a small fraction of Stryker's work was here, but it was enough to make the hair on the back of Bruce's neck stand up.
"Cataloging and researching mutant powers through capture and experimentation."
"Using a force of mutants to hunt down their own kind."
"Genetic and physiological experimentations on subjects."
"Results including death, unnatural mutation, terminal infections and insanity."
It reminded Bruce of the World War II stories, where scientists had used Jews and other "undesirables" as unwilling subjects in terrible experiments. However this wasn't Nazis, but the US government, less than twenty years ago. It was sickening and he didn't even have all the gruesome details here. If this was what they'd managed to get from the surface, what secrets did Stryker have hidden in the really top secret files? There were only a few references to specific experiments. Experiment X or Weapons X was mentioned a few times, sometime as a success and sometimes as a disaster. Whatever the case had been, it seemed to have ended up bad enough to get Stryker shut down. At least Bruce hoped so. The man should have been given life imprisonment.
Frowning, Bruce closed what Lucius had sent on Styker and looked at the thinner file about Van Dyke. Wayne Enterprises had hired him to help lead a development group researching the behavioral and learning patterns. The uncovering of animal abuse and the failure to completely divulge high risks factors to several participating volunteers, had led the company to fire Van Dyke and eventually terminate the whole project. It'd cost them millions of dollars. Lucius had highlighted a few of the numbers, and Bruce frowned before reaching for the phone.
"Lucius, this is Bruce."
"Ah. I was wondering when you'd call. Read the files I sent over then?"
"Yeah. Hard to believe a man like this was walking around drinking our Champaign last night."
"The depths man can sink to make the skin crawl."
"No kidding. But what I called about are the numbers you highlighted in the Van Dyke file."
"Hrm. Yes I thought those might interest you."
"They don't add up. It shows only 2.4 million in losses, but the main budget recorded nearly five million lost on that project."
"5.9 to be exact," clarified Lucius, "Since sending that file this morning I've been checking the books more carefully and no matter how you run the numbers, or how many rugs I look under, I arrive at the same conclusion: at least three and a half million dollars has fallen through the cracks. More if you count real estate. We had multiple facilities for the use of Van Dyke's projects, besides offices in the science main building; there were some clinics and labs just outside the city. Supposedly the faculties were sold when we shut them down, but I can't find any record of the sale, or any money made off it."
Bruce frowned "Are we still paying upkeep and tax on them?"
"No. There's nothing on them at all. They just seemed to vanish from the company's books, like they were never there at all."
"About the missing three and half million, have you tried tracking it? There's got to be some trail."
"Course I tried," replied Lucius, "Even thought I was getting somewhere at first. It appeared to have gotten moved to some sub-accounts under the title "Mordrid," but after that I hit nothing but dead ends. It was moved out of Mordrid last March and just vanished. The sub-accounts were dissolved and there was nowhere else to look."
"Mordrid?" repeated Bruce and he moved to his computer hastily typing keys, "Thanks Lucius. Let me know if you find out anything else."
"I'll do that."
Bruce hung up, without saying goodbye and leaned back as he pulled reports onto his large screen.
"Fuck," he spat.
"Having a bad day are you?" asked Alfred, coming up behind Bruce, his eyebrows raised. It was unusual from Bruce to curse and he almost looked guilty, as he cast a glance at his servant.
"Remember those dirty bombs Joker tried to use last spring," he said, scrolling down the page some, "It seems the money used to buy them came right out of the pockets of Wayne Enterprises."
"You're sure, Sir?" asked Alfred frowning in concern.
"The bombs were brought from an under-market branch of Lex Corp. I tracked the funds to some ghost accounts called Mordrid, but couldn't track it farther than that. Lex Corp realized someone was digging and erased all traces of the transactions from the records and then I got distracted by other matters. Now it turns out Mordrid was money fallen through the cracks at Wayne Enterprises."
"So what your company just misplaced millions of dollars and it ended up funding Joker's terrorism?" scoffed a voice.
Bruce turned sharply to see Tim Drake standing by the elevator; his school bag over one shoulder and a cocky look in his eyes.
Alfred cleared his throat, "I was about to say Sir, you have a guest, whom I asked to wait up in the sitting room." He gave Tim a hard look.
"What are you doing here?" demanded Bruce, standing up with a stern glare that succeeded and dissolving Tim's cocky look into something guiltier, "We agreed that our partnership was over."
"Bruce, I heard on the news about the assassination attempt and I know about Deadshot and Wolverine. I thought you might need help."
"I'm perfectly capable of taking care of myself."
"The last time you fought Wolverine, you came home with you arm nearly torn off and half your blood splattered over a kid's camp. You need me," accused Tim.
"I promised your parents that this was ended," snapped Bruce firmly. "I won't have you masquerading around the city against their wishes, Tim, and I certainly am not going to endanger you by taking you with me to hunt Wolverine."
Tim looked sour and then glanced at the computers still running a tracking program behind Bruce's back. "I see you updated your system. Is that the new XR 87? I read it would be coming out soon. You got it early!"
Bruce scowled and turned away. "Alfred take Robin… I mean Tim home."
"Ah, come one Bruce," protested Tim coming forward, "You don't need to take me out. I don't need to be Robin at all. I can still help. You know how good I am with computers. I'm dying to test out your new equipment. I can stay with Alfred in the cave. I can still help you without breaking our word to my parents."
Bruce turned and looked at him and Tim put on a pleading face, clasping his hands together.
"Please! I can hack and research just as well as you can. You know it."
Actually Tim Drake was a better hacker than him, though Bruce wasn't about to admit it. Bruce hadn't grown up with computers and had started considering them important around the same time he and Tim had met. He mostly relied on his million dollars software to do the work for him, but Tim could hack GPD on a school computer and still get to all his classes on time. Bruce tapped his fingers considering.
You could at least let the boy hold the base for an hour or so, Sir," suggested Alfred, "Then perhaps you could get some sleep before going out tonight."
"You always did say a clear and rested mind is an invaluable weapon," pressed Tim.
"Very well," Bruce finally conceded, "Come here and I'll show you how to use the system, but you're going to call your parents and I'm making sure you're home for dinner, even if it means delivering you to the door in person."
"Yes Sir!" exclaimed Tim, coming eagerly to the computer.
Bruce took several minutes to explain his latest hacking software to Tim, though the boy seemed to understand in half the time. He then explained the leads he had on Penguin and the information Lucius had provided, setting the boy a verity of research tasks, before taking Alfred's advise and going upstairs to get some rest.
It was half past ten in the morning when Logan walked past the Iceberg Lounge. The club wouldn't be open for hours, but the Penguin was known for spending his days in the underground offices. Hopefully it was true. Logan didn't relish the idea of confronting Penguin front of a of Gotham's elite.
Deciding against busting through the main doors in the middle of a crowded street, Logan went with plan B and circled the around the block, looking for a side entrance. All around, pedestrians trudged along the sidewalk and Logan made sure to keep his head bowed. As short as he was, it was easy to keep his face hidden with only the shadow of his wide brimmed cowboy hat. He slipped right through the crowd without anyone giving him half a glance.
He'd been on TV this morning. Deadshot's body had been found and apparently the police were looking for him. Logan wasn't too concerned. After all they'd been looking for him ever since he escaped Arkham and it was easier now to keep a low profile. In the cold weather no one gave the little man in the plain coat and cowboy hat a second look. They were too busy hurrying toward warmer places.
Following a side ally, Logan eventually found a backdoor, which led into the 'Berg's kitchens. A large dumpster, smelling strongly of fish and foul kitchen swill took up half the space and the rest was filled by a produce truck, unloading fresh ingredients. Causally, Logan leaned against the ally wall on the far side of the dumpster, lighting up a cigar as he listened. Hopefully an opening he might take advantage of would present itself, or at least confirmation that Penguin was in the Lounge. Even at a distance, his sharp ears had no trouble detecting the voices, picking them out from the endless hubbub of Gotham City.
"These asparagus don't look fresh! Neither do the lettuces! Mr. Cobblepot only buys he best!"
"Ah chill out Cooky! What do you 'spect at this time of year? If you don't like it, complain to the bosses. I'm just a delivery boy."
As the cook and delivery boy bickered, one of the other truckers pulled a restaurant man aside.
"You got the latest reports?" the restaurant man asked in lowered tones.
"Right here." Files exchanged hands. "But my boss asked me to let Penguin know their running into some issues. Lost a shipment and that matter up the coast is making the police ask questions. Cobblepot here?"
"He's in his office, but I know what he'd say. If Swan can't keep his boots clean, The Penguin certainly won't help him cover his tracks. He's got plenty to deal with here in Gotham."
"All the same, the boss wants to talk to Penguin in person sometime soon."
The restaurant man turned away dismissively, tucking the file into his coat. "I'll leave a note with his secretary. Now I recommend you hurry up and finish unloading the produce."
Scowling, the deliveryman turned back to the truck as the other man walked across the ally to a neighboring building, pulling out a set of keys as he went. After circling the block, Logan knew the next building was a boutique store selling the usual useless fop like feathers, scarves and jewelry boxes at outrageous prices. The ally divided them, but it was possible that their substructures connected.
As the man pushed the door open, Logan strode across the ally, quick and quiet as a cat. He grabbed the man from behind and shoved inside. All it took was swift twist and his victim went limp, his neck braking with a faint cracking sound. The body crumpled to the floor.
As expected, Logan was in an empty receiving room, filled with boxes and a few stray feather boas left on a desk. Sickeningly pleasant music and a shop-clerks hollow, overly friendly tones could be heard from somewhere up ahead, but what interested Logan were the steps in the corner leading down.
Shutting the ally door as softly as possible, Logan pocketed the restaurant man's keys, before stepping toward the steps. There was a locked door immediately at the bottom, but it didn't take long to find the right key on the set he'd just stolen.
"This may be easier than I expected," Logan muttered to himself, glancing around an empty tunnel. Then he looked up, right into the lenses of a security camera. "Damn it."
There was snikt as he extended his claws and ripped the camera down. Then he cracked his neck and sniffed. "Well bring it, Birdy."
AN: I feel like the last two chapters have been really long and mostly just filler. Hopefully things will pick up after this. When I finally finish this and, if I ever revise it, I have the feeling I might just cut out a lot of the last couple of chapters. So I apologize for the slow pace, thank you for bearing with me. I don't have much experience with long stories. Most of my work until now has been one-shots, or simple short stories. If you have any good advise about keeping a more complicated story on track and momentous, I could really use it. Thanks.