A/N: This story is the sequel to Volatile. Sorry I'm only getting this up now, its a Christmas story and was supposed to be posted before Christmas, but here's hoping it'll spread a little Christmas cheer in dreary January! ;) Happy New Year to you all and hope you had a wonderful Christmas. :)
"Unless we make Christmas an occasion to share our blessings, all the snow in Alaska won't make it 'white'." Bing Crosby.
Jason leaned against a pillar, his arms crossed and a watchful expression on his face while his eyes swept the grand ballroom of The Gotham Regency Hotel where the wealthiest of Gotham society were gathered.
It was The Wayne Foundation's annual charity auction and according to Dick, this year was generating quite a bit of interest as there were several items of considerable value. Bruce had managed to convince several wealthy collectors and investors to donate valuable items to the auction, as well as contributing several items from his own personal art and antique collection. As a result, he had needed to organise a heavy security presence at the hotel where the auction was being held, meaning Jason had also been drafted in to help. So far he had spent the last two hours being bored stupid by meaningless small talk and empty society gossip.
This is the last time I get talked into crap like this.
He caught sight of Dick over by the Christmas tree – where two middle-aged women had cornered him and were busy cooing over him – and grinned. However boring it was for Jason to be coerced into this, it was fifty times worse for Dick. The youngest person there by at least ten years, Dick in his tuxedo was proving to be an irresistible attraction for the older ladies. Ever since the auction pre-party had started, women had been flocking to him; ruffling his hair and telling him how adorable he looked in his tux. Dick took it all with polite – albeit slightly embarrassed – good grace, but even from across the room, Jason could see that it was driving him nuts.
He chuckled. Give it a few years, Kid, and those good looks of yours will bring all the right sort of female attention.
His head swivelled again and he caught sight of Bruce on the other side of the room, complete with requisite brain-dead bimbo clinging to his arm while he chatted with some guy who looked like he was wearing a diaper on his head and another man who looked like he had a stick up his ass. Bruce was smiling and playing the role of charming host to perfection, but Jason was willing to bet that he was enjoying this charade even less than him – although apparently a lot more than Dick. He raised an amused eyebrow as he clocked two more ladies joining the hen party currently clucking around the boy.
Entertaining as this is, I really should rescue him, Jason thought, snorting with laughter as one of the older ladies actually pinched Dick's cheek. He'll probably flood my bathroom or something if I don't.
Pranking was something of a Dick speciality when he was pissed about something.
Uncrossing his arms, Jason strode over to where the women were clustered around the now red-faced teenager. "Sorry, ladies, I need to borrow Dick for a moment," he announced loudly, placing one hand on the boy's shoulder.
One of them frowned while the others looked startled at the blunt interruption; Jason didn't possess Dick's easy charm or Bruce's polished manners, and he inevitably rubbed society ladies like this the wrong way. They were just too polite to show it.
"Of course. Have a lovely evening, Richard."
"Tell Bruce he's done a wonderful job this year."
"You take care now, Richard."
The conversation followed them as Jason led Dick away, one hand still on his shoulder. "About time," Dick muttered, his face still red. "I thought you'd never get your butt in gear! Aren't you supposed to protect me from stuff like this?"
Jason chortled. "What's the matter? Not liking all that attention from the ladies?"
"Jay, they pinched my cheek! Do I look five to you?!"
Jason pretended to study him as they stopped at the edge of the dance floor. "Definitely not five – maybe ten?"
"Dude, shut it!" Dick groused, punching him lightly in the arm. "Where's Bruce?"
"Over there talking to some guy with an oversized diaper on his head."
"That's the Sultan of Oman," said Dick, squinting.
"How do you know– never mind, forget I asked," he added as Dick opened his mouth to respond.
The boy grinned.
"Well hello, Handsome," a seductive voice to Jason's right purred suddenly and he turned to see an extremely beautiful blonde woman smiling at him. He vaguely recognised her as a bartender from a bar some of the Wayne security team occasionally visited; Lori something. They'd flirted a little but nothing had ever happened between them.
He raised an eyebrow as he realised that he was currently seeing a lot more of her than usual. Her dress was some type of slinky floor-length purple number, clinging to her every curve and showcasing her rather impressive figure while the low-cut top revealed far more of her breasts than was usual for events like these. She looked, Jason realised, like a flesh and blood version of Jessica Rabbit; a very hot, blonde Jessica Rabbit.
He smirked. "What are you doing here?"
"Talking to you," she flirted, leaning closer. "Everyone else at this party is so boring."
"Then what brings you here?" He was curious about that; what was she doing at a ticket-only event that probably cost more than her entire week's wages?
"I have a date. He's around here somewhere." She gestured with her hand around the room before turning back to Jason and smiling slowly, peering up at him as a curtain of blond hair fell gently against the side of her face.
He suspected that was a well-practiced look, but it didn't lessen its effect on him. Real women weren't supposed to look like this.
A titter to his left drew his attention and he looked down to see Dick smirking up at him. Jason blinked. He'd forgotten he was there for a moment.
It would appear that Lori hadn't noticed him either until he snickered, because she now swooped down on him, ruffling his hair. "Aren't you the real little heart-breaker?" she purred, leaning in close. "How old are you, Hon?"
Jason frowned. There was something very different in her tone to the clucking of the hens from a few moments ago.
Dick flushed and pulled back slightly from the heaving cleavage. "Thirteen."
"Thirteen, huh? Too bad you're so young, Sugar, you're awfully good looking."
Jason growled, his attraction towards her vanishing at once. Seizing the wrist of her hand that was ruffling the boy's hair, he pulled it upwards and forced her back from Dick. "Shouldn't you go find your date?" he suggested, his eyes hard.
She looked amused, tugging her wrist from his hand. "If you say so. See you around, Handsome." She blew him a kiss as she sashayed away, men openly gawking after her.
"What was that?" Dick asked, mouth open slightly.
"Trouble," replied Jason shortly. He did not like that crap she had just pulled with Dick.
"You didn't seem to mind," Dick prodded slyly.
Jason grinned at him somewhat sheepishly. "Kid, when you're older, you'll understand better about women like that."
Dick rolled his eyes. "You sound like Wally." He paused, then grinned. "Man, I wish Wally was here – it'd be hilarious to watch him hit on her!"
Jason snorted. "She'd eat him for breakfast."
Dick chuckled just as a voice barked, "Todd!"
They turned to find Thomas Lee, head of security for Wayne Enterprises behind them. A retired military general, Lee was a stickler for doing things by the book which sometimes caused him to clash with Jason. Right now, he was glaring at the younger man with irritation etched on his face. "This isn't a social club!" he snapped. "You're here to work, not chat up women!"
Jason raised an eyebrow. He and Lee may not see eye to eye, but they usually maintained a grudging respect for one another and this snappish behaviour wasn't like the normally stoic military man. "Just checking up on Dick, Mr. Lee."
The man's gaze fell on the teenager and his expression softened slightly. "Dick! I didn't see you there, son. How've you been?"
Jason couldn't help but roll his eyes. It amused him no end that just about everyone at Wayne Enterprises had a soft spot for Dick.
"Fine, thank you, Mr. Lee," Dick replied, smiling up at him.
"Good, good," said the man, absently patting Dick on the head. "Todd, we're getting ready to move into the auction room. I want you stationed at the main door to the ballroom with Justin; he's already there."
Jason groaned inwardly as the General marched away. Each item for auction had been displayed in the grand ballroom before the bidding began in order to generate interest in the auction. Moving the lots between the two rooms was going to be the most complicated part of the security detail tonight, but that wasn't what bothered him, – Jason would be only too happy to see a little action other than watching Gotham High Society simper at one another – he would just rather do this without Justin Lee.
Sighing, he glanced at Dick. "Sorry, Kid, duty calls. You're on your own now."
"Gee, thanks," Dick griped, catching sight of two elderly ladies heading his way.
Jason grinned at him before disappearing into the crowd and heading for the main door of the ballroom. His smile faded as he spotted Justin standing by the door, a bored expression on his face.
Jason scowled. He really didn't like this guy; Justin had a major chip on his shoulder and acted like the world owed him something. He was a recovering gambling addict and the only reason he had a job on the Wayne security team was because Thomas Lee was his father. The man had vouched for his son, who was apparently trying to get his life back on track, and begged Bruce to give him a trial period. Jason knew that he had only agreed to it for Lee's sake; the man had been his head of security for almost ten years and Bruce had a great deal of respect for him. But in the three weeks that Justin had been working for Wayne Enterprises, Jason had seen nothing but attitude from him.
"Hi," he greeted him casually, joining him at the door.
Justin flicked him a bored look. "Todd."
Oh yeah. This would be loads of fun. Jason didn't bother trying to engage the sullen man in further conversation; he hated small talk and he certainly wasn't going to engage in it with someone he didn't even like.
The two men stood in silence, watching as several security guards began to carry out the glass display cases one by one. The first display case held a large painted blue vase that Jason thought was one of the ugliest things he had ever seen, but probably cost more than his monthly salary. He watched them shuffle carefully down the hall to the auction room with it, then turned his attention to the doorway once more as another guard passed through with a second, smaller glass case. This one held a gold necklace that was dripping with precious stones and Jason didn't want to think about how much that thing was worth. Idly he wondered who had donated something of such value as his gaze followed it down the hall.
Out of the corner of his eye he caught sight of a small, dark head leaving the ballroom and turning in the direction of the hotel lobby. Immediately he whirled and grabbed Dick's shoulder. "And just where do you think you're going?"
Dick sighed and rolled his eyes. "The bathroom."
"There's one in the ballroom."
"Yeah, and Mrs. Elliot and half of the Gotham Flower Society are standing right outside it."
"So, that's like walking right into the enemy camp! I do that and I'm a goner!" Dick threw up his hands dramatically.
Jason crossed his arms. "Nice try, Kid. Back into the ballroom."
The Gotham Regency was a huge hotel and there was another large function taking place there; Jason did not want Dick wandering around by himself. There had been an attempted kidnapping at his school the previous week and Jason was still on edge.
"No buts. In." He jerked a thumb to emphasize his point.
Dick huffed irritably. "Fiiiiiiine. But this really sucks you know, I can't believe I'm giving up my Friday evening to do this!"
Jason chuckled. "Suck it up, Kid, we're all stuck here."
"Except you're not getting your cheeks pinched every five minutes!" Dick grumbled, stepping back into the room. "What's next, coochie coo?"
He disappeared back into the ballroom as Jason laughed. He couldn't blame Dick for being irritable. If he was thirteen and had just spent the last two hours being fussed over and mauled by a bunch of old women who kept telling him how cute he looked, he'd be breaking noses at this point.
Justin was staring after Dick with a scowl on his face. "Man, how do you stand it?"
"Stand what?" asked Jason, keeping his eyes peeled as three guards came through with what looked like a Japanese sword.
"Babysitting that brat. Talk about spoilt!"
Jason's head snapped around and he narrowed his eyes at Justin. "Dick is not spoilt."
Anyone with even an ounce of self-preservation would have heard the warning in Jason's voice, but Justin was clearly an idiot. He snorted. "Yeah right! 'I can't believe I'm giving up my Friday evening to do this,'" he intoned in a high-pitched voice, mimicking Dick. "What a spoilt little shit!"
Jason gritted his teeth. "He's thirteen and he's just spent the evening being fawned over by a bunch of hens. I'd like to see how you'd handle that if you were his age!"
"When I was his age, I wouldn't even have gotten near a fancy party like this!" Justin retorted, his eyes flicking over the oil painting now being carried out of the ballroom. "But I guess when you're lucky enough to be adopted by some rich schmuck, you can do whatever the hell you want."
Jason was dangerously close to hitting him, his attention no longer on the items being transported out of the ballroom. "You know why he was adopted, don't you? The kid watched his family die!"
"Turned out all right in the end though, didn't it?" Justin sneered. "Kid landed on his feet."
He was saved the agony of having his teeth smashed in by Jason's fist when the loud rat-a-tat of what sounded like a semi-automatic came from the ballroom.
"What the fuck was that?" Jason demanded while Justin froze.
A second rat-a-tat sounded and then the crowd started to scream. Jason didn't hesitate, he darted back into the ballroom.
He could hear Justin yelling after him. "Todd, get back here! We're not supposed to leave our posts!"
It was pandemonium in the ballroom. Several terrified party-goers were stampeding for the exits while screams and the sounds of shattering glass echoed behind them.
"Goddammit, MOVE!" Jason yelled, trying to get through the surging mass of bodies. Where the hell were Bruce and Dick?
Elbowing and shoving his way through the crowd, Jason could just make out three masked men by the French doors into the ballroom. He had been right about the gunshots, they were made by semi-automatics; two of the men had some heavy firepower and were shooting intermittently at the crowd and towards the ceiling, while the third was breaking into the glass display cases and loading the contents into a brown sack. There was a security guard on the floor, blood pooling beneath him. He wasn't moving.
"DICK! BRUCE!" Jason bellowed, trying to make himself heard over the chaos. His heart was beating hard against his chest; they were both here as civilians tonight, neither one of them had any protection.
As the panicking and charging crowd pushed against him, Jason lost his footing and almost went under the stampeding horde until a hand grabbed him, preventing him from being crushed underfoot. He looked up and saw a dark-haired man holding tight to his arm, but never got the chance to thank him as the crowd surged forward again and the man's hand was ripped from his arm before he vanished into the throng. Jason could see him being jostled towards the door.
Trying desperately to get through the mob, Jason felt a horrible tug of panic as he realised that if Dick was in this crush somewhere, he was too small to be seen and would be trampled underfoot in a second. "DICK!" he yelled again.
Finally, he managed to get to the back of the rampaging crowd, pushing and shoving to break free of them. As he squeezed out between two men, he got his first clear view of the ballroom.
There were actually five masked men; aside from the three over by the windows, there were two others with guns who were herding several people towards the stage. A few individuals had taken cover from the gunfire behind the large pillars at each corner of the dance floor while others were cowering behind tables that had been knocked over.
Jason inhaled sharply when he caught sight of Dick at the other end of the room, trying to coax two elderly ladies into hiding behind the canapés' table. He was wide open if the men decided to fire in that direction.
Immediately, Jason took off in a run towards him, ducking as he heard gunfire snicker in his direction, followed by the thwack of a bullet embedding itself in the wall somewhere to his left. Blood pounded in his head as he increased his speed; he didn't dare yell Dick's name again in case the men fired at the boy. A bullet whistled past his ear, uncomfortably close.
"Get under the damn table!" he yelled at the women as he reached them, slamming into Dick and drawing a startled yelp from the boy before tucking and rolling, dragging them both behind another table. Releasing Dick, he yanked off the table cloth and knocked the table to its side, giving them a better shelter. Bullets thudded into the wood, sending splinters skittering over them.
"Jason, what the hell?!" Dick hissed, glancing back at where the two elderly women were now huddled behind the long table where they had zero protection from any gunfire. "They're civilians!"
"And so are you right now!" Jason retorted. He was well aware of Bruce's 'civilians first' policy, but if it came down to saving two women who looked to be at least seventy or thirteen-year-old Dick, Dick would win every time.
"We can't leave them like that!" Dick snapped back, shifting into a sprinting position.
Jason yanked on the back of his jacket and forced him to sit. "Stay. Put!" he growled. "I'll do it!"
Darting out once more, Jason raced over to where the two women were cowering and upended the table, sending assorted crudités all over the floor. He was forced to drop behind the table with them as two bullets embedded themselves in the wall overhead.
"What's going on?" asked one of the women in a terrified whisper.
"Lady, I wish I knew!" Jason replied, trying to peer around the side of the table without getting his head blown off. He really wished he had his gun with him but Bruce had a firm 'no guns' policy which meant his security team carried tasers and batons. Jason scowled. Fat lot of good they were right now against a couple of semi-automatics.
He glanced at the table Dick was crouched behind and was alarmed to see the boy trying to look over the top. "Dick! Head down!" he barked.
Dick complied, glancing back towards him. "Where's Bruce?"
There was a slight lull in the shooting and Jason used that as an opportunity to sprint back to him. "I don't know," he replied grimly. He had spied a few bodies splayed throughout the ballroom and at least two of them were wearing a tux. "But I'm sure he'll be fine, this is Bruce we're talking about."
"Exactly, it's Bruce we're talking about!" Dick said urgently, fear darkening his eyes. "Jason, what's happening?"
"A robbery, I think," Jason replied, peering around the table. The shooting had stopped and most of the civilians had managed to escape through the various exits in the massive ballroom, but the gunmen still had seven or eight people corralled by the stage, and there were several more huddled behind tables and pillars throughout the room.
Jason scowled. The room was too big, too bright and too open to make a move without the gunmen seeing him. If they opened fire again, an innocent civilian could be hurt, not to mention that Dick would probably get involved the second he left him alone behind the table. He was just considering their options when the lights went out in the ballroom.
Screams erupted in the darkness around them, followed by the sounds of glass breaking and more gunshots. Then something whistled through the air and the gunfire ceased. Over the panicked cries, he could hear the unmistakeable sounds of a struggle and smiled to himself. It sounded like Batman had arrived.
He had to physically restrain Dick during the course of the struggle or the fleet-footed little ninja would have disappeared into the darkness. He kept a tight hold on the boy until the lights came back on almost seven minutes later, at which point Jason chanced looking up.
Police were cautiously entering the ballroom, their weapons drawn. At the far end of the room, Jason could just discern four of the gunmen trussed up like Christmas turkeys. There was no sign of the fifth.
Slowly, Dick and Jason got to their feet and took stock of the aftermath. Food and broken glasses were scattered across the floor, while several tables and chairs had been knocked over. The walls were peppered with bullet holes and one of the French doors had been broken in. But the worst by far were the bodies sprawled at various points around the room. Jason counted them, his jaw tightening when he tallied seven. He wondered if they were all dead.
Paramedics were now entering the ballroom and hurrying towards the prone forms, while police officers escorted those who had been trapped with the gunmen from the room. An officer approached Jason and Dick.
"Are you alright?" he asked.
"Fine," Jason replied. "What happened? Where's the fifth gunman?"
"I'm afraid we don't have any information on what happened yet, Sir," the officer replied. His eyes fell on Dick and he frowned. "Dick Grayson?"
The boy nodded, his eyes scanning the room.
"Mr. Wayne is looking for you. He's in the front lobby."
"Okay, thanks." Dick looked relieved.
They made their way out of the ballroom and down the hall to the front lobby where shocked party-goers and staff were gathered, being questioned by police or attended to by paramedics.
"Dick! Jason!" Bruce's voice carried over the hum of conversation.
They both turned to where the billionaire stood over by the elevator with Mayor Hill and Commissioner Gordon. "Bruce!" Dick cried and darted over to him, Jason following quickly.
"Are you both alright?" Bruce asked in concern, putting an arm around Dick's shoulders as they joined him. "You're not hurt?"
Dick shook his head. "Jason knocked over a table that we could hide behind. What about you? Are you okay?"
Bruce's eyes were tight with anger. "I'm fine. I just wish I could say the same for the people in there."
"Does anyone know what happened?" Jason demanded. "Who were those guys?"
It was Commissioner Gordon who answered. "We're not sure of anything yet, but we think it was a robbery. We'll know more when we've had a chance to question the four men."
"So the fifth gunman did get away?" Jason's tone was sharp.
"It looks like it," the officer replied while Bruce pursed his lips. "And we're still not sure what happened to the other four."
"It was Batman," Dick spoke up. "We heard a fight after the lights went out."
"Maybe Batman is in pursuit of the fifth gunman and will contact you later?" Bruce suggested carefully.
"Maybe," said the Commissioner absently, his eyes scanning the lobby.
Detective Bullock joined them. "Hey, Commish, the press is outside and they're lookin' fer a statement. You wanna say something to them?"
"I'll make a statement," Mayor Hill put in, immediately starting to straighten his tie and smooth his hair.
"You might want to keep it short and simple, Mr. Mayor," Commissioner Gordon pointed out, "we still don't know what happened here."
"I know how to make a statement, Commissioner!" the man snapped, turning and heading for the front doors.
Commissioner Gordon sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. "I'd better go with him in case I need to do any damage control. Mr. Wayne, I'll speak with you later. Jason, Dick, I'll need to speak with both of you as well."
They nodded, watching the tired-looking officer and his detective follow Mayor Hill. As they disappeared through the front door, Bruce took out his cell phone.
"Who are you calling?" Jason asked.
"Alfred," Bruce replied, holding the phone to his ear. "He's on his– Alfred, the press have arrived at the hotel. Drive around back and we'll meet you there….Yes, I know. Thanks, Alfred."
"Why's Alfred on his way in?" Jason asked as Bruce disconnected the call.
"I called him," Bruce answered, looking grim. "I'm sending Dick home."
"What! Why?" Dick looked indignant.
"Because you have a long day ahead of you tomorrow and after tonight's events, I won't be home until very late – and I highly doubt that you'll be getting out of here any time soon either," he added to Jason.
Jason grimaced. Of course not.
"But what about my statement to Commissioner Gordon?" Dick demanded.
Jason could see he was irritated at being babied. Bruce's over-protectiveness had become somewhat stifling since the Joker had tortured him three months earlier and Dick was starting to rebel.
"I will bring you to the station tomorrow to give your statement," Bruce replied, frowning down at him. "There were almost six hundred people here for that auction, not to mention the other guests in the hotel; the police won't get to everyone tonight. Don't fight me on this, Dick," he added as the boy opened his mouth to argue, "not if you still want to go out tomorrow night."
Dick's mouth immediately snapped shut and he scowled.
His injuries at the hands of the Joker had taken nine weeks to fully heal, putting him out of commission as Robin. Bruce had then insisted he take a further three weeks to build up his strength before he donned the costume, but had finally agreed that Robin could hit the streets again the following night. Jason knew there was no way Dick would jeopardise that by arguing.
"Good," said Bruce before turning to Jason. "Thomas Lee wants to do a debriefing with the security team. He's gathering everyone in an upstairs meeting room."
Jason nodded. He would have expected nothing less from the General; the man was nothing if not thorough. "Guess I'll see you afterwards?" he asked Bruce, his tone casual.
Bruce gave him a quick look and then nodded.
For the last week, Batman and Red Hood had been working overtime to ensure the worst of the crazies were behind bars before Robin started back the following night. Bruce wasn't the only one being over-protective…Jason was just doing a better job of hiding it.
He grinned at Dick. "Guess I'll see you tomorrow night then."
"Yeah. Guess so– wait! What are you doing tomorrow?"
"Tomorrow? Nothing, why?"
"Want to come tree shopping with me and Bruce?" Dick asked excitedly.
"Er…okay," said Jason, confused by Bruce frantically shaking his head behind Dick's back.
Dick beamed. "Cool! We'll pick you up at eleven, okay?"
"Sure thing, Kiddo. Catch you later, Bruce," said Jason, nodding at them before walking away. He was a little surprised by Bruce's headshake. The man wasn't a big fan of Christmas and Jason thought he would have preferred to have someone along to temper Dick's enthusiasm; the boy was a little over-zealous about the festive season.
It took several minutes, three shell-shocked hotel staff and two police officers before Jason was able to locate where Thomas Lee was debriefing the Wayne Enterprises security team. When he reached it, he could tell the debrief had started because Lee's deep voice was carrying down the hall.
Slipping quietly into the room, Jason stood at the back and glanced around. Three security guards were missing. That's not a good sign, he thought grimly and turned his attention to Thomas Lee who was spouting angrily from the top of the room.
"– you were given orders! If this had been an actual war zone then you'd probably be dead! What were you thinking?!"
Jason was surprised to learn that he was yelling at his own son, Justin, and Kevin West; a nice but somewhat naïve young guard.
"Hey! We weren't the only ones who left our posts!" Justin retorted angrily. "Golden Boy Todd disappeared as well! And he's not even here right now either!"
Although Jason was somewhat amused to hear himself being referred to as a golden boy, he was irritated by Justin's childish sniping. "Actually, he is," he spoke up, stepping forward just as several heads swivelled to look at him.
"Todd! Where were you?" Lee barked.
"Downstairs. When the shooting started, I ran into the ballroom because Dick had just gone back in there."
Lee nodded as though satisfied before turning once more to Justin and Kevin. "You two have no valid excuse for leaving your posts and make no mistake, there will be disciplinary action for this. West, you're an idiot who used his downstairs brain instead of his upstairs brain! And you!" he snarled at Justin. "You clearly didn't use any brain at all!"
Justin's brown eyes popped furiously. "I ran down to the other room to protect the auction items from robbery! How come Todd gets off just 'cause he ran in to protect some snot-nosed kid but the guy who tried to protect the real valuables gets punished?!"
"Real valuables?" Jason snarled, getting angry now; this was the second time tonight this asshole had a go at Dick. "Are you suggesting a bunch of antiques are more important than Dick?"
Justin glanced at him and rolled his eyes. "Christ, Todd, they were obviously there to rob shit, and it's not like the kid is worth anything!"
The whole room went still and a strangled sort of noise echoed up from Jason's throat. However, before he could rip Justin a new one, someone else spoke up.
"Are you really suggesting that Bruce Wayne would place a higher value on those antiques than the life of his son?" Thomas Lee asked in a dangerously quiet voice, glaring at his own son. "Because if you are, you're an even bigger fool than I thought and that's saying something."
Every person in the room averted their eyes as Justin flushed in anger and embarrassment. This had just gotten uncomfortably personal.
With a look of deepest disgust, Lee turned away from his son and faced the room once more. "So the security alarms for the gardens were dismantled because West was stupid enough to leave his post for some woman, allowing the gunmen access to the French doors into the ballroom. What else do we have?"
So that's how they got in so smoothly! Jason thought, not bothering to marvel at how quickly the security team had pieced that information together; under Lee, they operated as an efficient, well-oiled machine.
"I was at the east door into the ballroom," called Ryan Jackson, one of the more experienced security guards and also ex-military. "I had a clear view of everything from the second they entered. Sir, they shot the security guards closest to the French doors without even assessing their surroundings…like they knew exactly where the men would be stationed."
Jason stiffened. Hooper's info suggested inside intel. "They attacked right when the lot items were being moved as well," he said, quickly putting two and two together. "The one point in the night when all the security for the event would be spread out…"
Thomas Lee narrowed his eyes. "Are you suggesting this was an inside job?"
Jason tightened his jaw. "Not suggesting, flat out telling you. They were too aware of our security precautions for it not to be."
Silence descended on the room as the men looked around at each other, wondering which one had sold them out.