Batman watched Mr. Kent leave. He soon dismissed the man from his mind for the moment. He needed to check on Lillian. If the girl was still asleep, even with all this racket going on, it would mean that she was seriously deprived of sleep. This would mean that whatever was happening to her was very serious. Not that he wasn't going to check out the college even if she was awake and moving.
"Lillian?" Batman as Bruce called out looking around backstage for the girl.
Lillian was startled awake with the call of her name, she pulled herself off of the ground that she had fallen asleep on and stared up at Bruce for a moment. She felt quite childish, having done something so odd like falling asleep on the ground in the park, but it wasn't like she could go back and correct the past.
"Oh, I guess I fell asleep during your speech, I'm sorry," Lillian apologized as she brushed herself off and ran a hand through her hair. "I guess I should get home before I've got to pick Sam up from the hospital. I'll be fine on my own so don't worry too much about it."
Batman nodded his head. Stubborn girl. He didn't expect anything less from this girl. After all she had had the drive to put herself through school while taking care of her brother. Anything less would have been something she'd never allow. Like help from Bruce Wayne. He half smiled.
"It’s okay. It wasn’t that interesting of a speech anyways. But at least let Mrs. Smith take you home." Batman looked around for Mrs. Smith and found her talking to one of the workers.
"That really isn't necessary, Mr. Wayne, I can get home on my own," Lillian assured.
"I’m sure you could. Mrs. Smith." Batman hailed her. The woman turned, smiled, turned back to the worker, said something, then came on over.
"Mr. Wayne. How can I help?" Mrs. Smith said smiling at Bruce. She didn't even look at Lillian. Bruce was like some powerful magnet, such was his presence that some people were just drawn to it.
"Remember Lillian Harper?" Batman gestured to Lillian. "She needs a ride home and I was hoping your car was available." Bruce knew better than to offer to drive her himself. The tabloid would be all over that and he didn't want to cause the girl anymore grief.
Mrs. Smith finally pulled her eyes off Bruce and turned to the girl. "Of course. That would be no problem. Where do you live Lillian?"
"Two blocks over in the new apartment buildings," Lillian sighed.
"Great. Then we'll be off." Mrs. Smith smiled at Bruce.
Batman smiled back. "See you at work bright and early tomorrow. You've got your work cut out for you if I did my job well today." Mrs. Smith’s official job, other than being Bruce’s go-to-girl, was to accept money for the charities on Bruce’s behalf. With all the charities WE and Bruce ran, it was a full time job. Bruce heard Mrs. Smith once talking about calls she had received at two in the morning from willing donators. The woman was truly dedicated to her job.
Mrs. Smith giggled. "Right. See you then." She nodded at Bruce before pointing out to the parking lot. "My car's over there." Then she started off with one last look at Bruce.
Batman would call her later to make sure Lillian got home okay. But he wouldn't ask her here while Lillian would hear it. If she didn't want him involved, he'd pretend that he was unconcerned. It was Batman's job at this point anyways. He'd help her with this far more than Bruce ever could. With that taken care of, Bruce left the area himself.
The Porsche pulled into the garage of Wayne Manor. The large estate was outside of Gotham Proper, but not far enough out that it took too long to get to Downtown Gotham. The estate itself was large. It covered over 4 acres of land. That didn’t include the subterranean cave system either.
The house had been built in the English Renaissance revival style. Making the Manor look more like a castle than anything else. The grounds were neatly taken care of. There were hoards of caretakers out at the Manor. Bruce’s manservant, Alfred Pennyworth, was in charge of the other servants. Hiring, firing, raises, were all taken care of by Alfred.
Perhaps Alfred’s most important job was to take care of little Richard. Or as Alfred called him, Master Richard. The boy was important to Bruce, and Batman too, if he’d admit it. The little boy was so full of hope and optimism. When he had adopted the boy, he hadn’t expected it. Rather he had thought the boy would turn out like him. When Richard didn’t, Bruce was happy.
Of course the there was a down side to all that boundless hope and optimism. The fool boy couldn’t sit still for more than five second before he was running and jumping like the laws of gravity just didn’t apply to him. Ten year old boys were like that. Alfred had assured him as much. Bruce wasn’t sure since when he was ten, he wasn’t very active at all.
Bruce ascended the steps to the door of the garage. A stern voice came through the open door and it made Bruce pause.
“Master Richard. Stop that right this instant.” Alfred said in his ‘mother’ voice as Bruce called it. Bruce himself had heard it many times when he was a little boy. He had been raised by Alfred and couldn’t have asked for a better father.
“Alf, watch this!” A young boy’s voice echoed into Bruce’s ears. Followed by peals of boyish laughter.
“Master Richard I must insist you stop this before you hurt yourself.”
Bruce started walking again. He followed the voices into one of the many hallways on the first floor. He paused when he saw Alfred. The man was standing in the middle of the hallway looking at Bruce. His black eyes met Bruce’s blue ones and he gave a small smile. It made the older man look years younger.
Bruce raised an eyebrow and Alfred looked up. Bruce followed his gaze.
“Bruce! You’re home!” Richard cried happily from his lofty perch. He was precariously balanced on top of a massive bookshelf. Not that the bookshelf was full of books, but rather trinkets of ancestors past.
“Indeed. And you are not supposed to be up there.” Bruce pointed out. The little boy never called Bruce ‘Father’. Not even after a year. It made Bruce slightly sad, but he knew the little boy was still hurting over losing his own father. He knew that pain and he’d never ask the small boy to replace his father with Bruce. Just like Bruce could never replace his own father with Alfred, no matter how much he loved the man, or thought of him as a father figure.
Bruce reached out and the black haired boy jumped into his arms. “I was showing Alf a trick and he wasn’t liking it much.” The little boy looked a little put out by this. Alfred sighed. Bruce smiled. “I’m sure he was just worried about you. It’s not safe to be climbing in the house. We talked about this.”
The little blue eyed boy sighed. “The gym is so boring though.” Bruce had a gym specially built on the first floor for the little boy to safely practice his gymnastics and circus tricks. It was his foolish hope that the boy would actually use the gym, and not the Manor. It hadn’t worked.
“But safe.” Bruce pointed out putting the squirming boy onto the ground.
Richard replied by sticking out his tongue and dashing off. Bruce chuckled to himself.
“It’s because you let him get away with it, that he continues this unruly behavior.” Alfred pointed out.
Bruce shrugged, having no response. “It makes him happy.”
“And one day he’ll hurt himself.” Alfred said.
“He’ll do that even if he isn’t climbing on the furniture.” Bruce replied just as succinctly.
Apparently Alfred was going to drop the topic for the moment. “How was the fund raiser?”
Bruce sighed this time. He rubbed the back of his neck. “It went fine. But it was Lillian.” Batman admitted after a moment. Alfred pressed his lips together and looked over Bruce.
“I’ll have a cup of tea sent to your study.” Alfred wasn’t talking about his study he used for WE work. Rather the study that lived in secrecy underground. Only Alfred and Batman knew about that study.
Batman nodded his head. “Thanks Alfred.”
Batman and Alfred went their different ways. The latter to the kitchen to make a cup of tea. The former vanished down into the Earth. When Bruce had been a little kid he had found one of the entrances into the cave system. The darkness had scared him then, and he hadn’t returned. At least not until he had been older and just coming back from his travels around the world.
Now there was more than just caves down there. It was the ‘Bat’ cave; a state of the art command center that helped Batman fight crime and keep his city safe. In the cave directly below Wayne Manor was the main ‘Bat’ cave. It contained his ‘study’. Which had a super computer, files on every villain, political figure, people that had come onto his radar, police, anyone really.
Batman sat in the swivel chair in front of the computer. The screen was the size of a small theater screen. There were three sets of key boards. He booted up the computer and called up the electronic files of Lillian and Samuel Harper. There were sub files on their parents. Mrs. Harper had been killed accidently by falling down the stairs. The official statement was that she tripped over a toy left carelessly on the floor.
Mr. Harper on the other hand was a drinker. He ended up going to jail for a D.U.I. charge. At first the judge had given him probation because he was a sole caretaker of Lillian and Samuel. However within a few months he had violated his parole which landed him in jail.
If Lillian hadn’t had a head on her shoulders both of the children would have been placed in foster care. Foster care wasn’t a good place for a sick child like Samuel. Samuel had been in and out of the hospital so much that he basically lived there half the year, and the other half with his sister.
Batman rubbed his shoulders then stilled. Someone was coming down the stairs into the cave. He didn’t relax until Alfred came into sight.
“Here we go Master Bruce.” Alfred took the cup of tea off the patter and placed it in front of Bruce. “What are you looking for?” Alfred asked as he looked at the screen.
“Someone’s been bothering Lillian at the college.” Batman picked up the cup and took a sip. Perfect. Alfred was the best. “I’m trying to find out who and why.”
Alfred frowned. “Did you ask Lillian?”
Batman mocked frowned. “Ask Lillian? Why that would be too simple.” Then he sighed. “I did. But she wouldn’t talk about it. Said it was nothing. But it wasn’t nothing.” His grip tightened on the china and he forced his hand to relax before he broke it. “Something’s wrong and I’ll stop it.”
Alfred patted Batman’s shoulder. “Of course you will Master Bruce. You always do.”
“Thanks Alf.” Bruce smiled. Then he was all business again.
Batman turned back to the computer screen and started pulling up recent records from the college. Nothing centering around Lillian so far. He heard Alfred leave but didn’t turn and watch. There was nothing from areas around the college either. Whoever was bothering Lillian was very good at not being noticed. That was fine. Batman was better. Tonight he’d find out who was bothering her. He was just going in without knowing who it was. He’d prepare the best he could and go from there.
Batman leaned back in his chair and looked at the clock. Alfred had had it made a few months after he became Batman. It was shaped like a bat. Whenever he saw it, it made him smile, even if it was only an internal smile. It had been a small peace offering. Alfred had disagreed with Bruce over the whole ‘Batman’ thing, but they had come to an understanding. Bruce wouldn’t die and Alfred would wait for him as long as this was what he wanted.
Bruce turned back to the computer. There was still time until the Batman could make an appearance. Batman pulled up a new file and titled it: Clark Kent, Reporter from the Daily Planet, Metropolis.
Batman called up everything he could find on Mr. Kent. He was adopted by Mr. and Mrs. Kent when he was little. He flagged the small adoption agency. The only child ever adopted out of it was Mr. Kent and no birth parents were on record. He grew up in Smallville. He noted that Mr. Kent never once went to the hospital.
Mr. Kent was a good student. Played on the football team, and ended up in the newspapers because of it. His love of reporting was obvious. He had been on the school newspaper in High School. People thought of him as an average nerd. Nothing outstanding. His record was clean. Not even a speeding ticket. Odd that he turned down a scholarship, but understandable if Kent liked reporting better than football.
His work at Daily Planet was average. He had his fair share of articles about the ‘Superhero’ who was called Superman. But nothing out of the ordinary on that end. Batman rested his chin on his hand as he looked at what he had found. Maybe he had been too hasty in giving the reporter a bum’s rush. There was something about his past that didn’t add up. Was it the adoption agency or the lack of hospital records?
Batman closed the file. He’d print it off later and make copies. He kept a copy of the copies in a different secure location. Just in case. Now, however, was time for Batman to make his move. He changed into his suit and grabbed his gadgets.
Sometime while he had been busy, Alfred had come back down and collected the empty cup. Batman looked back over the cave. Everything was in place. He started the bat-mobile via the remote control. He checked his gear before getting in. Alfred wouldn’t expect him until dawn. Richard was safe with Alfred. Gotham and Lillian needed Batman.
The bat-mobile roared as Batman drove it out of the cave. The lights flicked off after it was gone. The faithful servant climbed the stairs after he turned off the lights. ‘Be safe Master Bruce’. His words echoed in the empty cavern, the only witnesses were the bats.