They returned to the mansion in high spirits and Elissa seemed to have forgotten about her failure with Scarecrow. Clinging to her mother's arm as they entered, she laughed and declared, "You have got to be kidding! And she knew nothing about it?"
"I didn't keep many secrets from your grandmother," Diana admitted, "but some things are much better left unsaid."
"That is just totally wicked," the girl said with a laugh.
"Just don't get any ideas," Diana warned. "I'm way ahead of you on that."
"I believe you, Mom. Hey! Maybe we can, like, go and do a Justice League mission or something. It would be all kinds of fun!"
With a little smile, Diana confirmed, "Sure, I'd like that. But not until I get you clearance, understand?"
"And I think your father would like some time with you as well. Do you think you can go out with him without getting gassed again?"
Elissa rolled her eyes and grumbled, "I'll try."
They got into the main living room and Diana raised her chin as she saw Alfred approaching. "Is Bruce still here?" she asked.
"Down in the cave," Alfred replied. He turned his attention to Elissa and offered a smile. "I believe you wanted pizza with everything, right?"
Her eyes lit up and she raised her brow, clasping her hands together as she asked, "Did you order one?"
"Even better," he said as he reached her. "I made two, myself."
She squealed and threw her arms around his neck, hugging him tightly as she offered, "Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!" with her usual girlish enthusiasm.
Diana grasped her shoulder and informed, "I'm going to go find your father. Go ahead and grab a bite and get some rest. I'll catch up."
"Okay, Mom," she assured as she pulled away from Alfred and took his hand, leading him back toward the kitchen. "I've seriously got to try this!"
As they entered the kitchen, he patted her hand and assured, "I can make more if you
They both looked ahead and Alfred raised his chin.
A well dressed young man was sitting at the small table in the kitchen and half turned as they entered, resting his elbow on the back of the chair he sat in. Dark blue eyes found them quickly and he smiled. His black hair was well groomed and he wore a black dress shirt and tan trousers.
On the table in front of him was one of the pizzas Alfred had made, and one slice was already gone from it.
"Master Dick," Alfred declared. "It is good to see you home!"
"Just blowing through," he informed, his eyes leaving Elissa for only a scant second. He finally stood and turned toward them, folding his arms as he looked her up and down. He was very tall, very broad shouldered and square jawed, a very handsome young man who appeared to be in his mid twenties. "And who is this?"
Stepping away from her, Alfred introduced, "This is Miss Elissa, a special guest of Master Bruce." Looking to the handsome young man, he continued, "Miss Elissa, this would be Dick Grayson."
Elissa's eyes widened and she breathed, "Nightwing!"
Dick nodded in slight motions and confirmed, "That's me. And you must be Golden Angel."
She nodded, still staring at his piercing eyes.
He finally approached and extended his hand. "Well it's good to finally meet you. I've heard a lot about you over the last few months."
She took his hand and smiled. "I've heard all about you. You were Robin years ago and you were at Batman's side for a long time! That must have been so awesome!"
"It had its moments," he confirmed. Half turning, he extended his hand to the table. "Alfred's made some good pizza and I don't think we should let it go to waste."
They approached the table and he pulled a chair out for her. She turned and smiled at him before she sat down and he pushed her closer to the table before taking his own seat.
Alfred approached the counter across the kitchen and informed, "I'll just get started on another."
"Thanks, Alfred," Dick offered. Pulling another slice from the pizza in front of them, he slid it onto a napkin and offered it to the girl, and when she took it, he took a slice for himself and asked, "So how are you liking Wayne Manor?"
She had taken a bite already and chewed back some of what she had before answering with a nearly full mouth. "It's beautiful here, but kind of cold at night. This is a really big house, too."
He smiled. "Have you seen the basement?"
Elissa's eyes slid to him and she nodded, then she took another bite of her pizza.
Between the two of them, they managed to consume all three of the pizzas that Alfred made for them. Getting acquainted was very easy. Dick was very charming and very easy to talk to and they found themselves laughing with each other even after the pizza was gone. At some point they retired to the sitting area where Dick took a deep cushioned recliner and Elissa perched on one end of a love seat closest to him, pulling her feet under her as she always did. The two talked for some time, and finally Dick looked down at his watch and raised his brow.
"Well, darn," he said absently. "I hate to cut this short, but there's somewhere I have to be soon."
She nodded. "No problem. It looks like I'll be around for a while so I'll be easy to find."
He stood. "Wish I could look you up again, but I'll be leaving after tonight. Big operation going on that we're trying to get shut down."
Elissa slid from the love seat to stand in front of him, folding her arms as she looked up at him with a lean of her head. "Big operation? Could you use a hand?"
Looking away, Dick shrugged and shook his head. "Really I'm just looking into something here in Gotham. If I'm able to disrupt something and maybe take down one of the local bosses then that could compromise what they're doing in Chicago." His eyes shifted back to her. "Besides, I'm sure Bruce has plans for you already."
"We could go ask," she pressed.
Dick raised his brow and shrugged again. "Well, if you're that determined, I guess I wouldn't mind some company. It might be several hours of boredom, though."
She folded her hands behind her, absently swinging her shoulders back and forth as she said, "Oh, it won't be a problem. I've been told I need to learn patience and stuff and this sounds like a good time to start."
He smiled and shook his head. "You're just too cute to say no to."
Moments later saw them emerge into the Batcave with Dick embracing the idea of having her at his side for the night.
"Just remember," he warned, "you're the sidekick tonight."
Elissa laughed and bumped him with her shoulder. "Okay, I get it, Mister Nightwing. I get it!"
They paused as they heard voices.
In the distance, near where the Batmobile sat awaiting its next mission, they could see Batman and Wonder Woman facing off in what looked like a heated argument. They could not make out what was said, but when Diana poked him in the chest, Elissa was sure she heard her name.
This was not something either of them was accustomed to seeing, but as Dick looked down at Elissa, he saw the distress in her eyes, the arching of her brow and how her lips slowly parted. She began to tug on one finger and ever so slowly she drew her shoulders up. Dick knew what was happening and turned his attention back to the fighting heroes, then he took Elissa under his arm and bade, "Come on. Let's give them some space."
Hours later, the sun had set and Nightwing and Golden Angel were on a rooftop that overlooked a popular restaurant, one that was very high class and catered largely to those of less than scrupulous reputation, those who ran Gotham's underworld. Peering over the two foot high wall that surrounded the rooftop, Nightwing stared through his binoculars, waiting for his target to arrive. Golden Angel sat beside him with her back to the wall, her legs drawn to her, her arms wrapped around them and her chin resting on her knees. She stared blankly forward, obviously still upset about seeing her parents at odds and openly fighting. She had sensed tension, but she did not know until that moment that it had escalated so.
Pulling his eyes away from his binoculars, Nightwing looked to the girl and asked, "You okay, kid?"
She simply shrugged and did not even look his way.
"They'll work it out," he assured. "They're two of the most level headed people I know."
"I guess," she replied softly.
He turned his attention back to the restaurant, looking through his binoculars again. "It's just how it works out sometimes. They just have to get it out of their systems and then they'll be cool with each other again."
She lowered her eyes and nodded.
"I could really use you in the game right about now," he informed. "I think that's Falcone's limo coming."
Elissa finally perked up a little and turned to look over the wall, squinting slightly as she peered through the darkness. A new found ability was one that enabled her to see small details at a great distance and her eyes strained lightly as she brought distant images in very close. "That him in the gray hat?" she asked.
"No," Nightwing replied, "he's in a really dark blue hat. That's him getting out now, kind of a big guy with the gray sideburns."
"I see him," she confirmed, then she glanced at Nightwing. "Um, so we just watch him have dinner?"
"We need to get closer," he answered. "If I can record him talking about the Chicago operation then we've got him."
"Will that hold up in court?"
He shrugged as he watched them enter the restaurant. "Usually does. We get a little more leeway than the police do on these matters. Sometimes they out-lawyer us, sometimes they know we have them and want to make a deal, and this guy knows he's been in Batman's sights for years. He'll want to deal."
Resting her arm on the wall, she laid her chin on her hand and looked back down to the activity across the street. "So you have a plan to get closer?"
"Fast and silent," was his reply. "I'm afraid this is where I go in alone."
She smiled and cut her eyes to him. "I bet I can get a whole lot closer than you."
Nightwing finally turned his full attention to her, his eyes narrowing.
In only about ten minutes they were in a back room behind the stage in the restaurant where the performers got ready for their shows. This was the private dressing room of one of the star attractions, a young woman who was about five foot seven with bright red hair who called herself Star. She was very well made and had legs that she liked to show off to the crowd as she performed her act. It was not a huge room and had a dressing table with a well lit vanity, a couple of deep cushioned chairs and a very comfortable leather couch that Nightwing laid her on as she slumbered away.
Golden Angel sorted through her dresses and asked, "How long will she be out?"
"Three or four hours," he replied as he covered her with the white blanket that had been thrown over the back of the couch.
"Great," Elissa said as she pulled a sparkling red dress from the rack and held it against herself, looking down at it as she saw how it fit her. "Plenty of time." Looking around her, she saw a privacy screen set up in the corner and strode around behind it.
Turning toward her, Nightwing folded his arms and complained, "I still don't like this."
"You said it's a good idea," she countered from behind the screen, throwing her top half over it.
"If something happens
" he started, then he trailed off as her pants were laid over the screen as well.
"Risk is our business," she explained. "It seems like you would get that by now. I mean, you've worked with Batgirl, haven't you?"
He cleared his throat and turned away. "Batgirl isn't Batman's daughter. She also isn't Wonder Woman's daughter."
"And I happen to be both," she laughed. "Dang! This is a little too long!"
Dick turned back as she strode around the screen wearing the red dress she had picked out. It was rather low cut in the front, full sleeved and had a slit all the way up one side that showed all of one leg as she walked, and part of her hip. She was also barefoot and the dress swept the ground as she moved.
She turned an unsure look to him as she held the skirt up from the floor and asked, "What do you think?"
He swallowed hard as he looked her up and down. The dress fit her very tightly, moving with her almost like a second skin and showing off her generous curves as it was supposed to. The low cut front also displayed her chest in a very seductive, very suggestive way. He had a difficult time looking away from her, but finally nodded and managed, "You look fine."
"What about the extra length?" she hissed.
"I would imagine that Miss Star's stilettos will take care of that," he replied, "or did you intend to go out there barefoot?"
She looked down at her feet, raising the skirt higher, then declared, "Oh, yeah!" Glancing about, she saw the shoe rack, with about two dozen different pairs on it, over by the make-up table and strode to it, the dress ruffling loudly as she walked. Picking out a red pair, she sat down in the chair and pulled the first one on, buckling it with care around her ankle.
Dick found himself watching her, then came to his senses and turned away. "Okay, Angel. What's the plan?"
She pulled the other shoe on and explained, "I'll work on getting their attention and give you a chance to get as close as you need to. You might pose as a waiter or something or just use that stealth thing you were talking about earlier."
"And then?" he prodded.
Elissa finished with the other shoe and looked up at him. "I thought I was the sidekick! Don't you have a master plan for all of this?"
He nodded and turned back to her. "Okay, I'll work on my part, but if we get discovered and any shooting starts"
"Um," she interrupted, raising an arm and pulling the sleeve back to reveal her gauntlet. "Hello! Amazon, remember?"
"Oh, yeah. Right. Okay." He looked toward the door. "I'll go out first. Just tell them that Star is ill and you'll be entertaining them tonight."
She stood up and saluted him. "Yes, sir!"
"I'll be out there," he went on, "but I won't be visible. If it goes bad, just make for the back and I'll cover you."
Golden Angel smiled as she pulled her long hair out of the ponytail it was in and shook it out. "Yeah, like I need you to cover me."
Peeking out onto the stage, which was not very big and had only a high stool and single microphone right in the middle. At the back near the door she looked out of was what appeared to be a karaoke machine, what looked like it would provide the music when she sang, and she was a little disappointed. "No live band?" she grumbled. No matter. This would greatly simplify things.
With the red curtain still drawn, she took the opportunity to slip out onto the stage and examine the machine, turning it on to check the music selection, and she smiled as she saw one of her favorites, one that she used to sing for her mother and grandmother when she was a little girl, something left over from long ago. Making this selection and then another, she pushed what she assumed was the queue so that she could start her numbers as soon as the curtain opened.
The sound of the curtain pulling behind her and the sudden rush of light had her entire spine go rigid and her eyes widened. Very slowly, she looked over her shoulder.
The curtain had opened and there were more than two dozen people staring at her. Deep cushioned booths lined the walls and many small, round tables were carefully distributed about between them, and most had patrons occupying them. All were very well dressed in expensive suits and nearly all were men. Of these men, it was clear that many of them worked for those who operated outside of the law for the most part, though she thankfully did not recognize any of them and prayed that none recognized her. One thing that was abundantly clear was that everyone out there, including the wait staff, had stopped what they were doing when that curtain had unexpectedly opened. She also realized that she was still bent over the machine and that everyone's first impression of her was of her backside. It was time to just go to work.
As she looked back to the controls to start the music, she realized that what she thought was the queue was the curtain control, and she ground her teeth a little as she looked to find the queue.
Someone in a white shirt and with black trousers and a white vest rushed onto the stage from the side and stopped right beside her, hissing in her ear, "What are you doing? And where is Star?"
"She's not feeling well!" Elissa hissed back. "How do you work this thing?"
"You aren't supposed to start for twenty minutes. Just get on stage!" he ordered. Huffing a breath, he shook his head and grumbled, "Just once I'd like to be notified when there's a change."
"I'm sorry, okay?" she offered in a whisper. "I have a couple of songs in there to get me going."
"Go on," he insisted. "I have this."
She stood fully and turned, her eyes glancing about at the unforgiving faces she had to entertain. There was that nervous crawl in the pit of her stomach as she slowly strode to the microphone, and as she stumbled in shoes she was not used to wearing, that crawl got a little worse. Finally reaching the microphone, which was on a thin chrome stand and already adjusted to her height, she forced a smile and waggled her fingers at the people who watched her, greeting, "How's it going?"
Elissa swallowed hard and grasped the microphone stand as she looked back to the man who worked with the controls, and finally heard the music softly roll from the speakers hidden around her. Now was the time to relax and allow herself to become what they needed to think she was, and she closed her eyes and drew a deep breath as she allowed the music to sweep her into its current. As the music played, her body began to sway with it, and for a few seconds as she rolled her head back and danced in slight motions where she stood, she seemed lost in it.
Drawing the microphone close to her lips, she did not open her eyes as she started the first words of the first song, instead grasping the microphone almost tenderly in both hands as she began to sing.
"If you ask my beating heart to stop beating, it just can't start missin'
Her voice snared the attention of everyone in the room, and many exchanged looks beneath high brows and nods.
"If you ask me not to think about you, I'll never listen. I can't think of life without you, , but I know there's nothing I can't do, with you at my side
" She finally opened her eyes and unleashed the true power of her voice. "Along this path we walk, when all we do is talk and you're holding my hand so tightly in yours, I never feel afraid, I know I've got it made, when I'm with you my spirit soars
Surely, with their attention fixed on her so, Nightwing would be able to get in, get close, and do whatever it was he intended to, and she was determined to give him all the time he needed. Removing the microphone from its stand, she turned slightly and strode with slow, sultry strides toward the steps at the front of the stage, and she had the side with the slit in the skirt turned strategically toward her audience. As she neared the steps, a passing waiter who was dressed much as the man who had helped her with the music was held his hand to her, and she gently slipped her hand into his as she descended from the stage, one slow step at a time. Once down, she flashed the waiter a big smile before spinning around and continuing her song on a walk among the men at the tables. Seeing their reactions to her, she could not help the big smile that overpowered her mouth. Sure she had a job to do, but she found herself lost in the fun of the moment, and she also rather enjoyed the attention.
When her song ended, she had made her way back to the stage, sat on the edge and swung her legs up onto it, crossing them there as she propped herself on one arm and really powered out her last notes. She was not completely aware of the reasons the men watching her responded to her so, she only knew that they did, and she liked it.
This was not a crowd to applaud with much enthusiasm, but applaud they did, and many stood up to do so.
Elissa stood up on the edge of the stage with a giddy smile on her face as she looked about at them. When the second song started, she raised a brow and looked about at the booths, finally seeing the large man in the expensive blue suit who also watched her with great interest, and her eyes were fixed on him through the first words of her next number. "Let me entertain you. Let me, make you smile
Once again, she left the stage and wandered among the tables as she sang, very slowly and sharing her attention among the people who watched her, and for that fleeting moment it did not matter that they were underworld crime bosses.
Her eyes found Falcone once more before she turned back to the stage.
As the song ended, she climbed back onto the stage and made her way to the control panel. She definitely did not want songs played that she did not know!
The man who had helped her before met her there and she graciously allowed him to work the controls this time.
Giving her a sharp look, he informed, "You aren't getting a break early, by the way."
She smiled and assured, "Don't need one. I'm having a really good time out there."
"Just keep having a good time. I think they like what
" He trailed off and looked over his shoulder.
Elissa felt the man walk up behind her and turned to face him as he reached her, looking up at him as he leered down at her.
He was a big fellow, broad shouldered and rather thick all over. He was rather well groomed but still pretty rough looking, and a little snarl took his mouth as he informed in a deep voice, "Mister Falcone would like for you to join him."
She raised her brow and asked, "Seriously?" Looking to the man helping her, she stammered, "Um, do I go ahead and take that break now?"
"Yes!" He hissed.
Falcone's eyes were hard and scrutinizing as she approached, looking her up and down with no readable expression.
As she reached the table, one of the men sitting across from him stood and offered her his seat.
"Thank you," she offered with a smile as she sat down. Settling herself with care, she finally folded her hands in her lap and looked to the mob boss across from her, beaming him a big smile as she greeted, "Good evening, Mister Falcone."
He just nodded back and stared at her.
A little anxiety began to show its way through as her brow arched and she asked, "Am I doing okay out there? I mean, you like my singing, right?"
His voice was cruel and betrayed years of smoking as he replied, "You have a wonderful voice." He leaned his head slightly and asked, "What happened to Star?"
"She's not feeling good," Elissa answered straightly, looking him right in the eye. "She's asleep in the dressing room and might get to come out later if she's feeling better. Um, it's okay that I came out in her place, isn't it? I'm not trying to push her out of her job or anything, I just wanted
" She turned her eyes down to the table before her. "I just wanted my chance, is all."
Falcone lounged back slightly and looked to the waiter who stood nearby, then to Elissa and asked, "You want something to drink? Bring her something to drink."
She looked up to the waiter and sheepishly said, "Chianti, please. Thank you, Mister Falcone."
"You know who owns this club?" he asked suddenly.
Shaking her head, Elissa replied, "No sir."
"Huh," huffed from him. "You don't know the owner, but you come in here to sing anyway."
She drew her shoulders up slightly. "You don't have to pay me for tonight or anything. I really just wanted to come out and perform."
"You got good manners, kid. I like that."
"Thank you," she offered with a shy smile, her eyes still on the table before her. When a glass of wine was set before her, she glanced at the waiter and offered a smile and a nod. Taking the flute of the glass gingerly in her fingers, she stared down into it, and finally managed, "So, um, you like me?" This was starting to become more than a diversion for Nightwing. She found herself really getting into her role.
With a slow nod, Falcone confirmed, "You got good pipes, kid, good pipes. With the exception of one little detail I think you could make it in this business."
She turned her eyes to him and picked up her wine glass, raising it to her lips as she asked, "What detail is that?"
When he glanced at one of the men standing beside the booth, the man laid Golden Angel's trousers and top, neatly folded, on the table with her tiara on top of them. He set her boots down beside her on the floor and threw her utility belt over his shoulder.
Elissa took a dainty sip of her wine before setting her glass back down. With her eyes locked on her crime fighting garb, she drew a deep breath, raised her brow and absently said, "Well this sure is awkward."
"You really thought we wouldn't check out the dressing room?" he spat.
"Well," she stammered, "I was hoping you wouldn't." She finally shifted her gaze back to Falcone and asked, "So aside from this little problem, did you really like how I sing?"
Falcone looked to his henchmen and they all laughed, and Elissa smiled and took another sip of her wine.
"I got to hand it to ya, kid," he said with a complimentary tone, "ya got moxy."
She looked back to her wine and shrugged. "Well, you can imagine how much I actually get to do this. You know, sing for an audience and stuff. My other life usually gets in the way of what I'd rather be doing."
With a nod, Falcone admitted, "I can see where that would be very inconvenient. Now you want me to believe that you just happen to come in here, make Star take a nap, and all because you just want to sing for a club where my associates and me are going to be talking business. That's too much of a coincidence, baby doll. You know what I think? I think you are here to find something out."
Elissa picked up her wine glass and raised her brow. "Well, if you're talking about the thing in Chicago, I already know about that." As she drank, she noticed the men around her exchanging uneasy glances, and she set her glass back down and looked back to Falcone. "Oh, come on. Your so-called partner there has been bragging all over the place about this stupid little scheme and how you guys here in Gotham are going to take the fall for the whole thing. I mean, you can't be that naïve."
Falcone set his jaw and glared at her.
"I just came here to see if I could head off the inevitable bloodshed that is to follow when it goes bad for you," she went on. "Well, that and sing a little." Her eyes darted from one to the next and widened. "Wait a minute. You mean you didn't know? I thought for sure you knew!" She shook her head and looked down to her wine. "Oh, boy. Not good."
"So what exactly are they saying in Chicago?" he demanded.
Elissa took another drink of her wine before she answered. "Um, well
" She vented a deep breath, then looked to him with uncertain eyes. "Yes, Mister Falcone, I was sent to watch you, but I'm supposed to report in when you and your gang load up in your cars to go get what's-his-name in Chicago. That's what I'm supposed to report." She looked down to her wine, holding gingerly with the fingertips of both hands. "I guess I managed to screw this one up, too."
Falcone looked up at one of his henchmen, the man who stood beside the girl with her belt over his shoulder. When the man's eyes narrowed and he nodded, the mob boss looked back to the girl and folded his hands on the table. "So you expect me to believe that Goldwin is planning a double cross?"
With a little shrug, Elissa simply advised, "I guess you'll believe what you want to."
Tapping his lips with his finger, Falcone stared at her for a long moment, watching her movements as she took another sip of her wine. He looked to his henchman again as the man handed him a bat-arang, and he looked it over for a few seconds.
"You can have that if you want it," she offered. "I know where to get more."
"Yeah," Falcone confirmed as he looked it over. "I'll bet you do. So you're workin' with the Bat, huh? Let me tell you somethin' about the Bat." He turned his eyes to her and found her looking attentively back at him. "The Bat had it in for my old man. In fact, everything was great before the Bat showed up. Now my old man's dead. You think Batman didn't have nothin' to do with that?"
"Batman doesn't kill people," she pointed out.
His expression hardened.
Elissa looked down to her wine glass, turning it slowly in a circle for long seconds before her attention strayed back to Falcone, and with a sympathetic tone she offered, "I'm truly sorry for your loss."
He looked away from her. "It was a long time ago, kid." He huffed a breath. "The old man never thought much of me, anyway. He ended up leaving most of the business to my brother. Always said I was too weak to run it."
Taking a sip of her wine, Elissa listened intently.
His eyes shifted to her. "You know how to run a business like this? You come in under the radar. My old man never figured that out. He strong-armed or paid off everybody from cops to judges to get what he wanted, and that's when the Bat showed up."
Elissa nodded. "Batman came as a result of the corruption, so it sounds like your father may have been partly responsible for Batman becoming what he is."
Falcone nodded slightly.
She looked back to her wine and smiled an innocent smile. "I wasn't even born yet when a lot of that happened. These days I find myself standing in some pretty big shadows." Her eyes shifted to him and she added, "Just like you are."
"I make my own shadow," he informed with a little smile of his own.
Picking up her wine glass, she asked, "So what's your secret? How are you different from the other mob bosses?"
"You'd really like to know, wouldn't you, kid?"
She nodded and took a sip.
"Okay," he conceded, leaning forward and folding his hands on the table. "Here's how it works. Most of my business is legit. I own clubs and video stores, cleaning agencies, apartment buildings, cab companies
I'm into a little of everything. You want to make money, diversity is the key. And you know what? The feds watch everything that goes on with all of them. They're too stupid to realize that my other business has nothing to do with them, they just assume they're covers for
Let's just say my more colorful occupation."
She nodded. "Huh. Do you make very good money with the legal stuff you do?"
"Well yeah. There's a fortune to be made out there if you're savvy enough to find out where."
"What about the more colorful business. Does it make good money?"
He nodded. "Yeah, pretty good."
"As good as the not so colorful stuff?"
Falcone glanced at the man he had standing at Elissa's side, then he looked back to her and shrugged. "I guess that depends on what you mean by as good."
"In other words it doesn't," she guessed. "With Batman and the police and the FBI watching you, it seems like the risk simply wouldn't be worth it, especially if you're already getting rich doing legitimate business." She raised her brow. "And it's all about making money, isn't it?"
"Not all, kiddo," he corrected, "not all."
"The thrill?" she said with a smile. When he smiled back, she went on, "Yeah, I know what you mean. I don't always follow the letter of the law, myself."
"Get out," he scoffed.
"Really," she assured.
"You've actually broken the law," he said with disbelief in his words.
She nodded. "Yup. Doing it right now." She took another sip of her wine.
"How's that?" he questioned.
She took another sip of wine before answering, "I'm a minor."
Falcone stared at her for long seconds, then he broke out in hearty laughter.
The huge computer console of the Batcave was always well lit when occupied. There was the huge screen right in front of the user with the keyboard beneath it, but there were four smaller screens, two on one side at sitting eye level and two in the other of the concave work station, that acted as secondary data displays. Each was tied into the main terminal, but they also each had keyboards and data entry ports of their own. This was one of the best computer terminals in the world, rivaled only by those used by the Justice League, which were merely newer models of this same design.
Batman, his cowl pulled down from his head, sat in the big chair right in front of the main terminal. With his thumb and index finger, he massaged his eyes, his head bowed as he drew a deep breath.
Standing behind him, Golden Angel and Nightwing exchanged uneasy looks. Both had their hands folded behind them and both were nervously silent as they awaited what seemed like the worst.
With a deep growl, Batman finally raised his head, looking up to the words on the main display in front of him for long seconds before he spoke. "Let me get this straight," he began, his voice deep and growling and laced with aggravation. "My daughter went into a club owned by one of Gotham City's worst crime bosses, sang for him all night, got caught, had a nice little chat with him, and I'm supposed to be okay with this?"
Elissa took a deep breath and declared, "That's what we're hoping."
Slowly, Batman swiveled around in his chair, his brow low over menacing eyes that found Nightwing and remained locked on him.
"Yeah," Dick stammered, "um, it looks like the Gotham part of the operation has been at least stalled."
"No," Elissa corrected, "he's pulling out completely. I might have made him think it was a double cross, so we came up with a plan to make the criminal underworld look like they were going to betray Mister Falcone and he's a really nice guy down deep and I don't think he's going to stay a mob boss. I mean, he's got a lot of legitimate businesses going and he already"
"Angel!" Batman barked. He stood and loomed over her. "I've been trying to put him away for more than ten years, and now you're telling me that you are a close personal friend of his?"
She cringed and drew her shoulders up, lowering her head as she stared up at him like a scolded child.
"Bruce," Nightwing defended as he stepped toward him. "She stopped this end of the operation, which was more than I was hoping for tonight. She also broke up what could have turned into a nationwide crime syndicate that could have been a lot of trouble for all of us."
His eyes found Dick again and he growled, "Why was my daughter in that place to begin with?"
And now it was Nightwing who postured, countering, "She did great in there! You're just going to have to trust that the kid knows what she's doing."
Batman looked away from him.
"I might add," Dick went on, "that we also stopped two robberies and a couple of assaults. She went right after the bad guys, Bruce, and she kicked butt out there!"
Bruce had his teeth clenched and just stared across the Batcave.
Nightwing spun around and strode toward the elevator. "I'm going to grab a shower. I'll pull out in the morning." He paused and turned one more time. "By the way, when I saw her in action, she kind of reminded me you."
Finally, Bruce looked to him, and still he did not look happy.
Raising his chin slightly, Dick informed, "She blindsided them without warning, just like you do." The turned and strode to the elevator, finishing, "Thought you might like to know."
They both watched him enter the elevator, and watched even after the doors closed.
Batman huffed a breath and wheeled around, sitting back into his chair as he reached for the controls.
Elissa felt trapped, as if powerful hands were closing around her throat. Turning her eyes to the floor, she did her best to compose herself, then she turned and silently approached the Dark Knight, gingerly laying her hands on his shoulders as she offered in a meek voice, "I'm sorry, Daddy." When he did not respond, she bowed her head and turned, striding away with light, quiet steps.
"Angel," he suddenly called.
She froze where she was, her gaze on the floor before her.
Bruce stared blankly at the computer keyboard and huffed what sounded like another angry breath. In a more gentle voice, he summoned, "Come over here."
She tensed, but turned and complied, sitting gingerly in the chair to his right.
He just stared at the keyboard for a time and she could see the strain in his eyes, on his features. She did not speak, fearful of any sound that might shatter the deafening silence of the cave.
"I always worried," he finally said, staring at the controls before him. "Every time I sent out Dick or Tim or Barbara, Cassandra or Stephanie
Of course I worried about them. Anything could happen out there. But, I trusted them. I trusted that they would have their training to call on and that they could handle anything that presented itself."
Elissa watched him intently and with her every nerve pulled taut, not knowing what to expect from him.
He cut his eyes to her, turning his head her direction just barely. "I suppose I have to find that same trust for you."
Her lips tightened and she conceded, "That can't be easy with me being your kid and all."
"That makes it a hundred times harder," he admitted. "Believe me, Angel, I don't want this life for you."
"I'm kind of stuck with it now," she informed gently. "I can't just walk away."
"Any more than I could," he confessed. "I'm still new at being the father of a headstrong teenage daughter. I suppose you'll have to expect me to be a little overprotective for a while."
She finally relaxed and allowed a smile to curl her lips. "A while? Like fifty years?"
Elissa giggled and lunged toward him, wrapping her arms around his neck as she moved her chair right up against his. Closing her eyes as she laid her head on his shoulder, she whispered, "I'll be careful, Daddy, I promise. I won't let you down."
His arm slid around her back and he replied in a whisper, "I know you won't, Angel."
Elissa found herself nearly exhausted. The sun was finally up and she realized she had not slept since the previous morning. She also realized that staying up all night just felt
Dressed in light pink shorts and a thin white tee shirt that had a pink skull and crossbones on the front, she padded downstairs with her hand gliding gingerly along the handrail and her eyes on the carpeted steps before her.
Nearly down, she stopped as her eyes caught movement off to one side, near the cavernous room where the two staircases met. Bruce had just emerged from his study and this was one of the very few times she had ever seen him dressed comfortably. He was wearing thin, loosely fitting trousers that appeared to be pajamas and a tightly fitting black tee shirt. He was shoeless, walking with weary steps and was rubbing his eyes. Under his arm was a newspaper.
As he turned fully away from her, apparently to the big sitting area around that huge fireplace, she crouched down and watched him, then noiselessly crept down the steps, slipped around the last post at the bottom, and padded on the carpet that ran down the middle of the hardwood floor behind him. Her eyes were fixed on him, how he carried himself, how he held his head, and her steps quickened. She was half crouched, holding her arms ready, and as he approached the back of the huge leather couch and she found herself only about six feet behind him, she crouched and raised her arms to spring into him.
He turned slightly to go around the couch.
Time to make her move. Without making a sound, she leapt at him, her hands grasping for his shoulders. Taking him high, she would easily be able to pull him over the back of the couch.
Just as she grabbed his shoulder he spun around and raised his forearm into her belly, effortlessly redirecting her.
With a loud scream, she tumbled over the back of the leather couch, bounced off of the cushions and made a loud thump as she hit the floor between it and the coffee table flat on her back. Taking a second to collect her wits, she grasped the couch with one hand, the coffee table with the other, and pulled herself up, looking up to the smiling face of her father as he leaned on the back of the couch on his crossed arms with his newspaper in his hand.
She just glared back at him for a few seconds before grumbling, "Not cool."
He huffed a laugh and shook his head as she got to her feet, turning toward his favorite chair which was on the right side of the couch. As he sat down, Elissa curled up on the end of the couch closest to his chair, leaning on the arm of the couch as she stared at him with eyes that betrayed annoyance. As he opened the paper and looked into it, casually crossing his legs as he read, she rested her chin in her palm as she kept him locked in her sights.
A moment passed in silence.
He turned the page, and finally said, "Did you ever give much thought to watching your own shadow?"
"I will from now on," she snarled.
"So did you make up with Dick?" she asked suddenly, then she bit her lip as he drew a loud breath.
"We're okay," he assured. "We talked it out like we always do."
Elissa nodded. "Yeah, that's good that you guys can talk stuff over." Looking down to her fingernails, she hesitantly asked, "Are you and Mom doing okay?" He took a moment to answer and this sent a crawl through her stomach.
"We're fine, Angel," was all he would say.
She nodded again and observed, "You guys seem to be
Where is she, anyway?"
"Germany," he replied.
Her eyes snapped to him. "Germany?"
"The Justice League is a global organization," he informed as he read. "We go wherever we are needed."
"Cool," she said absently. "So you didn't go with her?"
"She didn't need me along," was his reply.
His answers about Diana were very brief, almost curt, and Elissa took full notice. Time to change the subject.
"So, um, you going to work tomorrow?"
He raised his brow and looked to the other page of his paper. "I have some meetings late in the morning and a working lunch to discuss a project merger with Cybermed Corp."
"Sounds fun," she observed. "Can I come with you?"
Bruce finally turned his eyes to her.
She shrugged. "I just want to watch you work. It's okay if you don't want me to. I don't want to be in the way or anything."
His long, expressionless stare could have meant anything, but finally he ordered, "Go get some rest. I'll have Alfred wake you when it's time to get ready."
With a big smile, Elissa sprang from the couch and went to her father to tightly hug his neck. "Thanks, Daddy!"
As she got up to her bedroom, she strode to the night stand where her cell phone lay. She put in some numbers and held it to her ear, then greeted, "Hi, Mom. Busy?"