“I don’t think I can eat another mouthful.” James W. Gordon pushed out from the massive oaken table and settled back into his chair.
“Are you sure, Dad? I smelled Alfred’s minced meat pie this morning. I’m sure you’ll find room for a slice or two of that.” Barbara Gordon looked at her father with a devilish smile on her face.
“Give me an hour or so, if you don’t mind.”
“Not at all, Commissioner,” replied Alfred Pennyworth, rising from his seat and reaching for one of the serving dishes.
“Please, Alfred, sit back down and let the ladies from the agency take care of the dishes.” Silver St. Cloud laid a delicate hand on the older man’s deceptively frail-looking wrist. “You’ve done more than enough today. Pulling off a Thanksgiving dinner is hard enough under the best of conditions, but after the surprises of yesterday? It was nothing short of amazing.” As she spoke, Silver fingered the diamond ring on her left hand.
“She’s right, Alfred. I’ve relied on you to do too much around here these past few years. You’ve always been more like family than an employee, and it’s time you started acting like it.” Bruce Wayne wiped his mouth with a heavy linen napkin, then continued. “About time I started acting like it, too.”
“But, sir, that would mean hiring additional help here, and they might…” Alfred let the matter go unfinished. All those seated at the table, however, understood his meaning clearly. Wayne Manor held many secrets. Anyone working there over a long period of time was sure to discover at least some of those secrets.
“The fact that you have been able to keep everything here running smoothly and in museum-level condition all these years is a tribute to your dedication. It also demonstrates how little of the Manor I actually use. It wouldn’t take many changes to my nocturnal activities to limit any chance of discovery to a few key rooms. Any newly hired housekeepers or maintenance people would be restricted from those rooms.”
“I suppose that means we can’t use the solarium for combat practice anymore, Dick.” Jason Todd looked up from a plate swimming in gravy at the end of the table opposite Bruce and grinned.
“Sheesh, Thanksgiving Day, and we get a request for a copy of a fire investigation from last year. I thought the holiday shifts were supposed to be slow and easy ’round here?”
“Oh, relax, Pete. We don’t get many requests from the Justice League, and since we’ve been putting all the incident reports on the computer the past two years, it’s not like we’re gonna spend a couple of hours in the file room.” Joe Kinsella was a twelve-year veteran of the Santa Fe Police Department. Prior to that, he’d spent five years in the Gotham City Police Department, so he’d had his share of dealings with the JLA and especially Batman. “Odd, though. Not much information to go on — just a rough date range for the second-half of last year and a couple of first names that were supposed to have been killed — Emily, Abby, or Abigail, and P.J. Nothing’s coming up.”
Pete Bell leaned over Joe’s shoulder, looking at the screen. “Three people killed in a fire? Not too many last year with that sort of death toll. Try bringing up a list of all the fires with fatalities.”
Joe typed in a series of commands, and the screen filled with a listing of eleven fires. Each listing included a date, address, the property-owner’s name, and the number of deaths. “That’s better. Now, let’s take a look at the names of those killed for each one with three deaths.”
“Hold it, I think I see it.” Pete pointed to the third incident in the list. “Emily Porter on King’s Park Drive.”
“But that one lists four fatalities.”
“Check it out anyway, Joe.”
Joe entered the command to view the incident report. “Hmm — interesting, but it adds up. The fourth fatality was a missing-and-presumed-dead, but they never found any traces of the body. But there they are — Abigail Marie and Paul James Porter, children of the owner.”
“That’s the one. Print it off, and I’ll fax it to the Justice League.”
It was just past eight o’clock when the fax machine in the Batcave came alive, relaying a call from the JLA Satellite. Rather than spilling out pages of paper, this machine accepted the fax call, converted the signal into a computer graphic image, and stored it in the Batcave’s massive computer system. When the call was completed, an alert light came on in several rooms in Wayne Manor. In the library, one of those lights was observed by Bruce and his guests.
“Back at it already, Bruce?” asked Dick Grayson. “I figured you would give it at least a day or two before taking up the cape and cowl again.”
“No hurry, Dick, except this is a special case. One of the people I met in Alaska — he was there because of something that happened last year. I just wanted to get some of the details on it.”
“Mind if I take a look?” Together, they sat down at one of the desks in the library, where a state-of-the-art computer terminal sat. Bruce entered a brief series of commands, and a computer image of the fax from Santa Fe appeared on the screen.
“Great Scott!” breathed Bruce as he read the report.
“What is it, Bruce? I must be missing something.”
“Mick was in Alaska because of this fire, but this isn’t at all what he told me. I don’t think he knows the truth about this.”
“Mick? The guy you were staying with? What does he have to do with a fire in New Mexico?”
“Everything. Gregory Mitchell, missing and presumed dead in the fire — that has to be the name Mick Rory was using.” Bruce turned to his former ward. “Dick, we have to leave. Mick needs to know about this, and he needs to hear it from me — and from Batman.”
Dick smiled and nodded. “I see what you’re getting at. I’ll get the plane ready, and you can explain the rest of this on the way.”