The dogs had bigger prey to hunt, but she wasn't taking any chances. Perhaps the commissioner could offer her protection or some sort of negotiation, but she wouldn't know because she wasn't going to give away her position. She wasn't taking any chances.
Obviously, the police were out of the question. That much she had known at the moment she had heard the latest news of Batman. The safe house where Gordon had sent her was located on the outskirts of Gotham, gently flirting with the big city. Escape hadn't been as difficult as she had presumed nor the young police officer that had stationed to monitor her. The blonde on TV had been still going on about Batman's last criminal acts when she had knocked him out to the floor.
Yes, the police were certainly out of question, so was the mob. She doubted there was any lost love between them, and even if there was, it wouldn't really matter because she wasn't going to sell him out. Not this time.
Part I. I – An Unexpected Twist
As the poet said long ago, all world was a stage, and all the men and women merely players, playing their parts; the game, however, this time was her own.
All things considered, "Cameron Reese" was a good character; one of the best she had ever created; a good woman, a good daughter, and a good lawyer, and even better she was easy to blend in. The world was all around her, but no one would take a notice, the world overshadowing her.
The youngest of four girls whose father dreamed of having a son, little Cameron had been raised as an obedient daughter who talked little and smiled even fewer. All her life had been laid out to her since that fateful day at the doctor's office when her parents had been informed that they were waiting another baby girl. There had been no surprises in Mr. Reese's life so he didn't see any reason why there should have been any in his daughters'.
When Cameron graduated from Harvard with a degree in Law, her father held her by shoulders and she was told that he was proud of her, yet the cloud over his eyes didn't go by unnoticed. Cameron knew what it meant, and her father did too; but they didn't talk about it. Discussing feelings wasn't appropriate in the Reese family.
When Cameron told her father that she had been appointed to evaluate the books for Wayne Enterprises, her father smiled and told her he was proud, and she smiled back. But she's still not a son, he must have thought.
In three months she spent in the Wayne Tower, it was like she had been there since the beginning of time, someone everyone would always take granted for. She never tried to bother with making friends, but always obediently did what she was asked, sometimes did it even before the question was asked. So no one particularly bothered either by this aloof, reserved woman who talked little and smiled even fewer, as long as she did her part, and gave her what she needed the most; space and time.
And it worked, for a while, it really worked, nice and fine, until one man barged into her stage and brought an unexpected twist into her little play.
On a sunny day at the top of the ever majestic Wayne Tower, Cameron Reese was sitting behind the long oval desk in the main meeting room, looking like how corporate lawyers all around the globe were supposed to look like; cold, calculating, and wary, and she had a very good reason to be wary, because things weren't going as she had planned. By now she should already have left Gotham without any trace, not wasting precious time in board meetings.
The Chinese suit of LSI Holdings was talking about opportunities and such, but heavy accented words were pointless as they were lost under a soft snoring. Her eyes flicked toward the source of the sound, toward the man who had stolen her spot light together with her easy-way-out, and once again her hands clenched underneath the table. God damn him to Hell and back! But despite the latest but certainly not the last execration, the Prince of Gotham still kept snoring in his perfect poise; slumped back against his chair, his head lolled over the headrest, like he hadn't any single care in the world. This was stupid, she decided, entirely and completely stupid. She should have left long ago…
Admittedly, the corporate cons had never been her first preferences, but a girl always had to look for greener pastures. The plan, though, was still simple, one of the oldest tricks; find a mark, infiltrate it, find dirt, then sell it to the highest bidder. Not exactly delicate, yes, but effective the same.
Unfortunately she hadn't calculated in the Bruce Wayne factor. Being filthy rich, she could excuse him from mundane things like his company's business, but falling asleep in board meetings was entirely another thing. Not that they were fascinating things; even she had had to pinch herself a few times to keep her attention where it belonged, but still… Her glare returned to the sleeping beauty; his back leaned in a posture only bursting bank accounts could supply, his features eased into a peaceful state, his broad chest moving up and down with his steady breaths. She wondered briefly if he was faking it. Even she of all of people wasn't sure what he could possibly hope to accomplish with this kind of mockery, but he was very, very rich, and rich people were known to be eccentric.
If it had been another time, she wouldn't have minded it. After all, who was she to complain about fake personalities? No, she would have sat back and enjoyed the show, as long as it wasn't interfering with her path. But this wasn't any other time, and he was definitely interfering with her path now. She needed him to sign the papers to finish the deal so she would just get the hell out of here. Leaving in this stage, when things had yet come to a conclusion might draw attention later.
She sighed inwardly. This...game had proved itself more tiresome than she had expected and she was getting fed up with playing the Good Girl. She wished she had been in her usual circle of friends where she could smack some fine points of business into the heads.
But, she wasn't quite ready to call it quits yet either. She refused to throw in the towel just because of a rich boy, however ridiculously eccentric he might be. She had spent months planning this con, had Jeremy hacked into the Bar and Harvard databases to register her name in the books, endured the mundane nine-to-five office life for three months. No, she had come here for a reason and she wasn't going back with empty hands.
Soon the meeting came to the end; there weren't many things to be discussed when the supposed chairman kept snoring after all. Quickly she stood up and walked toward Wayne Enterprises' CEO Lucius Fox. She held her ground before the man, readying herself for a fight, one foot slightly before the other, arms tight at her sides. The pose would be a little bit out of her character for Cameron, but she was really getting fed up.
"Mr. Fox—" she started, getting her tone appropriate for talking to a superior about the big boss and glanced back at the snoring man, "sir, I know Mr. Wayne is curious about how his trust fund gets replenished," she said, as a sneer sneaking in her tone despite of her best efforts. Well, at least she had tired. Her eyes turned to Fox, "but this is embarrassing."
Fox mimicked her gesture, his eyes found Wayne then they turned back at her. There was something in his gaze, an undeniable snootiness that made her stomach clench. Usually standing on the other side of proverbial line, she hated receiving those kinds of looks, meant only to condescend. "You worry about diligence, Ms. Reese," the arrogant pompous ass taunted, "I'll worry about Mr. Wayne."
She half-turned and closed her eyes. Count to ten…just think the money …just think the money... Fortunately that was all the motivation she needed. She turned back to face Fox, and with all the aloofness she could gather she muttered, "The numbers are solid."
He gave her another patronizing look, this time accompanied with an equally irritating smile. "Do them again," he ordered, and turned to leave, but not before adding over his shoulder, "Wouldn't want the trust fund to run out now, would we?"
She glared at his retreating back and sniffed. This had better be worth it.
She did the numbers again. She didn't know the reason; when she thought she was sure about something she usually tended to be right about it, hence the numbers were solid, much like the first time. Then she did something else. She didn't know the reason this time, either, but something had urged her, something almost primal, as much as irresistible. If she were lucky enough, she might find something against Fox and turn the tables on him. So she didn't stop with the books that she had been appointed to, but searched Wayne Enterprises' other funds as well.
Then she caught something.
It was easy to assume as a small glitch, easy to overlook; but to her it stood out like a red flag, flashing through the screen. She decided to dive deeper, to search for other such anomalies, but to do that it was necessary to break into the files she didn't have authorization to see. That thought was enough to put her off.
Not with haste, she warned herself. Delicate situations require careful planning. With proper tools and time she could hack into their systems. It wouldn't be easy but she could pull it off. And if it proved to be beyond her skills her she could easily hire Jeremy for another job. It would be a child's play for the best hacker money could buy to find his way in.
But was it necessary? No, not really. She was here with a goal, as impossible as it seemed, and she had enough problems already; this wasn't time to chase after personal vendettas. There likely wasn't any profit to gain from that road, except putting Fox in his place, which would be quite the pay-off, if she had to admit.
Don't get childish, chided half of her mind while the other started to list necessary precautions: An untraceable laptop is a must… No, stop, she ordered herself. There must be other ways to get back at Fox without risking her cover identity. No man with his status could have risen to where he stood with clean hands.
With that thought in mind, she started to investigate his background. His ascension to power, fall, and re-ascension was a curious case; the favorite subject of Wayne Enterprises' grapevine since Wayne had come back from death. Suddenly it hit her, hit her hard. Straightening in her seat, she checked the dates. They matched.
The glitch was the same day when Fox legendarily had returned from his exile in the basement; the day his former department had merged with Archives; the same day Bruce Wayne had regained his throne from William Earle, sneaking off the bits and bits of it through the front companies under Earle's nose. A definite hostile takeover, but also illegal?
She smiled. It seemed so.
She stood up and headed to the elevator to descend into basement. There was something, something in there, she was sure of it.
And like of most of times, she was again right. If she had known what kind of trouble that unexpected twist would have brought up, for the first time all in her life she would wish she hadn't been.
She went over her options that night. Jason had used to warn her about greed all the time. You must have control your greed before it starts controlling you, she could almost hear his voice, "People say because of our profession we're greedy," he was saying in her mind, his unlit cigarette hanging at the corner of his lips out of habit. He couldn't be counted as a good father according to any social principles but there had been times when in his own way he had been trying. "To some extent, I must admit, kiddo, it's true," a shrug in the voice, "but I discovered some time ago the easiest way to get into the trouble is greed exceeding your abilities." And a mocking finger fixing at her, "Know thyself."
When she had seen the designs of that ugly thing that occupied the news every night, jumping from roof to roof, she had laughed. The sound had ripped through the abrasive silence of Archives, and despite it she had laughed again.
How delightfully unexpected... how very interesting.
Once the shock of discovery wore off, she pondered what to do. Making sacrifices was a part of life, especially in their work of line. If your chosen profession to provide yourself was being a con-artist, sooner or later you were bound to learn forsake some things in favor of others, or else you wouldn't last long in the game.
Yes, the con wasn't big but it was still good enough, and more importantly it was clear enough. Even before seeing their books she had been suspecting of LSI's illegal activities but after seeing how they were washing the mob money, she had become sure of it. They wouldn't likely call a full investigation on it. They would surely want to deal with it themselves but she had been very careful not to leave any traces that would lead them to her, as it was the main reason why she had become stuck at Wayne Enterprises at the first place. She had made Cameron Reese's background impeccable and had been keeping her in character ever since. Truthfully though, more than anything she had been trusting over the fact that LSI wouldn't want to get their hands dirty over her when they had so much bigger fish to fry.
She could sell that information in the black market for a couple of hundred dollars, but the secret she had unburied must be worth of millions; after all it wasn't every day when you discovered one of the wealthiest and stupidest man in the world was banking and backing up an armored vigilante, burning through cash to build him tanks to regularly pancake police cars. She could almost see the headlines.
And she could definitely see the look on Fox's face, too.
She went to sleep that night with dreams full of money, and a content happy smile over her lips, dreaming Fox's face as she told him she got him.
When the morning came, the common sense returned. Don't stray off the path, Catherine had used to warn her all the time when she was a child, or else you would get lost. Stay on the path, stick to the plan. It was a good mantra; there was some wisdom in it even though she hated to admit it. But still she stuck to the plan and went to Wayne Tower the next day; only to find out she wasn't the only one who had taken an interest in LSI.
The District Attorney Dent had green lighted an S.E.C investigation. Lau Han had hopped on his jet and tailed back to Hong Kong last night and Bruce Wayne had taken the whole Russian ballet for a quick getaway weekend.
It couldn't be true, she told herself, staring at her computer's screen; that could not be true, life couldn't take that kind of drastic turn just over a night. But it did, and the last six months of her life had just gone out of the window.
So she did what she always did, she readjusted her position.
When she went to see Fox in his office the following morning she was dressed how Cameron Reese would do for such an occasion. It was Ms. Reese who had come through the massive main entrance three months ago and it was still crucial, perhaps more than any time, the same Ms. Reese would leave it.
The clothes she would have preferred wouldn't do it. Six months ago, she had remade Cameron's background only for one purpose; to get her suitable to sit in the board meetings of an intentional corporate empire. Cameron was a cautious woman but a suitable boldness in the character was also necessary as Cameron was going to blackmail her boss. So she wore a simple white shirt and blood red high-waist wide leg pants, leaving the black pencil skirts and fitting jackets at home. She put her glasses on but instead of a professional tight bun she let the dark honey blonde hair float down over her shoulders in loose waves. She put faint yet bright nude toned eye shadow on, and the light peach lipstick gone, she went with again with red. Yes, that should do it.
Even though Fox noticed the difference in her attitude when she walked into his office, and he must have done, it was hard to overlook, he didn't show it. She sat in the couch in front of his desk and crossed her legs in a way Cameron Reese would never do under normal circumstances, mostly to worry him. Fox, however, didn't even bother to lift his head from the reports he was reading. "What can I do for you, Ms. Reese?" he mumbled nonchalantly at his paper.
She smiled, and this time she didn't need to fake it through clenched jaw. "You wanted me to do diligence on the LSI Holdings deal again," she replied with a sweet tone then paused for a little dramatic effect before she concluded, "I found some irregularities."
He finally lifted his head and…that stupid smile again. "S.E.C wanted to take their CEO into the custody."
She threw at him the gentlest smile she could handle and looked directly into his eyes. "Not with their numbers, with yours. Applied Sciences," she flashed another smile, the corners of her lips edging up as she leaned forward, "a whole division of Wayne Enterprises just disappeared overnight. I went down to Archives and started pulling some old files." She leaned back again and looked at him smugly. "It's amazing what you could find through that mess," she taunted coyly, then stopped to wait for an answer.
He stared at her in silence, so she continued, shaking her head slightly. "Don't tell me you didn't recognize your baby out there, pancaking cop cars on the evening news," she scoffed with a huff, "Now you've got the entire R&D Department burning through cash, claiming it's related to cell phones for the Army! What are you building for him now," she asked, her voice turning more taunting, "a rocket ship?"
At that point she had to admit her mouth overran her brain. The slip of Cameron's persona was so palpable for a moment she almost felt like she was—herself once again. And that would be a terrible, a terrible mistake. Luckily Fox didn't seem to be aware of the slip. He was still looking at her silently, eyes measuring. Not giving an inch, she held his stare defiantly.
"Ms. Reese," the older called after a while, and asked directly, "what do you want?"
Well, that was the tricky part. "I want…" she halted, letting out a sigh, "Let's not get greedy, shall we?" she asked rhetorically before she continued, "I want…a fair deal, three millions dollar," she said, "and in return you'd never hear of me again."
Surprised, Fox straightened back, and looked at her as if to gauge if she was telling the truth. She could understand his lack of trust, as of the moment she shouldn't come across very trustworthy, but she had never anyways. The next moment though the same smile appeared over his lips.
She scowled. "Let me get this straight," he started, leaning over his desk toward her, "You think that your client, one of the wealthiest, most powerful men in the world is secretly a vigilante—" the man continued, as suddenly her mind drew blank. Could it be that she heard him wrong? "—who spends his nights beating criminals to a pulp with his bare hands—" She blinked once, then twice... Oh dear god! "—and your plan is to blackmail this person?" Satisfied by her frozen stupor, he leaned back and shook his head at her. "Well, good luck with that."
She knew a good fighter must know when to retreat and analyze the situation to find out another opportunity to strike back. She stood up and turned to leave. "Keep that as well," Fox called after her. She looked at him over her shoulder and saw the older man gesturing the plans with a dismissive wave of his hand.
"I already have copies," she hissed through her teeth.
It was becoming one of her best fuck-ups, fast.
As ridiculous as it sounded, of course it was him. How had she missed it before, how had she let appearances fool her was beyond her. But dammit, hadn't it seemed logical. Definitely more logical than believing Bruce Wayne to be personally that rodent man instead of just banking and backing him up.
But, then again, everything really had started with Wayne's Lazarus stint, returning from his long absence doing only-God-knew what. A young man, merely a teenager who had disappeared off the face of earth the very day his parent's killer had been gunned down by the mob at the court in which he had been set free. How could she have missed such a thing? She glared at the ceiling.
No, she hadn't missed it. She had assumed that that was particularly the reason for Wayne's support for the vigilante. And Bruce Wayne was the most self-absorbed, self-involved person she had ever known. She had thought of it as a grudge of rich kid, but him being personally Batman himself. How he could be that thing…it made no sense. Just a couple of days ago, he had been cruising with the whole Russian ballet. And when he had come back, Lau had also magically dropped into the custody of the police commissioner, she remembered, heaving a sigh out.
That night in her home, she continued to mull over him at great length, recalling her doubts about his mannerisms, the times she had thought if he was faking it. Some things only made sense only in retrospect, she thought grudgingly, gazing at her ceiling. But stressing over it was no use, either, especially when Fox knew she knew it. And truth to be told, what would have changed if she had known it before? She still would have threatened him.
Like she usually did in times of crisis, she consulted her best friend. She put the Irish whiskey on the coffee table, set a glass next to the bottle, and fixed herself a good drink.
There should still be something she could do with that information. Would blackmailing Fox and Bruce Wayne for being accomplices have been less dangerous than blackmailing the vigilante directly? No. No, it wouldn't have. Would Fox tell him what she had tried...he would, certainly. Now what would Batman do to her? Threaten her, for starters, she was sure. She was also sure he couldn't harm her in a deathly way, maybe a few bruises and such but not further. He had rules, everyone knew it. She had tried to blackmail him, yes, but as much as he knew she was an opportunistic young woman who was out of her depths. Apart from an attempt for blackmail, Cameron Reese wasn't a criminal. Moral laws, social norms and semantics could be damned for all she cared.
After the second glass of scotch, she categorized the situation as 'not that bad'.' After the third she was truly convinced he couldn't harm her fatally. By the fourth she started considering that there still might be a way to salvage the situation, and still get some money.
The following night, on T.V she saw Harvey Dent declare himself as Batman.
Yes, it was definitely getting one of her best fuck-ups, she decided, staring at T.V.