Pairings/Characters (this chapter): Bruce/Dick, Alfred Pennyworth, Bertram Anders, Eleanor Winchester, Annie O’Day, Bridget O’Brien
Genres: AU, Historical, Mystery, Romance
Rating (this chapter): PG-13
Warnings (this chapter): None
General Summary: A series of daring robberies on Gotham City’s Gold Coast catches the attention of the Raven and the Nightingale.
Chapter Summary: Bruce visits an old friend for information on the latest jewel robbery.
Date Of Completion: September 23, 2014
Date Of Posting: July 25, 2015
Disclaimer: I don’t own ‘em, DC does, more’s the pity.
Word Count: 1816
Feedback welcome and appreciated.
Author’s Notes: Submitted to my 2015 DCU Fic/Art Dick Grayson Diamond Anniversary Challenge. The entire series can be found here.
THE GOLD COAST
Mrs. Eleanor Winchester
High Society Doyenne
Dick worked hard in rehearsals and in training with Bruce. Another jewel robbery had been committed on the Gold Coast, and Bruce was anxious to start working on this mystery. Dick was just as eager, so they pushed themselves in the training because Bruce refused to go out against even jewel thieves without proper training.
In the meantime they discussed strategies and Alfred approved of their costume choices. He suggested having more than one outfit in case of tears or rips that might occur. He volunteered to procure the same-colored suits, vests, and cravats, which was gratefully approved by Bruce and Dick. The white shirts they wore under their vests were plentiful in Bruce’s wardrobe. Dick needed more shirts of that color, so Alfred offered to purchase them for him.
While Dick was busy with rehearsal in the city, Bruce decided to do a little preliminary sleuthing. He dressed in a dark-blue suit, vest and lighter blue cravat and chose a homburg and warm coat. He pulled on gloves and selected a wolf’s-head cane that had belonged to his grandfather.
“I’m going to the Winchesters, Alfred. I don’t know if they’ll invite me for luncheon, but I’ll call you if I stay.”
“Very good, sir.”
Bruce went out into the crisp fall air. The Winchester house was not far, so he chose to walk. He had introduced Dick to Regan, the head groom, and Joey the stableboy. They would have cheerfully hitched up the carriage but it was not necessary. Walking would keep him fit. He was not a bricklayer or stonemason, browned by the sun, but he could keep in shape.
He nodded to passing ladies in landaus and smiled at little boys in knickers running down the street with hoops rolling in front of them or carrying baseball gloves. The day was ripe with energy, drawing his thoughts back to Dick.
Dick was energy personified. He had little time to brood now with this ray of sunshine in his life.
He smiled at the thought. Despite the tragedy in his own past, Dick enjoyed life and was teaching Bruce to do the same.
He was also spurring on Bruce’s enthusiasm for their proposed nocturnal activities. Being the Raven was important to him. It gave him purpose, certainly more so than attending debutante balls and the latest exhibit at the Art Museum. As the Raven he could perform good deeds with something besides inherited money.
Whistling a jaunty tune, Bruce twirled his cane as he walked. The Gold Coast was the string of estates stretched out on Harborview Drive that overlooked the ocean, and was an address highly coveted by up-and-coming social climbers. Most of the estates were populated by Old Money families, but a few nouveau riches managed to slip in now and again.
Once he reached the gates of Elmwood, the Winchester estate, he toned down his joviality. He was coming to discuss a serious subject and it behooved him to exhibit a corresponding attitude. He walked through the gateway after giving the iron gates a push, listening to them clang shut behind him. He walked up the winding drive to the impressive mansion of brick and white Ionic columns. He jogged up the steps and used the brass doorknocker on the solid oak door.
The door was opened by the butler in mere minutes. “Good morning, Mr. Wayne.”
“Good morning, Anders.” Bruce handed the elderly butler his card and placed it on the silver tray that Anders held. He stepped inside and the butler took his hat, coat and cane. Once the items were stored in the hall closet, Bruce followed him to the parlor.
“Please be comfortable, sir. I shall see if Madame is receiving.”
Bruce nodded his acknowledgment. A fiction, of course. If there was a possibility that Eleanor Winchester would not receive him, Anders would have led him to the parlor without taking his coat and accessories.
He wandered around the room, admiring the colorful Ming vase on a polished pier table, a Monet watercolor on one wall, and a Remington bronze of a cowboy on a rearing horse on another table. He turned when he heard the swish of silk on the tiled foyer floor.
In swept Eleanor Winchester, a handsome woman in her late forties with large brown eyes and an aquiline nose. He chestnut hair was swept up in a fashionable pompadour. Her peach-colored gown was of the latest fashion, complete with puffed sleeves and a ruffled white bodice. An amber brooch glittered at the front of her high collar.
“Bruce, how delightful to see you.”
She held out her hands and Bruce took them. “Thank you, Eleanor.”
“Have a seat.” They settled into their respective chairs, Bruce in a damask-covered French Louis XIV chair and Eleanor on a yellow divan. “I read about your return. How was Europe?”
“Oh, you know, marbles in Italy, icons in Russia, the Mona Lisa in France, and the Parthenon in Greece. You know, the usual.”
Eleanor laughed. “So true. Our set has done the Grand Tour to death.” Her eyes glittered. “Though you did find a sparkling bauble to bring home, eh?”
Bruce felt a momentary irritation. “He sparkles, but he’s not a bauble.” He smiled to cover his umbrage.
“The ladies and I have been discussing a welcome home ball for you. Of course your houseguest is invited, too.”
“How generous,” Bruce replied, careful to keep the sarcasm out of his voice. “But I don’t know how you do it after that awful robbery!”
“That was dreadful,” Eleanor admitted. “The thief broke into our safe and stole my diamond necklace, bracelet and earrings, along with a ruby set.”
“Horrible." Bruce shook his head. “Do the police have any leads?”
“None. Though I hardly expect the Gotham Police Department to be on top of things. Frankly, they’re rather corrupt.”
Bruce privately agreed. Most big-city police departments had less-than-stellar reputations.
“Well, perhaps the Women’s League For Clean Government can do something.”
“I certainly hope so!” Eleanor rang a little silver bell that she kept on a small table. “Will you stay for luncheon?”
“I’d be delighted. May I use your phone to call Alfred?”
“It’s right down the hall.”
Bruce made the call, replacing the receiver in its cradle. He noticed the sound of laughter as the green baize door to the kitchen opened. He could see a maid emerging at the end of the hall.
At least the staff sounds happy.
The young woman was thin but had a nice smile. She was no parlormaid, probably an upstairs maid. Only very comely women were chosen as parlormaids.
“Oh, good mornin’, sir.”
“Annie, sir.” She gave a little curtsy. “Would you be needin’ somethin’?”
“Oh, no, but thank you for asking.”
Her pale face tinged pink with a charming blush. She lowered her hazel eyes demurely. “Excuse me, sir.”
She walked to the end of the hall and into the foyer, ascending the main staircase. He liked the crisp little white cap and apron she wore with her light-blue uniform. It reminded him of a nurse’s uniform.
He returned to the parlor and resumed his conversation with his hostess. “How did the thief get in?”
“Through the French doors in the library.”
“May I see it?”
“What, are you playing Sherlock Holmes?”
Bruce chuckled. “I suppose I am. I’m quite a fan of Mr. Conan Doyle’s work.”
“Why not? It might be amusing.”
Eleanor rose and escorted Bruce to the library, a room of red Morrocco leather chairs and couch and dark wood paneling. She went over to a painting of a grim-faced ancestor and gently pulled it away from the wall. She spun the lock to the proper numbers and opened it.
“Have a look.” She swept her arm out to indicate the interior of the safe.
Bruce studied it. It was empty except for a stack of stocks and bonds. He noted the brand of safe and walked over to the French doors. “Were the panes broken?”
“Actually, it was a circle of glass cut out in one of the panes. Very neat and without any jagged shards.”
“What do you make of that?”
“I’m not sure.” Bruce looked at the doors. “Which pane was it?”
Eleanor pointed. He noted that it was right above the handle.
“Anything found in here? A dropped glove, a scrap of fabric, anything?”
“I did hear Emerson say that one of the detectives found a scrap of black cloth.”
“Ah, well, I suppose they’re on the case.”
The ormolu clock on the mantel chimed twelve o’clock.
“Luncheon should be ready soon.” Eleanor smiled. “Heard from your Cousin Theodore yet?”
“Oh, I expect he’s pretty busy.”
“I’m sure. Well, to the breakfast nook. Unless you’d like the formal dining room.”
“Oh, no, the nook will do just fine.”
The nook was cheerful with yellow walls and plenty of windows. Ubiquitous ferns gently waved in the slight movement of air caused by the ceiling fan. The view from the windows showed the neatly-manicured lawn sloping down to the woods.
Another maid besides Annie served luncheon. Red hair was tucked up under her cap and freckles were sprinkled over her nose. Her brogue was thicker than Annie’s.
“Thank you, Bridget,” said Eleanor in a tone of dismissal.
The maid withdrew after settling the plates of fried cod and golden fried clam cakes on the table. Small bowls of salad completed the menu.
“I appreciate the fish, Eleanor.”
“I know you like it. Some people don’t.” She speared a clam cake with her fork. “The Winchesters in Boston live on a diet of fresh fish caught from the Atlantic.”
“Some people are fussy eaters.”
“Very true. However, fussiness means one misses out on so much.”
“Well, that’s true.” Bruce smiled. “You’re a very practical woman, Eleanor.”
“Oh, thank you, dear. That’s high praise. Practicality is such a useful skill.”
“Yes, useful is good.” Bruce cut a piece of fish. “ The crunchy texture of the batter was just right. “Combined with flair, nearly unstoppable.”
Eleanor’s smile was pure satisfaction.
When Dick came home from rehearsal, Bruce told him what he had learned at Elmwood.
“Sounds like a professional cat burglar, using the star glazier technique.” Dick massaged his calf. They were both sitting in the living room, Bruce in his favorite chair and Dick on the couch.
“That’s what I thought.”
“Reading all those Police Gazettes must have paid off.”
Bruce pretended to ignore Dick’s laughter. “I’ve got some research for you at the library.”
“Ready and willing.” Dick slipped off the couch and settled onto Bruce’s lap. “Always.”
He leaned in and kissed his lover deeply as Bruce’s arms went around him.