Pairings/Characters (this chapter): Max Bernstein, Bruce/Dick, Unnamed Clerk, Alfred Pennyworth
Genres: AU, Historical, Mystery, Romance
Rating (this chapter): G
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 and Dick hit the pawnshops while a special invitation is delivered to Wayne Manor.
Date Of Completion: January 20, 2015
Date Of Posting: October 5, 2015
Disclaimer: I don’t own ‘em, DC does, more’s the pity.
Word Count: 1484
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.
OF PAWNSHOPS ‘N’ PARLORS
Mrs. George (Morvath) Kensington
"The Art Of Domestic Womanhood"
Max looked up as the tiny bells jingled over the door. He observed a man in a flashy brown-and-white checked suit with a vest and buttons that sparkled gold. He wore a brown fedora pulled low over his eyes, and a matchstick was stuck in his mouth. A flashy gold pocketwatch chain stretched across his vest.
“Hey, Mister! Ya got a nice place here.”
“The name’s Matches Malone.” Matches leaned on the display case, working the match in his mouth. “Ya got any of those little pictures?”
“Yeah, you know, pictures that are teeny-tiny.” Matches used his hands as a frame.
“You mean miniatures?”
“That’s it!” Matches snapped his fingers. “Ya got any of those?”
“No, I don’t.”
“Aww.” Matches sighed. “I really like dose little pictures. Okay, ya got any jewelry? My old lady likes rubies.”
Max pointed to the case. Matches peered at the cheap jewelry.
“That’s what I got, sir.”
“Hmm. I need somethin’ a little, um, more posh.”
“You’re in the wrong neighborhood, bub.”
Matches grinned, nearly losing his matchstick. “Pr’bly so, pr’bly so.” He leaned closer, lowering his voice to a whisper. “I hear that pawnshops might be carryin’ some of the goods from the fancypants mansion robberies.”
Max shrugged. “I don’t know anything about that. That’s stolen goods, bub.”
Matches winked. “Yeah, but a smart pawnshop owner like you would know the score.” The matchstick jutted upward from his mouth. “Maybe ya got some stuff in the back room, huh?” He winked again.
Max leaned closer. “Listen, buddy, even if I had those goods, you couldn’t afford ‘em.”
“You’re pr’bly right, sir.” Matches sighed. “Well, I’ll see ya around, buddy.”
Matches sauntered out of the shop. He stood on the sidewalk and lit a cigarette with his match, looking up at the sky. It was gray today. He passed a ragged bootblack, who watched him go down the street.
“No suspicious characters that I could see,” Dick said as he cleaned off the soot from his face. “But I did make a dollar-fifty shining shoes.”
Bruce grinned. “That’s good. Supplements the income.”
Dick laughed. He surveyed himself in the dresser mirror. “I need sharper clothes than these rags.”
Bruce put his checked suit into the closet. “I was hoping that you might spot someone who we could follow up on.”
“Well, Bernstein only had a few customers. One was an old lady who pawned a ring and another was a middle-aged Negro man who was drunk. He pawned a banjo and looked really sad.”
Bruce felt a twinge of sympathy. “Unfortunately, pawnshops cater to people down-on-their-luck.”
Dick rummaged in the closet and chose a dark-purple shirt with black pants. He pulled a fresh pair of underdrawers out from the dresser.
“I hired the kid who was hanging around the pool hall to watch the place for us. I doubt anything will happen even tonight.”
“Probably not, but we need an eye kept on the shop.”
Dick paused on his way to the bathroom. “Bruce, do you ever think we’ll catch this thief? So far he’s eluded us every time.”
“No guarantee, true, but we might get lucky.”
“Luck and skill, my dear. Luck and skill.”
Bruce smiled as Dick disappeared into the bathroom. He finished fixing his watch chain to his vest and admitted to being stymied. What to do next besides waiting? More stake-outs? That kid watching the pawnshop was probably unreliable. And there were other pawnshops in town. Bernstein’s might not be the right one, though the set-up he had with the thief was probably true. Why would he lie? It would make more sense to deny knowing the Gold Coast Burglar instead of making up a story about being in partnership with the wily thief.
Bruce sighed. This case was frustrating. As Dick had said, the Gold Coast Burglar was maddeningly elusive. They had no idea about his identity underneath the mask.
He opened Dick’s jewelry box and lifted the emerald-and-silver brooch out. This was a clue. Time to follow up on it.
“Sorry, sir, I didn’t sell this brooch.” The middle-aged man behind the jewelry counter adjusted his pince-nez on his long nose. “Though I did sell a similar brooch. It was sapphire-and-gold.”
Bruce felt excitement. He had put on a red wig and dressed modestly. He disliked Bruce Wayne being connected to this search of the jewelry stores.
“Whom did you sell it to?”
“Mr. Ellery Townsend.”
“Thank you.” Bruce left the store. The brooch was designed as a bouquet of flowers, very intricate and well worth the gems studded in the silver.
The Gold Coast Burglar must have robbed him. No publicity, but it anyone could keep it out of the papers, it’s Townsend.
Odd, but sometimes life was that way. Resigned to doing more work, Bruce hired a hansom cab to bring him home.
The fire crackled in the front parlor hearth. Bruce approved of the autumnal touches Alfred and Dick had added: pumpkins flanking the fireplace, on the coffee table, and on a side table. A colorful basket of Indian corn was set by Bruce’s favorite chair. He had changed out of his disguise, scrubbed off his make-up, and now wore his deep-blue smoking jacket and sleeping pants, his feet shod in comfortable slippers.
Dick was sitting cross-legged on the couch in gold lame sleepwear and a canary-yellow robe. He wore green socks and looked delicious as he read a book.
“You look all in for the night,” Bruce observed.
“I assume we have the night off?”
“You presume correctly.” Bruce held the evening paper in his hands and settled in his chair. “The ballet off?”
“For now. We have a push right after Halloween.”
“Is Jean-Paul still opposed to staging The Nutcracker this Christmas?”
“He says it’s too trite.”
“Yes, well, I’ll speak to him.”
“He won’t be happy.”
“When he owns a ballet company, he can be as grumpy as he likes.”
Dick grinned. “’So quoth the millionaire’.”
Bruce harrumphed and Dick laughed. “What did you find out, Mr. Holmes?”
“Well, Mr. Watson, I discovered that our mystery brooch was bought by Ellery Townsend.”
“He wasn’t robbed.”
“Maybe he was.” At Dick’s puzzled look, he explained, “He’s got enough juice to keep a robbery out of the papers.”
“Ah.” Dick savored the slang word, delighted any time he learned a new one.
It grew quiet as both men read, the only sounds that of the crackling fire and the turning of pages.
When did we get so domestic?
But Bruce liked it. Happiness had been a fleeting thing for him for so long that he had barely recognized the feeling. He was becoming more accustomed to it now.
All because of you.
He looked affectionately at Dick, who was absorbed in his book.
Alfred brought in tea and lemon cookies. “A light supper tonight, sir?”
“That will be perfect, Alfred.”
“Very good, sir.”
Alfred departed and quiet reigned again. Bruce relaxed as he read the newspaper.
The stories were the usual variety of national and local. Nothing more about Gold Coast robberies, but that was not surprising. The thief had been on a successful run. Perhaps he wanted to lay low for awhile or had moved on. It would be good for the city’s millionaires if the thief was gone for good.
He read some of the international stories. There was always saber-rattling in Europe. The Kaiser was doing it this time around, making sure his fellow Europeans were sufficiently nervous.
Same old tune. Never changes.
He skimmed the bombastic speech, anyway. All of Europe seemed armed to the teeth. Each major country’s armies were large, and new weapons were being built all the time.
Guess that’s why Teddy pushed to beef up our navy with all those destroyers and dreadnaughts they built.
Japan had come up in the world with its rapid Westernization since 1854 and Perry’s arrival on their shores, opening their closed feudal society to that same world. They had defeated the Russians in their war two years ago. The President had brokered a peace agreement with the two warring nations. It had earned him the Nobel Peace Prize.
“An invitation came in the mail,” Dick said.
“Yes, from Mr. Ellery Townsend.”
“Apparently he’s throwing a big Halloween party.”
“Bruce hid his smile behind his paper. “Really?”
“Yes.” Eagerness vibrated in Dick’s voice.
He could practically feel the disappointment radiating off his lover. He pretended to read for a few more minutes, then lowered the paper to see a pouting Dick looking down at his book.
“What do you want to go as?”
The smile from Dick was dazzling as he looked up.