Pairings/Characters (this chapter): Bruce/Dick, Alfred Pennyworth, Roman Woman, Cleopatra
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 and Dick attend Ellery Townsend’s Halloween Ball.
Date Of Completion: April 13, 2015
Date Of Posting: January 14, 2016
Disclaimer: I don’t own ‘em, DC does, more’s the pity.
Word Count: 2153
Feedback welcome and appreciated.
Author’s Notes: Entered into my2015 DCU Fic/Art Dick Grayson Diamond Anniversary Challenge. The entire series can be found here.
THE STAR OF ISIS
On this Night of Nights,
Like sapphires dropped
"All Hallows’ Eve"
Dick put the finishing touches on his costume as the doorbell rang. He raced downstairs and watched Alfred hand out candy to children costumed as a Witch, ghost, and clown. Their chorus of “Trick-or-treat!” when he had opened the door made Dick smile. He watched as they scurried down the walkway.
“What a charming custom.”
Alfred closed the door. “Out in the countryside they tend more toward pranks. Here in the city the children are more interested in sweets.”
“So am I.” Dick winked as he snatched a sweet off the tray that the butler had set on the pier table.
“Master Dick, those are for the children!”
Dick grinned as he semi-danced down the hall. Reaching the library, he said breezily, “Don’t you look dashing, Mr. Holmes?”
“So do you, Mr. Watson.” Bruce bowed.
Dick strutted in his Victorian-style suit. “Appropriate costumes as we’ll be working as the Raven and the Nightingale tonight.”
“Yes, thanks to Miss Gordon’s tip. Her sharp eyes noticed that item in The Gotham Gazette.”
“I wonder why it was such a small item?”
Bruce adjusted his cravat. He liked the black color of his suit. “I suspect Ellery had a hand in that. He didn’t want a big splash to attract attention, especially the Gold Coast Burglar, if he’s still around.”
“Then why put the item in the paper at all?”
“Ah, men like Ellery can’t help themselves. His acquisition of the Star of Isis is simply too good not to let the world know.” Bruce picked up his hat off the desk. “We should get going.”
“Can’t we stay for a few more minutes?”
Bruce looked at his lover fondly. “All right, we can watch for a few more kids.”
“Think you know me well?” Dick teased.
“I don’t think so, I know so.”
Dick led the way out of the library to the foyer. Over the next half hour they saw a princess, ballerina, cowboy, another ghost and Witch, and a scarecrow. His delight continued unabated.
“Ready?” Bruce asked as the clock struck 7:30.
Reagan held the carriage door open and the lovers stepped inside. They were off, “like Cinderella to the ball,” Dick said saucily.
Bruce laughed and Dick was happy to see it. Bruce tended to be a little too serious, in his opinion.
They arrived at the Townsend estate, and Dick admitted silently that he was impressed. The mansion was huge but graceful with white Ionic columns and a red brick façade. It was lit up with shining electric lights and decorated with grinning Jack O’Lanterns and candles. Dick approved of the overall effect.
“Remember, no introductions. Everyone’s anonymous until midnight,” Bruce said.
Reagan would take the carriage back home. Since the Manor was close, Bruce had told him that they would call when they needed him back. The groom touched his whip handle to his hat and drove off.
The Townsend butler opened the door. A distinguished-looking Negro, William offered a gracious greeting. Bruce and Dick nodded silently as they stepped inside, handing over their cloaks. Each retained his hat as part of his costume. While Bruce wore a simple but well-cut black suit with deerstalker cap and short cape, Dick wore a tweed suit with leather elbow patches and a bowler hat. Both wore glittering domino masks.
The foyer was draped in black crepe and the chandelier was festooned with fake cobwebs. Music drifted into the foyer from the ballroom. Bruce led Dick down the hall to the ballroom, a cavernous room with muted lighting and more black crepe draping the walls. The crepe was decorated with luminescent ghosts, bats and cats. The chandeliers were draped in black-and-orange streamers as the low-wattage bulbs cast an eerie glow.
The orchestra was dressed in skeleton costumes as they played ragtime tunes and dancers whirled on the floor. Bruce and Dick skirted the edge of the dance floor. Bruce took out an oversized magnifying glass and pretended to scrutinize the buffet table.
Carving stations offered roast beef, turkey and ham while platters of fresh French green beans, yellow beans, and radishes were mixed with dishes of pickles, green peppers, and deviled eggs in a plate especially designed for the latter with a ceramic chicken in the center. Chunks of lobster rested on beds of cracked ice, along with salmon and rainbow trout. Bread included dinner rolls, Wonder Bread and raisin bread. There was pumpkin custard with shaved cinnamon, pumpkin and apple pies, and Black Forest cake. Beverages included sparkling champagne, wine and icewater with lemon and lime slices.
Dick picked up a plate and immediately chose lobster, French green beans and dinner rolls. Bruce took turkey, peppers and two deviled eggs. They both chose wine and ate hearty as they watched the couples on the dance floor.
“Let’s go find the Star of Isis,” Bruce murmured after they polished off pieces of pumpkin pie. Dick nodded and they left the ballroom, setting a leisurely pace toward the library.
Two policemen guarded the entrance and another man stood in a corner of the library. The Star of Isis was nestled on a lavender satin pillow on a marble dais. The flawless sapphire sparkled in the light of two black candles. Dick smelled the scent of patchouli.
He was surprised that there was not a crowd viewing the jewel. It was a testament to Ellery Townsend’s events planner (he had no wife or daughter) that people were having so much fun that they had forgotten about the Star of Isis.
He approached it with the proper reverence. Any gem with its own name deserved such treatment.
The jewel was a star sapphire, its beauty breathtaking. Dick feasted his eyes on it as his fingers itched to touch it.
“Here.” Bruce handed him the magnifying glass.
Dick eagerly took it, viewing the sapphire and noting its flawless beauty. “Magnificent,” he murmured.
“I agree.” Bruce glanced around. “Good security, but…”
“Yes.” Dick was thinking of the Gold Coast Burglar. “If he’s laying low…”
“…he’ll definitely try for this score.”
The presentation was excellent with the satin pillow and the tiny ebony cat statues flanking the display. Their eyes were set with sapphire chips. Dick handed the glass back to Bruce.
“Well, Mr. Holmes, it appears that Mr. Townsend has a winner here.”
“Quite so, Dr. Watson.”
The guard stifled a smile at the badinage. Dick tut-tutted as he responded, “The mysteries of Egypt are an amazing thing.”
“Ancient questions and answers do fascinate.”
“Quite, quite.” Dick was satisfied with his British accent.
He could hear Bruce stifle his laughter. “We should pop over and get some fish ‘n’ chips tomorrow night.”
“That would be ducky, guv’nor.”
They left the library and stopped in the hall. Dick asked, “What should we do next, Sherlock?”
Bruce’s teeth gleamed in a predatory smile. “We wait for the Gold Coast Burglar.”
Dick agreed that the infamous thief would try for the sapphire. “Should we stay close to the library?”
“Too suspicious-looking. We’d better get back to the ballroom. Mingle for about ten minutes, then go outside and work your way around to the library. I’ll keep an eye on things in here.”
Dick nodded and separated from Bruce as they entered the ballroom.
Bruce was certain that the thief would show up. The Star of Isis was far too tempting.
It’s a perfect scenario. Everyone’s masked and while there’s security, I doubt this master thief will find it daunting.
In his opinion, it was the height of foolishness to display such a precious gem on a night when everyone’s identity was hidden.
You can’t tell some millionaires anything.
He danced with Marie Antoinette and next with Martha Washington. He bowed and drifted out of the ballroom, drinking a glass of icewater with a lemon slice as he strolled down the hall.
Dick also danced twice, once with an Oriental dancing girl and, ironically, with a ballerina. He gradually disentangled himself and went outside, glad his heavy tweed jacket warded off the chill. He admired the gardens, resplendent with orange, gold and dark-red chrysanthemums. Several pumpkins were arranged in the flowerbeds, too.
He strolled through the gardens, pretending to simply be taking the air. He came upon the library and sat on a marble bench to commence his vigil.
Bruce somehow managed to remain inconspicuous, drinking his icewater and talking with people walking by. Several gushed about the Star of Isis, which Bruce agreed with. One woman dressed as a Roman in toga and black wig gushed about it.
“Oh, I would love to own that beauty!”
Other partygoers swept by as he talked with her, most in costumes from ancient times. A woman dressed as Cleopatra glanced at them, her circlet’s beads clacking.
“It’s perfect in every way,” said Roman Woman.
“Oh, very much so. Much like you.”
She laughed prettily. “Thank you, Mr. Holmes.” She walked away, swinging her hips in a way guaranteed to keep Bruce’s attention. He sighed in appreciation.
He continued his vigil, keeping his mind sharp as he tried to figure out what costumes friends like Eleanor Winchester was wearing. Had he talked to her without even realizing it?
The group in classical costumes came back from the library, but Cleopatra was not with them.
Dick must be in position by now. I think it’s time to make a return visit to the library.
Suddenly, the lights went out.
Dick stretched, looking up at the moon. He kept an eye on the library with his peripheral vision.
If the Gold Coast Burglar is going to strike, it should be soon. This is the hour with the most attendance. The best cover is now.
He wished Bruce was out here with him. It was romantic out here under the stars. He could feel the magic in the air.
He heard a clacking sound just before he literally saw stars of his own, slumping down to the cold ground.
Bruce had come prepared. He dug a candle out his jacket pocket and lit it with a match. The long, black candle would burn a long time before the flame reached his fingers. He hurried toward the library.
The two guards at the entrance were slumped to the floor, broken wineglasses next to them. He entered the library, the flames from the candle flickering eerily on the walls. The other policeman was on the carpet. Cleopatra was reaching for the Star of Isis, the gold bracelets on her upper arm glinting in a shaft of moonlight.
“Stop right there, Your Majesty.”
Cleopatra froze, her white silk gown hugging every curve. She turned her head, the beads clacking. “I don’t think you’ll stop me,” she said in a breathy voice.
“I think so, Selina.”
A sensuous smile spread across her face. “So you knew.”
Bruce reached into his pocket and took out the emerald brooch. “Green was always your favorite color.”
“You knew right away?”
He shook his head. “No, but I gradually figured it out. I figured you’d have a good idea of the set-up since you’ve been seeing Townsend.”
Selina’s green eyes glittered through the holes in her domino mask. “A good guess, Bruce. You were always smart, one of the things I liked about you.”
“Thank you.” Bruce edged closer. He wondered where Dick was. “Turn yourself in, Selina.”
Her smile grew predatory. “I don’t think so.”
Bruce’s stomach fluttered. “I’ve caught you red-handed.”
“Maybe so, but you’re going to let me go.”
His mouth was dry. “And why would I do that?”
“You know why.”
She raised a finger. “Tsk-tsk, my dear. Perhaps you’ll be more careful in the future with your…private life.” He could hear the bitterness underlying her admonishing tone. “Now just let me take my prize and I’ll be gone.”
“Selina…” Bruce hated the entreaty in his voice but he had no choice.
Selina plucked the Star of Isis from its resting place. Her face lit up as the candlelight from her own candle illuminated the sapphire. “Beautiful.”
Bruce remained still as a statue, his muscles so tight that they hurt. The light from his candle danced crazily on the walls as his hand shook.
“Enjoy your romance with your luscious dancer, my dear. He is truly a beautiful specimen. Helluva dancer, too.” Selina carefully deposited the sapphire in a blue velvet pouch. She quickly snatched the two cat statues. “Come to Catwoman, babies,” she crooned.
She put everything into a larger bag and threw on a black cloak. She paused in front of the French doors. “Happy Halloween, Mr. Holmes.”
She slipped out of the French doors into the moonlit gardens, the faint scent of patchouli trailing after her. Bruce’s candle flame guttered, then winked out in the cold gust of air.