When she’s told she has a visitor, she doesn’t let her herself hope that it’s him.
Even if he’s not dead, he’s got a fractured back and he’s not visiting her.
But she hopes anyway.
The guard puts her into cuffs - looser than he should but she’s not going to try anything – and walks her down the block to the visiting room. Blackgate is maximum security but they don’t put a plate of thick glass between her and Detective Blake. Her heart sinks because of who he isn’t when she sees him in the corner, sitting at a cozy table for two. She recognizes the arms that had helped her down the stairs the night she traded Bruce Wayne’s fingerprints for something that didn’t exist, and the anxious eyes that had pleaded with her vainly the day before for assurance that that same man was alive and well.
She sits down across from him, rests her elbows on the table, and sighs impatiently. There’s no one else within earshot except for the guard, whom Blake gestures to back off.
“She’s dangerous,” the guard protests.
“I know,” Blake responds, and his words are laced with an accusation that Selina feels in every molecule of her body. “It’s OK,” he assures the guard, who nods and takes up a sentry position in the front of the room.
“What do you want?” she demands tiredly.
He removes a map from the stack of papers beside him and unfurls it for her. The sewer tunnels. She notices her file in the stack: there’s a coffee stain on the top of the folder and the page corners are curling – she would have sworn it had been freshly printed when he had waved it in her face while interrogating her at the airport.
“Where’s Bane?” he asks. “Just point.”
“Why should I help you? You put me here. The food’s alright but the company could be better and orange isn’t really my color.”
“No, it’s not,” he agrees, point-blank.
She looks at him sharply. She would have made a flirty display of being insulted, but she is genuinely offended for a second and it throws her.
“If you think I’m gonna tell you where to find Bane then you belong in Arkham,” she informs him calmly. “You haven’t seen him. What he can do. But you will.” For the thousandth time she hears the crack of Bruce’s spine, sees Batman’s broken helmet on the ground.
“I could get you out of here,” Blake bargains. He glances around the room and takes in the harsh fluorescent light, the ugly brown carpet, the handful of brawny, tattooed male inmates sitting at other tables in traffic-cone jumpsuits that match hers. She sees a flash of guilt cross his face. Guilt about putting her in this place.
It thaws her a little, this guilt: “If I thought you had any chance of stopping him, maybe I’d spill. As it is: I’m saving your fucking life. Go home, Detective. Better yet, get out of town. You caught me at the airport for a reason. Like I mentioned then, it wasn’t you I was running from.” She feels the warnings pouring out of her mouth and she isn’t quite sure why. She imagines Blake dead in the streets, blood pooling in his trench coat, and she reiterates: “Pack up your first edition comic books and your photo albums and your sweaters from Mommy and get the fuck out of dodge because Bane can’t be stopped.” She sets her hands down on the table with a clank of cuffs.
He’s a little rattled by her certainty but his tone is steady: “I don’t have the luxury of not caring what happens to Gotham, Miss Kyle.”
She lifts her eyebrows. “Oh? Got family here? A girlfriend?” There’s a note of contempt in her voice for the inconstancy and inadequacy of human attachments, and she knows it’s because she’s bruised over Bruce and not because she’s excessively cynical about the idea of caring about someone, and she thinks he knows it too.
“No girlfriend,” he replies. “No family.” He takes his badge out of his pocket and places it on the table. “Duty.” Then he adds: “And human decency.”
“What’s that?” she asks innocently.
He meets her eyes unflinchingly, refusing to be embarrassed by or to apologize for his idealism. He wins the staring contest.
“I do work with St. Swithins,” Blake begins.
“The orphanage?” She’s cleaning her fingernails, bored.
“Your orphanage?” she posits. “No family…You grew up there, didn’t you?” Her fingernails are abandoned, she’s looking at him now.
He doesn’t reward her masterful guesswork with an answer. “A lot of those boys get in trouble. I know all the P.D.’s. I could get you a good one, since I’m guessing you can’t afford one of those high-powered downtown attorneys. With a good defense you could get off the kidnapping charge. You’re guilty of a lot more than that,” he brandishes her file, “but we can’t prove it.”
Blake notes that she does not look convinced. “And I could talk to the D.A. myself,” he sweetens.
Selina twists towards him. “So this would be a personal favor?” she inquires, eyes lit with suggestion.
There’s a subtle shift in him. She suspects her flirtation makes him uncomfortable but he doesn’t show it either way. “I’m also on good terms with Commissioner Gordon. If you helped us…”
“Save your breath, Detective,” she interrupts. “I’m not so sure I need your help to get out of here, anyway.”
“No one escapes from Blackgate.”
“That’s what they said about the Bastille.”
His French history is rusty but he gets her hint. “They’re going to storm the prison?” He frowns in growing concern.
She shrugs. “I don’t get the memos. But Bane’s got big plans. His men are dedicated, well-trained; but he’s still going to need more than he has and almost everyone in here would serve him willingly. They’ve got real hate-ons for the municipal authority – you can imagine. Well, it’s what I would do.” She leans back in the flimsy plastic chair.
“So this is more than organized crime…” The gears in Blake’s mind turn: “He wants an army.”
Fear flickers in Selina’s eyes, and Blake lets himself categorize her as an opportunist, but not necessarily a menace. She’s not loyal to Bane. She’s not cruel.
Blake leans forward and assures her in a low voice: “We’ll protect you, Miss Kyle. A transfer. Witness protection after you’re released.”
His whisper is warm and encouraging and confidential, it wraps around her like a hug and she wants to believe him, but she knows better. She rolls her eyes and for the second time scoffs at his naivete: “You can’t protect me. You can’t protect anyone.” Her warning to Bruce floats through her mind: There’s a storm coming…
Blake is fed up with her. He folds up the map, tucks his badge safely away in his pocket. “Fine. You’ve got nothing to lose but your life, so I can see why you’re so protective of it.” Again he indicates her file, and she suddenly realizes it looks 10 years old because in one day he has read it front to back enough times to have it memorized. She’s ashamed of the picture it paints – a girl barely treading water, a girl with no one and nothing.
“Considering you look like you’re about 12, you’re pretty good at this detective stuff,” she compliments patronizingly. “Don’t feel bad: I’m a tough nut to crack.” She taps her file, the cuffs clamoring against the table. “I’m sure you picked up on that.” She had been arrested plenty of times, but no matter how hard they pushed she never incriminated herself. If they needed a confession to convict her they sure as hell weren’t going to get it.
She gave Blake a knowing look about the file, her eyes twinkling with insinuation, and she thought there was the slightest hint of a blush crawling up his cheeks, almost confirming her suspicion that his preoccupation with it was more than the means to a work-related end.
“Thank you,” he replies to her earlier statement, not missing a beat. “It was a recent promotion.” His frustration with her is not easily diffused, but she notes a small release of tension from his shoulders as he engages her in a slightly more casual conversation.
“I thought you were a uni the first time I saw you,” she murmurs, recalling the handsome and fastidious young man in the full-fledged Gotham Police Department uniform, barely illuminated by the soft orange glow of the street light, converging on her as she fled the bar and the violent mess her failed negotiations with Stryver had left in their wake. “Rookie move, letting me leave the scene like that,” she criticizes.
He’s flattered she remembers him at all, but she’s right. The lovely damsel in distress act had done him in. Gorgeous girl, immense eyes, tight black dress, flowing hair – he almost thinks he would have handed her his gun if she had asked. “I had other priorities,” he defends. “There was a firefight, a missing congressman. But we got our man, didn’t we?” he finishes, smugly, indicating her with a throw of his chin.
“Your woman,” she corrects, and she doesn’t let him forget it. She arches her back a little, and even through the loose jump suit he can see the outlines of her appealing curves. “In fact I wish you were a worse cop,” she begins. “That way you might not have recognized me. You saw me for half a second in a dark alley. My face must have made quite an impression,” she speculates. It’s an indictment: he’s guilty of finding her attractive, alluring, fascinating. She needs him to admit it. All she’s got is this game and a hard cot in a cold, concrete cell.
“You’re a pretty girl,” he tosses back with a shrug. It’s the truth, but he treats it like it’s an insignificant remark, a default phrase, a line from a how-to interrogation instruction booklet. He gives her what she wants but saps all the meaning from it, rendering it worthless to her.
“And to think I wore that ridiculous hat for nothing,” she laments. “It was supposed to hide my face.”
“I liked the hat.” He’s straight-faced. It’s the first thing he’s said that wasn’t somehow motivated. She gives him a quarter of a sincere smile, a curl of the corner of her lips.
Blake stands with a sigh, giving up on her, though he makes one last-ditch effort to garner some information: “Daggett owns a construction company. He’s got sites all over the city.”
Selina shrugs. She lifts her eyes to his. “I don’t know anything about that.”
He believes her.
She can tell he wants to ask about Bruce. He wants to know exactly what happened. A brutal interrogation dances on the edge of his tongue.
But he doesn’t ask.
“You can take her back to her cell,” he calls out to the guard. Blake leaves. He doesn’t say goodbye.