Chapter 3: Catitat
It wasn’t my fault. Everyone says I
blame myself when there’s no cause to. Well, let’s lay that theory to rest
once and for all. This was not my fault, and I am saying so, out loud, in
language so clear and plain it cannot be misunderstood: this was NOT BATMAN’s
The fact is, between D’Annunzio’s and
society gossips and rogue gossips and the wedding, everybody—including Bruce and
Selina—everybody lost sight of the fact that Selina Kyle did not hook up
with Bruce Wayne. She fell for Batman. And it was high
time he, I, started acting like it and took control of the situation.
That’s not a judgment about the
Bruce-method; it’s just the way it is. Bruce Wayne was out of his league.
Selina wasn’t some bimbo; she was Catwoman. It takes Batman to handle her.
We wanted—Christ, I sound like Two-Face—I wanted to find out just where
this relationship was headed. Where did she think we were, and where did
she think we were going. The situation required subtlety, ruthlessness,
focus, discipline, and expertise in the art of interrogation, not to mention a
knack for cat-handling.
The first objective was to tire her out.
I decided a morning of shopping, a light lunch somewhere it was a chore—like
Lalique’s, and an afternoon at the museum should do the trick. The last
part, I knew, would be tricky. Actually taking Selina to a museum,
particularly THAT museum, there was no denying it was going to be tricky.
But Batman has never been afraid of a challenge. The objective was tired
feet, and sources were unanimous that the Gotham Metropolitan was absolutely
guaranteed to produce tired feet.
The night before, I cut patrol short and kept her up late. It was
hardly an unpleasant task. I knew I needed to get her up early the next
morning without it seeming planned. I set the alarm on my phone, set the
ringer to vibrate and hid it in the bed. When it went off, I thrashed
around like I was having a nightmare and swung an arm onto her side of the bed—I
hit cold sheet. My eyes popped open and I sat up.
“You’re up early,” she purred. God, that voice, no wonder Bruce was
floundering. He never stood a chance.
She was already dressed, pulling boots over riding pants, a look that
suggested her Catwoman costume ever so subtly (Bruce never stood a chance, I
could see that now. I should have stepped in sooner.) The addition of a flannel
shirt—my flannel shirt—while not remotely evocative of Catwoman, was still
“This is going to be harder than I thought,” is what flashed through
my head a split-second before remembering not to ever, ever use that word with
her. The Catwoman in my mind didn’t miss a beat:
I realized then that I was out of
practice. I’d forgotten what it’s like trying to deal with her while still
ignoring her, ignoring what she does to meand —oh god, then she bent over to
pick her costume off the floor. What a body. All I could think was
“Kitten, that was uncalled for.”
I slapped the thought away. Calling her Kitten, even thinking of her as
Kitten, was not the way to go about this. I needed to be as I used to be:
lock it all out of my mind and do what needed to be done.
“I thought maybe go into the city today,”
I said casually, “shopping or something.”
“Can’t. I’m going for a drive.
A snag. Already there was a snag.
But upstate rang a bell. “Upstate” and her rustic outfit, I hazarded a
“That preserve, the… what’s it called?”
“Right, you were going to show me that sometime.”
I learned this from Glori Smyth. (I don’t remember all the bimbos
names, but Glori with an “i” Smyth with a “y,” who could forget? The
things I do for Gotham.) Where most girls subtly hint for an invitation,
Glori went right past that and simply reminded you it had already been extended,
whether it had or not. Selina had never actually said she’d show me her
preserve, nor even told me its name. But she shrugged now, mission
As I dressed, it occurred to me this was far better than my original plan.
Spending the day together away from crowds and public places was a definite
advantage, the preserve was sure to be physically taxing and, best of all, she’s
never more at ease than when she’s with her cats. It was perfect. A
day with them, a day with me, and then… it was perfect.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy the preserve. I’m not a great
nature-lover as a rule (let us pause in remembrance of the lately-departed
flytrap and cheer at the miserable weed’s passing). But a day out of the
city was pleasant enough.
There was a Siberian tiger, called Shimbala, that was—even for Siberian
tigers—huge. I was glad I never had to deal with him as Batman. I
said as much. And Selina stared at me like I’d said it in German.
“This animal has a three-acre wooded pen
with a marsh and a spring-fed lake. You figure it’s gonna drive into the city
and rob a bank or something?”
It sounded silly when she said it like
that, so I explained—and I realize now that was a mistake—I explained my
reasoning: this was her tiger and perhaps she might have
used it as a weapon against me. I still don’t understand what was so
objectionable about that statement. But I’m a little piqued that the core
of the objection was entirely about the TIGER. It had nothing to do
with not wanting to see my flesh torn to ribbons by nine hundred pounds
of nature’s most efficient killing machine. It was all about: wild
cats aren’t attack dogs, they hunt for food, they don’t kill for a biscuit, and
why would anyone bring one into a city anyway where there’s no space for it to
run, besides which these were pets and not weapons…
I held my tongue about Ivy’s flytrap and Joker’s hyenas. This wasn’t
about winning an argument; this was about setting a tone. Today, I needed to
blur the line between Bruce and Batman. Too much talk of the rogues would
There were four lions, two African and two Barbary, and six leopards, all but invisible in their various corners of the preserve, but we focused binoculars on them all the same. There wasn’t much to see. Nocturnal animals sleep during the day. That’s what they were doing. It was like a stakeout, without the possibility of anything interesting happening.
Then came the “small wildcats.” There were several lynx, which acted almost like dogs the way they jumped up on us, pranced, played, and generally reveled in the attention they were receiving. (That observation, I need hardly add, was almost as unpopular as the one about the tiger.)
There was a pair of servals that wanted
nothing to do with us. Then there was a family of caracals that possibly wanted
to make up for the servals and restore our faith in feline hospitality. It
had been a warm day. There was a kind of bench from a fallen tree. We sat.
The largest caracal hopped up next to me and began licking the sweat from my
hair. Selina was charmed by this: it’s grooming, it’s what he would do for
another cat. (And I thought the museum would be weird!)
Then came the real object of the visit: the ocelot. Its name was Nirvana, and the way I was introduced, I got the idea that I was expected to make a good impression—or else. I’ve never been in the position of having to meet “the family.” It just never came up. With debutantes, I already knew their families and they knew me. With bimbos, I never let it go on long enough. And as for Talia…
But I suspect what I experienced being “presented” to Nirvana is what it feels like to meet the future in-laws. There’s this sense of “this is the one I’ve told you about” hanging over your head like a neon sign.
And the cat didn’t seem to like me.
“Put your hand out,” Selina said, “so she
can sniff you.”
And I did it. I felt like an idiot,
but I let the growling ocelot sniff my hand.
I could have offered to drive back to the city, but didn’t—better to make her
keep those boots on a little longer. When we reached her apartment, I
expected her to kick them off first thing. When she didn’t immediately, I
improvised, removing my own shoes and rubbing my ankles as though they ached.
The suggestion was enough; she decided to “get comfortable.”
She returned a few minutes later in a cool looking cotton dress, short, no
stockings and no shoes. Purrfect. She curled next to me on the sofa,
and I continued rubbing my leg.
“That terrain up there takes a toll on the ankles,” she remarked sympathetically. (Gotcha!)
“Aw,” I said, pretending to think she meant her own feet hurt, “Poor kitten,”
and drew her leg into my lap. After rubbing for just a moment, I said
“Wait, better idea. Hold that thought,” and disappeared into her bedroom.
When I returned, I popped a soothing CD into her machine, and lit some candles.
“Get comfortable,” I said, dimming the lights and returning to her room. I
found what I was looking for… scented, too… lavender.
“Close your eyes,” I said.
“Why?” she asked, smiling.
“Just close your eyes. It’s a
surprise. No peeking.”
I rubbed a little of the lavender-scented
massage oil into my fingertips and started behind her left knee. She
cooed. Down the thighs then, kneading them, in long strokes, in line parallel to
“That feels wonderful,” she said.
I went behind the other knee, making small, brisk circles… Then the thighs
again in those long firm strokes… I felt the tension start to ease out of the
“You’ve got great hands.”
“Shh. No talking.”
I moved up her sides, working very, very slowly. By the time I reached
her shoulders, I was stroking in time to her breathing. By the time I
finished on her neck, she’d adapted her breathing to match me.
“I learned this in a temple…” I mentioned
casually, stroking up her jawline. “…in the East…” at her temples now, little
circles, “…done correctly, it clears the mind…” little circles, little circles,
“’ts very r’laxing” she murmured. I could tell from her voice that we
were almost there. I did her neck again, then return to the temples.
Little circles, little circles.
“I want to ask you something.”
The moment was here. I opened my
mouth and… realized I had absolutely no idea what to say. What exactly was
it I wanted to know?
Where do you see us going?
I knew that. Her answer would be: I don’t know. She doesn’t like thinking about these things any more than I do.
It was too general. Something more specific…
The night of the wedding, what happened, what do you think happened? Mrs. Wayne… not so terrible… what do you think was said there? What WAS said?
There were a thousand questions tied up in
there, and at the same time, there wasn’t even one.
What exactly was it I wanted to know?
I was mad at Bruce more than anything. I had done my part: here we were. The moment had arrived. Was it too much to have the question ready? Was it too much to have this thought through?
The Bruce part of me (and if I don’t want
to sound like Two-Face, I must finally admit it isn’t “Bruce Wayne” but “the
Bruce part of me”) pointed out that Batman took over, sending everyone
else to the showers, so if the finger of blame was going to be pointed…
But it wasn’t my fault.
I bent and kissed her neck. She sighed again, and those gorgeous eyes fluttered open.
“You give a great massage,” she said, smiling up at me.
“You deserve it,” I told her, feeling like a heel. “It was very nice of you to show me the preserve.”
If she knew what I’d done, or thought about doing, she’d kill me. Hack me into bite size pieces and feed me to Shimbala. I’d deserve it too. I know what her cats mean to her. That preserve, it’s her special place, and I used it against her.
The Catwoman in my head was strangely
silent. I would have preferred accusations. Frankly, I would have
“Of course you would,” the imaginary
Selina noted. “You’re great as an enemy. It’s only as a friend, an ally,
or a lover that you suck.”
“Now that’s not fair.”
“You want the whole list of friends
you’ve screwed over in ways that you'd never dream of attacking Joker or
Two-Face? Or will just the top 10 suffice?”
“I’m not having this conversation.”
“’Course not. That’s why you’re
trying to make this all about me.”
“I just want to know what you’re
“THEN ASK ME, YOU STUPID SCHMUCK!”
Ask me, you stupid schmuck. That’s what the Selina in my head was saying while the real one was in my arms, kissing me. Her soft, strong hands caressed my back, pulling me in closer, and I was hearing Ask me, you stupid schmuck.
It’s just possible Joker is right. It’s just possible I’m crazier than any of them.
I’ve woken to a kick in the stomach before. Every time it happens, you swear this time is the worst ever, but of course the reality is “this time” is always worse because it’s happening now… Nevertheless, this time was definitely the worst.
It took me a moment to get my bearings… I was in Selina’s room.
“NOW, GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE NOW!”
In Selina’s bed.
And she was… quite extraordinarily pissed.
“What happened?” I asked, then the still aching stomach seemed to lurch and I realized what it must have been: I talked in my sleep. I must have said something about—oh god. She’d turned away from me, but I could tell that she was crying—oh god, oh god. I tried to get out of the bed, my leg tangled in the damn sheet and my foot hit the floor with some force. There was a sickly sounding yeowlp and I prayed that lump under my foot was a furry slipper and not a dead cat.
As I ran to Selina, I caught just a glimpse of my reflection in the mirror. It was split down the center. Like Two-Face. I’d killed her cat. Oh god.
She was still turned away from me. I
put my hand on her shoulders… “Don’t touch me,” she sobbed. I turned her
towards me only to find myself looking at Scarecrow’s triumphant grin…
I sat up in the bed… Selina next to me… She gave the disgusted glare of someone who’d been woken at 3 a.m. by your screaming.
“Nightmare,” I said sheepishly.
“5:00 already?” she asked sleepily, and rolled over.
“No,” I answered, “this was a different
(The disapproval Alfred can pack into a
single syllable is frightening, truly frightening.)
“I came across these objects while
cleaning the master bath.”
He deposited three small, metallic pellets onto the desk. Each was
embossed with a bat silhouette inside a small oval. I made no comment.
“They appear to be yours, sir.”
What did he expect, an explanation?
“They appear to be recording devices,
I wasn’t explaining. I didn’t have to explain, and I was not going to.
“Might I ask, sir, why you are endeavoring
to bug your own bathroom?”
“No, Alfred, you may not.”
“I see, sir. Then I must regretfully
give my notice.”
“My notice, sir. I am resigning my
position in your employ.”
“Alfred, this is insane. You can’t
“Sir, I have endeavored to overlook the
emergence of various garments and behaviors above stairs that would, prior to
Ms. Kyle’s arrival, most certainly have been confined to below stairs. I
have done this, sir, because, in my profession, what occurs within the confines
of a gentleman’s bedroom is guarded with as much confidentiality as what occurs,
in this household, -cough- below stairs. Do you take my meaning,
“I shall take that as a ‘yes,’ sir, and
continue. While there has never before been cause for discretion about
that aspect of your private life, sir, I have, I believe, demonstrated a
discretion about other matters far beyond that which ordinary servants are ever
called upon to exhibit.”
“Alfred, you know you’re part of the
family, please don’t keep calling yourself a servant that wa—”
“As I was saying, sir, I should have thought I had exhibited a
discretion at least equal to that of ordinary servants who are trusted to
maintain the secrets of their employers’ bedrooms. In short, I thought I
had proven myself loyal and trustworthy. But as you evidently feel that
whatever it is you and Ms. Kyle do with these bat-shaped objects must be hidden
from my eyes—”
“OH, FOR GOD’S SAKE, ALFRED, STOP IT.
My God, what are you thinking? Look, she talks to herself in the mirror,
okay? And in the shower. And I thought if I could listen in, maybe I
could find out what the hell is going on in her head.”
“I see, sir.”
“You understand? It’s not—God, I
can’t believe I have to say this—they’re not props for some weird… whatever it
was you were implying before.”
“I understand, sir.”
“So you see, it wasn’t that I didn’t trust
you and was hiding those things behind the mirror and in the shower. They were
simply… placed there.”
“I understand, sir.”
“Thank God. So you’re not leaving.”
“I would venture to point out, sir…”
Here it comes .
“… that this episode would have been far
less painful for you, sir, if you had simply told me what was going on at once.”
“Yes, Alfred, I see that now.”
“Do you, sir?”
“Yes, Alfred, I get the message. And
if I’d just go to Selina and ask her directly, that would be a lot less painful
“What a profoundly insightful observation, sir.”
To be continued...