“Another night,” Dick said, pulling the van into the turnaround behind Rabe Memorial Hospital, “Expect the unexpected.”
His peripheral vision caught the twitch before Bruce answered: “Always.”
Another night. Always
expect the unexpected. It was the formula of words Batman repeated every
night, once they were suited up and seated in the Batmobile, right before they
pulled out of the cave as Batman and Robin.
The foursome had dropped off their bags at Nightwing’s safe house near Rabe Memorial, then headed to Mario’s, his favorite restaurant near his old apartment on Parkthorne Avenue. He missed the old place, Number 1013, Apartment 3A. But it would have been foolish to keep up the lease once Dick Grayson was known to have gotten married and moved back to Gotham.
The safe house was better. Anonymous.
Nondescript. Like the Caernaervon
Garage they were headed for now.
After dinner, Barbara was so anxious to set up her laptop system and get to
work, the men dropped her and Selina back at the safe house. Now they were on their own, and Dick knew the corner of Bludhaven he most
wanted Bruce to see.
Speeding under the Woolridge Overpass into the Caernaervon Section of industrial parks by the waterfront, Dick finally came to a dark carport, parked the van, and nodded for Bruce to follow on foot. He punched a code into a security panel beneath a sign reading: Caernaervon Garage, Storage by Week/Month/Year.
“A rental place,” Bruce said flatly as they entered.
“You taught me better than that,” Dick said, “I own the building - through a
dummy corporation. On the books,
there are nineteen tenants. All deceased, mostly BPD Police Officers
killed in the line.”
“Nice touch,” Bruce murmured. “So this is where you store all your gear too big to be
carried with the costume?”
Dick beamed. It was approval. It was pride and approval. Bruce expressed it the only way he could, letting an appreciative eye linger over the surveillance equipment, weights, exercise mats, scuba gear, metal detectors, and assorted weaponry.
And of course… the car: The
“Aluminum alloy McLaren engine - modified, 6,064 cc, 672 horsepower at 7,400
RPM, 0 to 60 in 5 seconds; 0 to 100 in 9.”
“Nice,” Bruce conceded, caressing the front bumper, “This is an old Camaro
“It’s a shell. I have four
interchangeable bodies: muscle car, taxi, police cruiser, and a truck cab. Sort
of urban camouflage.”
“Of course. Oblique glass.
Onboard CPU. Video, sat, and com links. OraCom, of course.
“You ever consider a theme chassis just for you—no camouflage, black, insignia
on the grille, headlights and hubcaps tinted to match?”
“The Tim Allen caveman grunt, ooh-wooh-wooh, that’s what they’re doing right
now, Selina, I’ll bet my life on it.” Selina laughed. But Barbara insisted: “Really! I will bet you anything; what do you want to bet? They’re circling the car, making happy man-grunts.”
“Hell yeah. Around hot cars, it’s
what guys do.”
“I can’t picture it. It’s too
Barbara smirked. “Aren’t you the one who wrote the book on ‘underneath the
mask and the bat-bluster, he’s a man like any other man.’”
“Guilty,” Selina admitted.
“And the best part is, if you ask, they’ll say it’s for us: ‘Chicks love
the car.’ But, c’mon, who cares? It’s a car. Four wheels, takes you from A to B. Big whoop. They want to
think we love the cars, because that gives them a grown up reason for having the
silly things, instead of admitting they’re nothing but toys for big boys.”
“Nah. Nope, now you’re stretching. It’s shoe shopping. It’s the
flipside of shoe shopping.”
“What’s wrong with shoe shopping?” Barbara asked with arched brows.
Selina rolled her eyes.
“Okay, your laptop is hooked up to the portable generator,” she said. “I still don’t understand why you needed this thing.”
“Oracle is accustomed to a certain degree of untraceable anonymity.”
“So is Catwoman. Which is why I
wore a mask when I removed this from the hospital’s storage closet. Nevertheless, when the boys get back and see this thing, they’re going to
have a pretty good idea who brought it here. And when they ask why, I’d like to
have a better answer than ‘Oracle is accustomed to anonymity.’”
“You do get worked into a lather, don’t you? Dinah never wants to hear this stuff. All right, I’ll explain, but you don’t get to roll your eyes and say
‘technobabble.’ To keep my logins
anonymous, I go through several satellites, most of which are operated by
government agencies that don’t like hackers hitchhiking on their data streams. So every now and then, they’ll send a pulse that will cause connected
computers to draw more power. It
would drain my laptop battery in minutes.”
Selina’s eyes glazed slightly.
“Did we just slip into a Tom Clancy
novel,” she asked.
“Remember,” Barbara retorted, “You may not say ‘technobabble.’ So, to stay
online, I need current. But if I just plug into the outlets, I’ll draw more
power in the precise pattern of the satellite pulse. It’s like a signature, and they could trace it.”
Selina held up a weary hand. “Tell you what, when Bruce and Dick get back and they ask
what the generator is doing here, you take it from there.”
“Deal. As long as you make the
“When I work as Oracle,” Barbara said, happily completing her untraceable login,
“I always drink tea.”
“When I work as Catwoman,” Selina called from the kitchen, “I always get paid,
but you don’t hear me complaining.”
“You could have taken Bruce’s check,” Barbara joked, “To - what was it? -
enlarge your preserve? What was
that about anyway?”
“The return of the control freak,” Selina hissed. “I’m not sure what’s behind it. But if he doesn’t lay off about my tiger…”
“I know. That tiger-as-bodyguard
was too much. I mean, look, you’re
not going to be running into Blockbuster face to face, but if you did, Roland
considers himself a ladies’ man.”
“You can’t be serious.”
“He flirted with Black Canary.”
“You cannot be serious! He
looks like Ra’s.”
“He’s a sharp dresser, Selina.”
“He looks like Ra’s al Ghul crossed with a mutant Viking.”
“No desire at all to be on the receiving end of the ol’ Blockbuster charm?”
“He looks like Ra’s al Ghul…
crossed with a mutant Viking…
sucking on a lemon.”
“So any interaction would definitely have to be kept at the ‘wanting each other
“Absolutely. I have standards.”
“Besides,” a deep-throated growl sounded behind her, “you’re taken.”
As always, Selina and Barbara gave
no indication that the trademark Bat-appearance from the silent shadows was in
any way remarkable.
“Why is there a stolen generator in
my living room?” Dick asked.
“A little more care with our adjectives,” Barbara chided. “It’s not stolen; it’s been re-localized.”
“Retroactively displaced,” Selina corrected.
“Ah, okay, what’s the bullshit euphemism for a stolen generator doing in my
“Enabling Oracle to complete Phase
One—Finding Blockbuster faster than any of you thought possible,” Barbara
“You… Finding Block…You FOUND HIM?” Dick stammered, “Already?”
“Selina, I think I’d like another cup of tea,” Barbara remarked with exaggerated
casualness. “Would you be a dear
and heat up the water?”
“Already?” Dick repeated.
Bruce stood back and watched. This was one of those occasions where the older, more
experienced crimefighter would have liked to warn his partner. Bruce had made this very same mistake once. He’d chanted his incredulous request for confirmation five
times on learning that Selina Kyle could cook.
“You found him already?” Dick repeated, “I mean - already?”
“Richard,” Selina cut in, “your expression of wondering awe is noted. But if you don’t stop repeating ‘already,’ we’ll never get to the ‘how.’”
Bruce thought it sounded like a cue. They were to ask how Barbara had done it. Clearly they were expected to ask. Dick,
it’s your cue, Bruce thought.
Bruce was still on his best behavior, making an effort to respect Nightwing’s
position as head of the team… And it was clearly the team leader’s
prerogative to ask for the report… But if Dick didn’t get it together and ask
the question soon, there was a limit to how long Bruce could restrain himself…
Selina could feel it building. In her mind’s eye she drew on the mask—she could see it. He was ready to blow. It was quite sexy.
It was quite sexy.
At the last second, Dick cleared his throat, Bat-style, and spoke.
“Um, okay then. Yes. How did you locate him so quickly?”
“Operation Walgreens,” Barbara announced happily.
The men looked at each other.
Barbara waited a full minute for some expression of something, then when
nobody said a word, she went on to explain…
“Blockbuster has a gorilla heart. He had an organ from another species transplanted into his body. Bodies can reject organ transplants. And to minimize the risk of that, they give you anti-rejection drugs.”
“For a few weeks after the
operation,” Bruce interrupted.
“Normally, yes, a patient only takes those drugs for a few weeks. But, at the risk of repeating myself, this is a freakin’ gorilla heart. And he weights 825 pounds. So I hacked into the local pharmacies and
“Prescriptions for a hippopotamus
dose of anti-rejection drugs,” Dick completed her sentence and her thought.
“He’s still on Cyclosporin and Tacrolimus. He’s due for a refill in ten days, the Stark Avenue Pharmacy. Plant a homing device in the bottle or follow whoever picks it up, and
there’s your man.”
“That is so F-ing slick,” Dick
whispered in awe.
“Which gives the three of you exactly ten days to lay the groundwork for Phase
To be continued...