Raoul’s Kafe-Kart had been on the corner of 59th and Madison for as long as anyone could remember. It served espresso, cappuccino and café au lait. Only. No hazelnut mochachino, no whipped cream, no flavored syrups, no oversized Rice Krispies squares. Raoul was there before corporate chains brought gourmet coffee into vogue. He remained while dozens of coffee bars sprung up around him. He would continue long after they had all been replaced with water bars and soup bars and chic boutiques selling eclectic pottery.
Bruce Wayne stopped this morning on the way to a too-early meeting at the Foundation. Raoul didn’t see “Bruce Wayne,” of course. He saw: Saville Row suit, dark glasses. Double espresso. Raoul had no way of knowing that the hoarse baritone that told him to keep the change was the result of Batman trailing a gun-running operation until after four a.m. when Bruce had to get up for a 9:30 meeting the next day.
Next was a stunning woman: Hermes bag. A dramatic silk scarf with an image of a jewel encrusted panther—the hallmark of a famous Gotham jeweler. A sweatshirt advertising: CAT-TALES at the Hijinx Playhouse. Dark glasses, too. Double espresso. Keep the change. Killer smile.
Some mornings, Gotham was a great place to be….
I took my coffee into the park, balanced it on the bench, and laid out Daily Variety and the Times. This was the choice, the same one I had been facing every day for a week. I opened the Times to the Lifestyle section. There are 8 million people in this city, a little over 4,000 millionaires, dozens of museums, hundreds of galleries, a wholesale diamond district; there had to be something worth purloining that’s worthy of my talents.
I glanced at Variety. The show had been running for two months; I’d made my point. I cleared my name. And that was the point of the exercise, after all. I needed to close it and get back to work.
I looked back at the Times: An Egyptian Cat-God exhibit at the museum—Been there. Feline jade statuettes at AsiAntiques Gallery—Done that.
I peeked at Variety.
I wasn’t out to become a star. In the past three weeks, I’d been approached to move the show to Broadway, air it as an HBO special, perform at the White House…
Maya Jaguar God at the University—promising, but weighs 900 pounds if it weighs an ounce.
…have my next caper filmed by an Indie film director, write the forward for a ‘Cat Who’ mystery, Co-host the People’s Choice Awards with David Boreanaz….
Canary Diamonds! Pretty, but hard to fence….
“Live from Gotham City, it’s Saturday Night.”
One thing I’ve learned from this: Show Business is perhaps the one field of human endeavor even more insane than dressing up in wild outfits to commit and/or foil crimes. Back to promising cat targets…
A memorabilia auction: Andrew Lloyd Webber’s original working score of the musical CATS. With a capital C, and that rhymes with D, and that stands for Dull.
The thing is: now that I’d reestablished my reputation as an unrepentant but not homicidal thief, Catwoman’s next caper would have to live up to the celebrated image.
What IS a People’s Choice Award, anyway?
… ChatOn Software was moving their corporate headquarters here. Well now, chaton is French for kitten but that didn’t mean they’d have anything I’d want to take. Besides, if Batman didn’t get the feline tie-in… Much as I hate to admit it, stealing can be a chore. The thrill of a perfect heist sweetened with a little bat action is still a better rush than performing in front of any audience, but, let’s face it: the legwork sucks.
Okay. Tomorrow the weekend edition would be out. One more day, I vowed, and I WOULD get back on the job.
I turned to Heather Hermoine’s gossip column to see who else might have shown up in my audience. It was silly. Whatever heroes or villains had disguised themselves and come to see the show, Heather had no way of knowing who they were…. God, I hated to admit it, but it was fun. Doing my bit night after night, never knowing who was out there. Getting the last word on Bats….
The JLA sent flowers to my dressing room last night. I know it was them—the card had six anonymous comments, each in different handwriting:
“we enjoyed the show, thank you very much”
“so glad to see you embrace the path of righteousness”
“could you teach me how to weather that stare of his, cause it always makes me cave”
“so funny I almost pee’d”
I wondered if I should mention this in my act. ‘The path of righteousness’ and ‘almost pee’d.’ Who’d believe me? This is what’s protecting the planet, folks, have a nice day.
There was still no response from the belfry. I was pretty sure he’d seen the show twice now, once the first week and once four nights ago. I had that tingly shiver up my spine.
At least Nightwing and Robin admitted they were there. ‘Wing showed up at the stage door early the second week with a cheeky “Cucucachoo, Mrs. Robinson!”
Unlike his mentor, the kid has a sense of humor when there aren’t diamonds and a grand larceny charge on the line. Good for him, I thought.
“Remember little Robin,” he quoted sarcastically from the first act when I mock the idea of he and I as a romantic item.
“Hey, you wore green shorts. You made bad puns. You once said ‘Holy Kitty Litter.’ It warrants comment.”
“You once said ‘Purr-fect,’” he reminded me.
I’ll be damned, I thought, thinking how Batman would’ve imploded into a black hole if I ever teased him like that. This one gave it right back. He really was a great kid.
“I make it a rule never to get involved with a man if I WAS THERE THE FIRST TIME HIS VOICE CRACKED,” I replied. Mentally adding: Don’t have an answer for that, do you ya, Junior.
“Okay, okay. Look, I just wanted to let you know I’d seen it and it’s a great show.”
I smiled back.
“Thanks… So, has Daddy been here yet?”
His grin morphed into a truly Batlike stonewall.
“You won’t get your new finale through me. If he sees it, and if he wants to respond, that’ll be his choice. I will tell you that Robin has seen it, and he liked your Joker and Ivy impersonations at the end. But he thought Scarecrow and Two-Face were over the top, and he thinks you should add Harley ‘cause he always thought that Marilyn Monroe squeak-laugh she does is funny.”
I stared. It suddenly occurred to me that the next rooftop encounter with these people is going to be very, very weird.
To be continued...