This won’t be like the protocols. I won’t permit it. This time, I’ll do it right. Bottle of wine, a little jazz on the CD, rub her neck, get everything just right, nice and relaxed. Then…
“Selina, you’ve changed my life, do you know that? Sometimes I’m actually happy now. Not every dream I remember is a nightmare. Not every waking moment is consumed by the mission. You did that… Can I ask you something, Kitten?”
No. Call her Kitten it’s as good as wearing the cape.
Can I ask you … Darling?
I’ll never get that out without resorting to the playboy.
Can I ask you something … Selina
There. Good. Perfect. Then she says:
“You can ask, I don’t guarantee I’ll answer…”
“Are you still stealing?”
And then she scratches my eyes out.
“Can I ask you…” “Don’t guarantee I’ll answer…”
“Catwoman still prowls at night, right?”
“Sure, of course. You know that, Bruce, don’t be silly.”
“Well yes, I was just wondering what you did on those prowls now that you’re not stealing anymore.”
“What makes you think I’m not stealing any more, you presumptuous jackass!”
Wine/Jazz/neckrub. “You changed my life” “Can I ask a question...” “Maybe.”
“Promise you won’t get mad.”
“Why would I get mad?”
“You’re going to think it’s Batman asking for one reason and it’s really me asking for another reason entirely.”
And then she’ll throw a drink in my face.
It’s going to be the protocols all over again.
I’ve never understood what it is about the Wayne Foundation that’s a crime-magnet. I didn’t get it before finding out about Bruce’s night job, and I don’t get it now. This is to be a ribbon-cutting for a folklore museum: no ancient artifacts, no Rembrandts, no priceless relics. Just dioramas and tableaus of mythology and literature, what would be the point of hitting an event like this? Yet Bruce stored his costume in a hidden compartment in the Daimler and suggested (rather emphatically) that I do the same. I asked if he was expecting trouble, and he looked at me very strangely and said he hoped so. First time in forever I didn’t have a clue what he meant.
We made our entrance and did the social thing for about half an hour before the actual ceremony. Waiters circulated through the lobby with champagne and hors d’oeuvres. They were dressed, for reasons surpassing understanding, as Mercury. Bare-chested (in Gotham, in October, in an atrium lobby), abbreviated white shorts, wings on their shoes, gold helmets with more wings on the sides above the ears.
I whispered to Bruce that it looks like an FTD commercial by Fellini.
No reaction, not even a twitch-smile.
We mingled a little: Lucius Fox and his wife, Jack Drake and Tim’s stepmother, a few others… I repeated my Fellini joke—they all laughed—and this time Bruce gave a weird half-smile, like he didn’t really get it. That’s when the penny dropped. He needed to be “Bruce the idiot” tonight. The opening remarks he had prepared for the ribbon-cutting were quite astonishingly brilliant, and he wanted to make sure everyone would assume the rich pinhead hired someone to write his speech for him.
Why he thought that was necessary is another question entirely.
I know Batman better than most people, certainly better than anyone at that party. I certainly have as high an opinion of his intellect as the next person. If he’s not the smartest man alive, he’s in the top three. But that hardly means -and I’m speaking as Catwoman now- that hardly means I’d suspect Bruce Wayne, or any other random thirty-something Gothamite, is Batman because he makes a few savvy comments about the significance of outcast in Greek mythology. It’s ridiculous!
As I wandered through the exhibits, I was
forced to realize that what Bruce does isn’t new. Zorro, The Scarlet
Pimpernel, Claudius, even Hamlet … literature is full of heroes playing the fool
to mask their abilities.
There was a faint rustling in the exhibit behind me. When I turned to look, I felt a funny tingling in my temple that shot down the back of my neck. “Come with me,” the tingle said… and then everything went white until…
“Selina!” Robin was shaking me. I was outdoors—on some side street—near the park?
“Selina, look at me…” He was holding some kind of headband with the same wings the waiters had at the party.
“…you okay?” I nodded—which turned out to be a mistake—was so lightheaded I nearly passed out. I heard Robin saying “I’ve got her, she’s alright,” and through radio static “Good.”
Bruce? No wait—this was Robin so the radio voice was Batman, not Bruce. I figured I better not open my mouth ‘til my head cleared.
Robin got me home, sat me down with a cup
of soup like I was an invalid, and finally filled in the details. The
broad brush strokes I could guess: Mad Hatter, obviously. Seems he took
offense at Alice in Wonderland not being included in the museum, so he staged a
little armed robbery. The waiters were all under his control, thanks to
the winged headgear. When he saw me, being Hatter, he thought
“ . ”
”While the waitstaff held everyone at bay with submachine guns, Hatter used me to gather the jewelry and valuables from the guests.
“Must’ve been hell on Bruce,” I said.
Tim nodded, then he chuckled and I wondered how much I could scratch him up without my claws.
“Sorry,” he apologized with this obnoxious twinkle in his eye. “It’s just that… if you’d told me a year ago that Catwoman’s next crime would a) not be your idea and b) your very first thought afterwards would be how he reacted to seeing you commit it… Well, I would have said Arkham is lovely this time of year and tell Joker I said hello.”
I could see he meant it in a nice way, and I tried to hold on to that—but I was so pissed off I could barely speak. I feigned a headache, a not unreasonable claim considering, and asked him to leave. Closing the door behind him, I tried to get a handle on what was making me so angry.
I hate introspection. Hate it. Bad things happen when I do it. And quite apart from that, it means going into places inside yourself that just aren’t meant to see daylight—ulgh, I hate it. ‘Nuff said. I’d rather face a hail of gunfire or pits of molten lava rather than– stop.
Just stop it.
It was less than two hours ago that I’d had Mad Hatter running around my head. This wasn’t the time to think rationally. I was blowing things out of proportion, that’s all.
How did this happen? I wondered. I let him kiss me once and before I knew where I was, we were taking vacations together, he had me revamping Wayne Enterprises security, playing little Catwoman in the manor sex games. I had to get my head back in the game. This was just nuts.
Is it? For some reason the annoying devil’s advocate voice in my head sounded exactly like Batman.
Yes, I answered. It really was nuts. I had the freakin’ Boy Wonder taking me home after a Mad Hatter incident—bringing me chicken soup for chrissakes! If that wasn’t nuts…
Tim is very considerate. He wanted to make sure you were okay, overly rational head voice pointed out.
Yes, I can see that. I answered. Tim’s a doll.
That’s not really the point.
If it’s not, maybe it should be.
You’ve got some good people caring about you. By what bizarre twist of
feline logic do you make that a bad thing?
It’s not exactly; it’s just that—
And surprise, they care about you, you care about them. Natural
law—for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.
But Tim was right. My first thought was for Bruce, isn’t that a little…
Don’t look now, Kitten, but you’re being introspective, and it’s not
Yeah, why is that?
You’re happier with who you are now.
So it doesn’t hurt to look inside.
That’s a creepy thought.
It just is.
I need to get back in the game.
I need to get Catwoman back in the game.
I need to steal something and fast.
I don’t know.
I didn’t know.
There was a knock at the door. I was both surprised and not to see it was Bruce.
Of course he’d be coming over as soon as he finished with Hatter, that was to be expected. It was a little surprising he changed back to Bruce first. It was quite astonishing that he knocked. In either identity, he doesn’t knock much.
He hugged me first thing stepping through the door—hugged me tight—and I could feel how hard this was for him… he caressed my cheek, chin, looked into my eyes…
“Last time I saw you, you weren’t in there,” he whispered.
It was unnerving. I could almost convince myself I half-remembered him handing me his wallet, watch, and then grabbing my wrist—touching a pressure point or something—that same hoarse whisper—“Get out of here, go home—first chance you get, go home.”
I kissed the hand at my cheek—and tasted blood. His knuckles were bloodied and badly bruised…
“I can just guess how that happened,” I smiled.
“Good, my turn next.”
“Oh, before I forget. Here, I got these back from the recovered loot. There’s still plenty of evidence left for the trial.”
He held out the cat pins—diamond and onyx, set in platinum, emerald eyes—but a lot more than diamonds and platinum if you know what I mean. I hadn’t realized they were missing. I swallowed hard. So this was what it’s like to be stolen from. Not exactly pleasant. Not at all pleasant. I felt the urge to claw Jervis Tetch’s throat out.
“You left me a piece of him that can still feel pain, right,” I growled as I took the pins back.
“Yes, Kitten. We discussed that, actually, between punches. How you don’t kill—but before you’re finished, he’ll probably wish you did.”
I smiled at that. Quite apart from our history and heat, it’s nice having a fella who understands me so well.
An hour later, it was like none of it ever happened. I was purring happily while Bruce massaged my feet, saying the sweetest things about my changing his life.
“Can I ask you something, Selina?”
“Does Catwoman still steal?”
“No. Not any more… Move up to the ankles, would you, Love.”
To be continued...