Chapter 2: Morning
Bruce awoke to three very specific sounds:
– a distant shower,
– a female voice (morning, kitten), distant, muffled by both glass and wood (that would be behind the bathroom door, behind the shower door, talking to herself—strange girl),
– a cell phone ringing, the special ring he had tagged to Lucius Fox.
Knowing it must be important if Lucius
would be calling him on cel, Bruce answered the beeping box without realizing…
::Morning what? Lushy? Who is this?::
…this wasn’t his phone.
“Bruce Wayne. Who is this?”
::Bruce? It’s Harvey Dent.::
A half-beat of alarm that Harvey was using Lucius’s phone dissolved the
moment Bruce looked at the small silver box in his hand. It was he who was
using Selina’s phone. She must have the same ring for Harvey that he used
::Um, Bruce, why are you answering
“She’s in the shower,” Bruce answered without thinking.
There was a moment’s silence on the other
end of the line.
::Oh.:: Another pause, then…
::well:: and another pause. And finally… ::Wait, maybe this is better.
Could you come see us this afternoon? We need some expert advice about
Burning with curiosity as to what topic
Harvey could possibly want ‘expert advice’ for from Bruce Wayne, Bruce
agreed to the appointment. This agreement immediately scored a bonus for
Batman: the location of Harvey Dent’s new hideout in the old Flick Theatre.
He went to the cave to log this while Selina was still in the shower. Not
that he was avoiding her or anything. He simply wanted to research this
building and pull the original blueprints, just in case, as he would before
entering any known rogue hideout if he had the luxury of time.
Logging in to the system, Bruce was immediately met by an alert. The analysis of last night’s autodownloads detected a pattern that, cross-referenced with the Rogues At Large list, generated a flag:
Three days before, Harold Morton, of the Morton Trust, cancelled all his
appointments. He returned to work the next day. Yesterday, Charles
Fitzwallace, of Fitzwallace Tech, cancelled his appearance at a panel discussion
on emerging technologies. He and his wife were also a no-show at Mrs.
Ashton-Larraby’s benefit, where Fitzwallace Tech had bought two tables.
There was both a Morton Building and a Fitzwallace Lab at Hudson University, a
favorite target of the Scarecrow.
It wasn’t much, it wasn’t anything yet, it was merely something to keep an
Bruce made a mental note of this
information and went on to research the Flick Theatre…
Two hours later, standing in the lobby of the empty and derelict theatre, Bruce Wayne felt a fool. Harvey Dent himself was giving him a history of the edifice far more detailed than the public records had provided. Harvey told, with pride of ownership, how this building was once The Cathom, a vaudeville house, run by one Roddy McMurphy - who refused to sell out when the great impresarios began organizing theatres into touring circuits, who refused to acknowledge vaudeville was dying, and who refused to kowtow to the mob bosses then becoming a force in Gotham City. It was this last that proved to be the fatal mistake, and McMurphy was killed, accidentally or not, in the gang wars of 1935. His theatre fell into disuse, but was eventually purchased and converted into a lush movie house by Santo Valenz. Valenz passed the theatre on to his son and his wife, who made a decent living with it - but in the age of multiplexes and DVDs, the era of great movie palaces was over. Rather than borrow to convert the theatre to something more competitive, the Valenzes continued as an art house until their recent retirement to Florida. The move was financed, it now turned out, by the sale of the theatre to a mysterious holding company. The Valenzes assumed the company was fronting for a family-friendly SuperCorp that was known to be buying up strategic patches of Gotham real estate. This despite the fact, Harvey observed caustically, that the downtown location was anything but strategic. No, the mysterious holding company was a front for none other than “us,” Harvey Dent and Two-Face.
Bruce started at the way Harvey so easily referred to Two-Face as a separate
entity, as if they were business partners. There was a disquieting
similarity to his own habit of referring to Bruce Wayne and Batman in the third
person to people who knew they were one and the same.
The reason for Two-Face and Harvey’s interest in the building, while not
evident from the paperwork, was clear enough now that Bruce had seen the
edifice. Giant concrete Comedy-Tragedy masks decorated the façade like
gargoyles, and here in the lobby, the floor beneath the grand staircase was
picked out with an elaborate mosaic of the same image: two masks, one
laughing and one weeping.
As Selina would say: Poor Harvey.
When the pleasantries of viewing the new building were over, Harvey proceeded
to the business of the visit with the directness of a lawyer with an agenda.
“Y’know, Bruce, the thing with you and
Selina, we can’t quite figure it out.”
Join the club, was the thought concealed behind the business exec’s
“I mean, we love the girl, we really do,
but we do believe you’re the first man ever whose face wasn’t a scratching post
within the first month of knowing her.”
The neck muscles that supported Bruce’s
poker face tensed in a way Harvey did not notice, but Dick or Tim would have.
He had been a scratching post on that first meeting. Harvey had no
way of knowing it was as Batman and occurred years before was generally known,
but still… he had been a scratching post within a month, indeed within an hour,
of knowing her. Harvey went on with his musings.
“That’s why when you picked up this morning and said ‘in the shower’ (heh,
heh), we thought ‘Hey, anybody who can go the
distance with Hurricane Selina, might just have a plan.’”
“A plan?” Bruce asked meekly.
“We’ve gotten ourself into an awkward
situation with Pammy, er, Pamela. Isley. I mean, that’s Poison Ivy. We,
er, know each other slightly. Well, actually, we know each other quite well… in
fact, uh, intimately, you might even say. And ah, well to be honest, um,
it seems… she seems to have decided—and I don’t know how this
could have happened frankly—but she seems to
have decided that we’re a couple. Now, I have never thought of that woman
as what you might call ‘girlfriend material,’ and god knows I never asked her on
a date or anything. The only time I gave her anything but the back of my
hand, it was a corsage at Christmas (and boy was that a bad idea). So I
don’t know how it is I now find myself on the hook to take care of her plants
while she’s up the river, but the point is, I AM. On the hook. I
don’t know how it happened, but here I am: the boyfriend, taking care of the
plants. And the thing of it is, I seem to have accidentally, uh, killed
her pet flytrap.”
Each er, ah, um and well was
in response to a stare Harvey had interpreted as civilian Bruce Wayne, ordinary
guy and his old friend, shocked and horrified at the revelation that Harvey was
intimately involved with a woman who had once seduced him for the purpose of
killing him. Bruce’s expression was indeed shocked horror, but not at the
news that Two-Face and Ivy were lovers (they deserve each other, was
Batman’s response), but at that curious bit about “I don’t know how this could
have happened… I never asked her… I don’t know how it is I now find myself on
the hook… but here I am.”
And before Bruce could begin to process his reaction to these utterly random
phrases in Harvey’s rant, they were pushed from his head by the glorious
revelation that that flytrap was dead!
He hated that flytrap. As much as he hated anything in this world, he
hated that damn oversized weed with its steel grip, its vine-like tentacles, and
that nauseatingly sweet odor it put out when it had something struggling in
those tentacles that it thought would be its next meal.
The flytrap was dead! Batman’s disciplined reflexes held the poker face,
barely. And Harvey went on to explain his predicament—as if explanations
were necessary. He’d killed one of Ivy’s plants, her babies, possibly her
favorite. Bruce didn’t know what he could say. Even Batman didn’t
even know what to say. He was looking at a dead man, that’s really all
there was to it.
“Maybe if I got her another one, replace
it before she gets back.”
“No,” Bruce answered too quickly, then
made up a reason, “She’d probably know the difference, and then on top of
killing it, you tried to fool her.” Plus, he thought, give us
some time to enjoy the new flytrap-free Gotham.
“So, what do I do?” Harvey asked pitifully.
The phrase “move to Metropolis” hovered on Bruce’s lips, but he knew he
couldn’t actually say that.
Batman smashed his utility belt onto its shelf in the costume vault with a
force far from prudent for an object that contained explosives, gas pellets and
capsules of unstable chemicals.
The first time Harvey contacted Bruce
Wayne for a tête-à-tête about his seeing Selina, it had set off a Psychobat
episode the likes of which were seldom seen outside of Hell Month. Today,
contacted as some kind of expert in the romantic handling of the women of the
rogues gallery, Bruce heard his voice dispensing advice he would be loathe to
follow himself: “Talk to her, Harvey,” he had said, “Tell her the truth.”
It was the Batman part of his psyche, the strategic thinker, who added “And do
it now, while she’s safely in Arkham and can be medicated if necessary.”
Harvey’s reaction had not been pleased.
“In Arkham. Yeah. Well. Harley
Quinn was just sent up, you know. You know what happens when those two get
together, it’s bad for the men. They work each other up.”
Bruce thought back to the foursome at the wedding: Selina, Harley, Lois
and Dinah, and shuddered. The drinking buddies. Who knew what all
was said? Well, Clark knew more than he was saying, but you couldn’t make
the Boy Scout talk.
They work each other up.
The words had hung in the air as once, on
that earlier visit, you’re part of the family now had hung in the air.
The effect was similar: Psychobat.
Bruce was the ultimate embodiment of the principle: we teach best what we
most need to learn. So far from taking his own advice and talking with
Selina, calmly, rationally, and above all truthfully, he dealt with his
uncertainties about her as he always had: by denying anything at all was
going on and pouring himself into the Batman mindset with every fiber of his
And the first thing the Batman mindset had
to offer in re the day’s events was that Scarecrow was active. And there
was a Wayne building at Hudson University, let’s not forget that…
The last thing he needed right now was to be blindsided by some lurking,
unspoken fear. It was time to be proactive, a preemptory strike; get
Scarecrow and her fear toxins off the table…
That led to tonight’s campaign to locate
and apprehend (read: beat the snot out of) one Jonathan Crane a.k.a. Scarecrow.
That led to a series of none-too-satisfying interrogations of petrified
snitches. And THAT led to a second-floor apartment above a pharmacy
where he’d discovered… no Scarecrow. But he did set off that booby-trap
like a rank amateur. Knowing a trap was likely, Batman had taken the
precaution of wearing a gas mask… he hadn’t figured on the blowdart. He
felt the blow on his neck, like a wasp-sting, and knowing he had only seconds
before his judgment and perceptions were worthless, he fumbled in his belt for
the antidote. He popped it to his mouth, only to find his mouth still
covered by the gas mask. The gunman stood before him and he stumbled back
into the alley, tripping over their bodies, he fell backwards.
“Hey, careful there, Stud.”
Catwoman’s arm, strong and firm, materialized behind him, supporting him at
the waist, keeping him from falling. The alley was gone, he was still in
the apartment. No gunman, no nothing. Except her.
“What happened?” he asked, confused, drawn into those extraordinary pools of
green. She drew a single claw down his cheek, following the seam where the
mask met is face, then continued down, slicing the mask at his throat. She
continued to claw down his chest, the armor was no protection, then plunged its
needlelike tip into his flesh without a word. He didn’t react, didn’t
fight, didn’t move. Blood was gushing from his face, from his throat, from
his chest, and he stood there staring into her eyes.
“I’m mad at you,” she said simply, licking
the blood from her claw. “You didn’t come to bed last night. I was bored.”
“I’m sorry,” he answered numbly.
Then she reached inside the now gaping hole in his chest, like a safe, and
pulled out a string of pearls. She turned, lifting them to her throat.
“Help me with this clasp.”
She walked away, out the door, without a word. He followed her onto the street—it was different somehow. Cleaner. Brighter. Safer. It was the middle of the night, but the gleaming streetlights lit it up like day. There were kids on rollerblades and bicycles, boy scouts helping seniors across the street, it was… wrong. It was all wrong.
“See, baby, Gotham doesn’t need you anymore.”
Catwoman standing behind him again, except when he turned, she wasn’t in costume, and neither was he.
“I guess it never did,”
“What happened?” he asked again.
“That corporation bought up the whole
thing. The whole city is theirs now, so it’s all like Gotham Plaza: clean,
efficient, sanitized for your protection. A postcard of a Gotham City that
never was and always will be. Ironic, isn’t it, all it took was corporate money.
You had that. You had the solution all along. Like the Wizard of Oz. You
just didn’t think to use it. You’d rather dress up like a flying rat and beat
people up. That’s why Jason’s dead; that’s why a lot of people are dead.
That’s why Barbara was shot. Because you never thought to do this.”
“No, no this isn’t real. This is
Disney World, this is Stepford. A couple blocks, sure, but the whole city
like this? It isn’t possible.”
Selina laughed, mockingly, and turned into an alley that immediately went
black as pitch, swallowing her up. He heard two gunshots in the
nothingness, then nothing at all.
He awoke on the floor of that apartment, pulled the useless gas mask off his
face and the blowdart from his neck. He stood on shaky legs and summoned
This wasn’t the first time a miscalculation with the Scarecrow led to one of those nightmare visions. It wasn’t the first time an indulgence in being Psychobat led to a miscalculation.
But it was the last time Psychobat was going to appear because of the Selina situation, that much he vowed.
And Bruce Wayne should hit the showers as well, he wasn’t doing so hot
lately. No, it was time this matter was dealt with once and for all, and
Batman was the man to do it.
To be continued...