Chapter 5: Postcards
The postcard depicted a bronze statue of
Michael, the avenging angel. His sword raised insuring protection of a
quaint village in the Italian countryside. The flipside read: Hey
Tim, look what I’m NOT sending Bruce. Italy’s fantastic. Barbara’s
fantastic. Life is fantastic. Get married, Bro. It’s the only life.
The postcard depicted a deceptively
modern-looking skyline, until one saw the towers of San Gimigniano were 13th
Century stone structures. The flipside read: Buon giorno, Selina,
look what I’m NOT sending Bruce. The Gotham of Tuscany. You know
what the view is from the top of that tall one: olive trees! –Dick
The postcard depicted a haughty fashion
model wearing a minidress of lime green and purple vinyl and four-inch
platforms, licking an Italian ice balanced on her own shoulder in the middle of
a busy intersection in downtown Milan. The flipside read: Ciao
Papa Gordon, look what I’m NOT sending Bruce. Imagine being a playboy in a
city where nobody finds this shocking. –Dick
The postcard depicted a magnificent table
set with prosciutto and melon, risotto, thick loaves of Italian bread dusted
with flour, and a towering tiramisu. The flipside read: Hey,
Alfred, look what I’m NOT sending Bruce. Would I do that to your kitchen?
Just think of the havoc he’d wreak cutting the melons. –Dick
The postcard depicted a gondola-view of
St. Marks Square. Beneath the caption reading: Grand Canal, Venice were
the words: Bruce, Having wonderful time. Glad you’re not here. :)
Tim closed his laptop without sending the e-mail he’d written. He was a
little rattled, it was true. But this was not an emergency or anything
like it; it was just a scare—a silly, stupid, nothing scare. And that did
not justify interrupting Dick and Barbara on their honeymoon.
He thought about telling Bruce. But Bruce would never understand.
At best, he’d think Tim was asking advice, like this was a problem he couldn’t
handle. And it wasn’t. It was just the stupid kind of thing that
happens sometimes, and it rattled him, and he would like to purge it by telling
someone who would understand and laugh. Bruce would not laugh.
Anything to do with secret identities, Bruce would not find funny. Worst
case scenario: Bruce would think Tim coming to him was a shot, a
passive-aggressive shot, from when Batman told Spoiler about Robin.
Tim headed for the cave, figuring this was the time to try the solution to
pent-up emotion advocated by everyone else in the bat-family: a good,
exhaustive workout. Selina was already in the gym when he arrived,
balanced against a stalagmite, engaging in some kind of stretching exercise that
was -for a red-blooded teenager - spectacular to watch. He cleared his
throat before he got into ten kinds of trouble.
“Hey, there,” she said, sitting up but continuing to stretch this way and
“Hey. Thought I’d work out some,”
Tim explained. “I thought Bruce said you never use the equipment down
“I don’t. He’s offered it a few
times. It’s not me. Too weird.”
“It’s too hot to workout at my place.
96-degrees today. Nice thing about down here. constant temperature.”
“Ah.” It occurred to Tim that Selina had both a secret identity and a
sense of humor. He took a chance. “Can I talk to you about something?” he
She nodded, and while Selina continued to stretch Tim told his story.
The young scholars at Brentwood Academy were expected to spend the summer before their senior year engaged in some activity to beef up their college applications the following term. An internship was customary, an internship at a certain level and inside a certain type of company, an internship that spoke of connections students from an institution like Brentwood were expected to have. His friend and classmate, Randy-quad—and here he had to stop and explain Randy-quad was Randoph Larraby IV, son of Randolph Larraby III (obviously) and Mrs. Ashton-Larraby. Selina looked at him blankly, and again Tim had to explain: the woman from the wedding trying to pass off citrine earrings as canary diamonds… Selina nodded. Tim nodded. That was Mrs. Ashton-Larraby. She was an Ashton. Newport Ashtons, crashing snobs, but no money left. Married to Randolph Larraby of Larraby Chemicals. Again, Selina nodded; she did know them. She had heard the story during the endless round of Christmas parties, mercifully punctuated with silent editorial comments from Bruce in their secret sign language:
The biggest fight the Ashton-Larrabys ever had, it was known throughout Gotham High Society, was at the birth of the boy Tim now referred to as Randy-quad. ˜˜And when they say ‘fight,’˜˜ Bruce editorialized, ˜˜they mean A FIGHT. Don’t think a polite little rooftop tussle, think the social register equivalent of gas grenades, missile launchers, and scrambling F-16s off the USS Saratoga.˜˜
The former Miss Gladys Ashton, of the Newport Ashtons, was not willing to give up so illustrious a name, so she hyphenated. Her son too, she felt, should hyphenate. He was half an Ashton, after all. He should be Randolph Ashton-Larraby. ˜˜Getting the theme,˜˜ Bruce put in, ˜˜Ashton. It’s the logo. Like question marks or umbrellas, gotta feature it prominently at each and every appearance lest, God forbid, some smalltime Flash villain gets the credit.˜˜
Randolph-cubed didn’t agree. If their son
hyphenated, he would not be Randolph IV. What was the point of having
offspring if you couldn’t number them like movie sequels. Bruce
had made no editorial comment there. What more was there to say?
Obviously, Randolph-cubed had won, for his son was Randy-quad. It was
to be his only win in twenty-odd years of marriage. ˜˜She planned it
that way, tosses it up to him every time they disagree. Like Clock King’s
vendetta with the Mayor. She just will not let it go.˜˜
All this was backstory. Randolph Larraby IV or Randy-quad was a
classmate of Tim’s, and “sentenced” (as Tim put it) to intern at Larraby
Chemicals over the summer. Working at the old man’s company—Hell.
On. Earth. Tim was facing the same situation, as his father seemed to
automatically assume Tim would intern at Drake Industries. Tim didn’t like
the idea. “The Boss’s son,” who needed that? His name was literally
on the letterhead. His name was literally on the building! It’d be
like going to work each day with a sign hanging round his neck saying “Make way
for The Boss’s Son.”
“So what does Bruce say?”
Tim’s brow furrowed.
“I haven’t told him about it. This
has nothing to do with the Robin part of my life. This is life-life.
Bruce doesn’t care about that.”
“He might surprise you, Tim. He does
at least know what it is to have your name on the building.”
Tim shook his head, “I appreciate you’re trying to help, Selina, but
that’s not what I need right now. My stepmom wanted to help, and she
totally creeped me out. You know what she said? She said if that’s
how I felt, meaning being Tim Drake at Drake Industries, that I should use an
assumed name: get myself a secret identity!”
Selina laughed again and Tim realized that’s exactly what he wanted.
Somebody, anybody, to grin and reassure him that his instinct to laugh it off
“Thanks, Selina. Hey, do me a favor, don’t tell Bruce about this ok?”
“Okay,” Selina lied.
That night at dinner, Selina took her first tentative steps into territory
where she was surprisingly inexperienced for a woman her age: exercising
her influence with “the boyfriend.” As Catwoman, it’s fair to
say her effect on Batman had been considerable, if difficult to define:
she tempted him, she dared him, she infuriated him, she intrigued him, she
tormented him, and she excited him. Since the ‘whatever it was’ with
Batman developed into a romance with Bruce, they’d experimented and sometimes
played with the roles of a more traditional couple. But she’d never
seriously attempted anything like this.
“I want to ask you something. And your
kneejerk is going to be no. But I want you to hold off on that and ask
yourself why, because there is really no good reason not to say yes.”
The look was one she recognized. It was, most definitely, Batman: I know this is a trap, let’s see what you’re up to.
She took a deep breath and dove in.
As she would with Batman, she’d begin by throwing him off balance. Give
him something 180-degrees off what he was expecting:
“Do you have any idea how much you all take Tim for granted? He is the nicest and most well-adjusted of the whole crazy bunch of you—except for Alfred,” she added hastily. Then she saw it was unnecessary. Alfred had vanished from the dining room exactly as silently as Batman dematerialized from rooftops. Selina continued.
“When has he ever said no, hm?
Somebody needs to pick up the minister? Ask Tim. Somebody stakeout the
Falconi warehouse? Send Robin. It’s the inevitable fate of the nice guy:
the overflowing inbox. But does he ever complain? And don’t
say Spoiler; that was an extreme case. And on top of all that, he’s doing
the adolescence thing, which is no easy ride. You should have seen him
this afternoon trying not to look at my tits.”
Bruce stared, openmouthed. This was NOT what he was expecting. Selina took advantage of the stunned silence and went on:
“He needs something from you right now,
and he’s so used to being the footnote around here that it doesn’t even occur to
him to ask for it.”
“What?” In one syllable, it was difficult to tell if it was Bruce or Batman
that cut in.
“He needs a summer internship away from
his father’s company, and I want you to give him one at Wayne Enterprises.”
“What did I just say about that kneejerk
Bruce stopped. It was his instinct to say no to anything he didn’t initiate and work out the reason after. There was a reason, of course there was… There must be a reason… Well, Batman and Robin… It made a link with Bruce and Tim that could be connected to Batman and Robin.
As if she could read his thought, Selina
said, “Tim is the son of a major industrialist, and he does know Bruce
Wayne, CEO of Wayne Enterprises. Were it not for Batman and Robin, either
Tim or Jack Drake could be asking this. Were it not for Batman and Robin,
would there be any reason to say no?”
There should be, and Bruce was sure it would come to him...
When it hadn’t by the end of early patrol,
he radioed the Redbird: “Wayne Tower. Meet me in ten minutes.”
“Good night?” he asked by way of a greeting.
“Not bad. A dealer. Couple
toughs in the park. Nothing special.”
There was a pause. Then Batman spoke again, gruffer than usual.
“School night. Should you still be
“I’ve got it under control.” Robin was confused, he couldn’t tell where
this was leading, but it was starting to feel like being called to the
“You’re able to balance a full day’s school work and a full night of…” he
gestured towards the city below.
“I’ve got it under control, Batman.”
“Good. You can take a week off after
your final exams, then you report to Lucius. 9 am sharp.”
Robin’s mouth dropped open, just as Tim’s once had when Bruce made scrambled
“You’ll spend two weeks in each division, low level clerical stuff.
Keep your eyes open and stay out of the way. One day a week, you’ll shadow
me or Lucius, or else sit in on the executive training pool. Clear?”
When the boy gave no answer, he added a no-nonsense, “Unless that’s a problem.”
The tone shocked Robin out of his trance
and he stammered. “Yes. NO! I mean: yes, it’s clear, and no,
not a problem.”
He turned, drawing the grappling gun from his belt, clearly preparing to leave.
He turned back.
There might have been a grunt lost in the
firing of the grappling hook and the swolsh of cape in the high winds.
Dr. Leland Bartholomew, Senior Case Psychiatrist at Arkham, couldn’t believe
how a day that started out so well could so rapidly become a living hell.
He had never credited the Joker’s delusional rationalizations that he and other
stylized personalities of Gotham “had a bad day once.” It was the kind of
self-justifying rationales sociopathic psychotics like Joker were apt to create,
but it held no merit. Or so Dr. Bartholomew thought until today.
He’d been offered a full-professorship at Hudson University: tenure-track, speaking engagements, access to funding, and plenty of time to work on his book. He wasn’t seriously considering it; he was a healer, not an academic. But he’d allowed word to reach the Arkham administrators, and was rewarded with a most gratifying expression of their desire to keep him: 30-percent raise in salary, a new title, and a corner office. Today was his very first in this new office. He’d spent his first session sneaking peeks out the window, enjoying the new view of the courtyard and garden.
It had started out to be such a good day.
Then Pamela Isley’s session began.
Bartholomew would have thought the woman who called herself Poison Ivy, and
whose core psychosis focused on plants, would appreciate the garden view.
But all she would do was rant and rave about the transfer. After her
attack on Harvey Dent, Isley had been transferred from her regular cell into the
high security wing, limiting her contact with her best friend among her fellow
inmates, Harley Quinn, and forcing her to interact with the only other occupant
of the high security wing, the Joker. Isley evidently did not get along
with Joker, nor he with her, for according to the morning rants, Joker was
amusing himself with his imitation of her dying flytrap “crying out as its poor
little plant insides fried in the heat of that sunlamp.”
Lunch with the Executive Director in his private dining room would have been
a treat, signifying as it did, the special value the administration placed on
Bartholomew’s services and their appreciation at his decision to stay.
Except the Director served a Chef’s Salad and, as he munched, Bartholomew kept
hearing Pamela Isley’s imitation of Joker’s imitation of her dying plant.
After lunch, any residual pleasure was ruined as his digestion was subjected
to Harley Quinn in his next appointment. Separated from “her goodest buddy
Red” (a.k.a. Poison Ivy, a.k.a. Pamela Isley), she wallowed in vocal self pity
for most of the session, alternating from tears to tantrums with bewildering
The mix-up (if that’s what it was) after Quinn’s appointment was inexcusable, and Bartholomew promised himself that there would be a full investigation. If it turned out the orderly had deliberately brought Joker for his session early so he could run into Harley in the outer office, Bartholomew would see to it that people were fired!
The whole staff seemed to buy into Joker and Harley’s assertions that this
destructive sado-polar co-obsessive liaison was a romance!
Bartholomew had just made the note: “‘her goodest buddy’—hard to believe Harleen Quinzel has a PhD” and was about to underline the word “tantrums” and add “hard to believe she’s 28,” when the patient’s voice rang out in his outer office:
There was a crash.
Bartholomew opened his door, expecting to see the madman had put Harley’s head through a wall. Instead, he saw a very different picture: Harley had hopped up and fastened herself onto the Joker, her legs straddling him at the hips, arms around his head with an ear in each hand, holding his face in place for what Bartholomew believed the young people call “a liplock.” The crash was apparently caused by the force of her lunge knocking Joker against the wall.
Bartholomew stared. The Joker was, hands down, the most disturbed and disturbing patient in Arkham—but the sight of the homicidal maniac pinned against a wall by an amorous blonde!
“Ha…Ha…Harl…” Joker managed between breaths, “Not in front of the medical staff.”
“But, Puddin,” she insisted, “I MIIIIISSED you so!” then made a sound like “moi-moi-moi” and planted stage kisses all over his face.
That tenure at Hudson University was
looking better all the time.
Joker turned to the orderly, looking embarrassed: “She gets excited.” Then he turned to Bartholomew, looking menacing: “What’re you looking at?”
The orderly pried Harley off Joker, and he took advantage of his newfound ability to use his arms, no longer pinned to the wall, to swat at her head.
“That’s for getting caught. If you had taken care of Ivy’s plants, she wouldn’t have made Harvey do it and wouldn’t be moved into MY WING…” He got no further before the orderly pulled Harley out the door, bawling, and Bartholomew ushered Joker into his office. Joker transitioned seamlessly from yelling at Harley to complaining to Bartholomew. “Can’t you do something about this, Old Sport? There are ferns growing in all the windows now. She’s not supposed to have plants, but they grow up right into the windows. Hey, if a flytrap screams in the greenhouse and nobody hears it, does it make a sound?”
To be continued...