… … … … :: Duty Log: Catwoman :: … … …
Okay, it’s happened. I woke up in a teacup.
I knew I couldn’t expect to go five weeks crimefighting in this town and not encounter a fellow Rogue. I’m not sure what percentage of the total crime pool we represent, but I know whenever one of us is active, we move to the front of the line. The police can handle the small fry, but for a Joker, a Scarecrow, or a Mad Hatter, the city needs a Batman. Since I’m standing in, it was inevitable that, sooner or later, I’d have to face off against someone who once picked my name for a Secret Santa. That it was Jervis, well, I’d love to say it was the luck of the draw, but I can’t. I’m not a victim of circumstance; it was my choice. When I heard the stories, I decided to be proactive, I… I’m getting ahead of myself.
I followed Denisovich to his “new job” at the Iceberg. As expected, Ozzy had been just as happy to hire a Ukrainian as a Mexican, as long as they claimed to be in the country illegally and therefore unable to turn on him. Of course, Denisovich wasn’t Ukrainian; he was Russian. And I don’t think he was in the country illegally either, but who knows? It’s not like hitmen need a green card.
So I headed in the front door as soon as I saw Ozzy’s new “dishwasher” go in through the kitchen. They weren’t open yet, but I knew the rest of the staff had started to arrive, and nobody was going to think it strange if Catwoman picked a lock and let herself in. I said I was missing a pair of night lenses and thought I might have dropped them when I was in last week. They were all busy doing their normal set ups and check-ins, and as long as I wasn’t going to mess with their routine, no one cared if I poked around a little. So I went to the bar, the most likely place to have dropped my lenses, and liberated a bottle of tequila. I stored it in the ceiling tiles in the hallway outside Oswald’s office, and then “found” my night lenses on the little shelf in the ladies room where Gina keeps the tissues, hand lotion, and perfume samples that justify her existence in the place. “So silly of me to forget I had set them down so they wouldn’t get spritzed,” and I was on my way. Came back in through the HVAC duct that Oswald seems to think a human can’t fit through, and waited in the back room opposite his office.
As soon as I saw Denisovich make his move, I put him out with a neck chop (although the bastard deserved the claws, I couldn’t leave any marks.) His gun was already drawn, so I didn’t have to fish around for it (thank Bast). Got him nicely positioned face down at Ozzy’s door, with his foot skidded right through the spilled tequila so even Gina could figure out how he came to be lying there in an unconscious heap. I lined up the “accidental” shot he would fire as he “fell,” pulled the trigger, and did my best bat-vanish into the shadowy blackness of the back room while everybody came running. After the kind of coordinated high-speed lockdown you only see in movies when the G-Men are closing in to raid the speakeasy, the police were called and Oswald’s would-be assassin was taken into custody. Meow.
Once the cops left, I circled back “since I was still in the neighborhood and heard the sirens.” I just wanted to make sure Ozzy was clear about who tried to snuff him and why, which of course he was. Oswald Cobblepot is nobody’s fool, which meant my job was done. He could take it from there, and I could now file the Russians under “N” for “Not My Problem.”
Except, in the time it took to get that confirmation from Oswald, the happy hour crowd had started to arrive and the pre-sunset edition of the Iceberg rumor mill was doing its thing. Oswald’s moment of excitement was only a secondary headline below the fold. The night’s big story was Jervis. Seems everyone was expecting him to come out of Arkham breathing fire. He was sent up by Huntress, and that’s just not something an A-List Rogue can let stand if he wants to remain A-List. Word was, he’d been boasting for weeks that he was going to do something BIG and was going to do it faster than anyone thought possible.
So… the time had come. A Rogue Moon was rising and that meant the moment had come for me to bite down on my role as interim Bat and staff out my first assignment to the sidekicks.
Thanks to a purrfect criminal career unsullied by a single capture, Catwoman never had any official entanglements. But even I know there’s only way to get anything big going immediately after release from Arkham or Blackgate: The Z. This loose association of former henchmen and independent contractors can set up a lair, a cover, a war chest, a computer network, a soup kitchen, a fleet of taxis, or a bogus advertising agency. Whatever you need, they’ll put it together. They do it fast, they do it quiet, but they do not do it cheap. And they tend to pad the job with all kinds of extra expenses to amuse themselves.
It would have got them killed twenty times over by now, considering whose pockets they’re picking, except for the outrageous hilarity of the stings. Everyone wants to keep them alive just to see what they’ll do next: $1400 in pay-per-view charges on Riddler’s satellite hookup, for boxing and zombie porn. $6800 on Mr. Freeze’s tab for “fruit and veterinary fees.” Seems that while the Z were setting up his hideout, they kept a trio of pet monkeys. Ventriloquist found his new base included nine brand new jet skis he had no use for. And Catman found he had paid for thirty-seven lap dances at Fat Benny’s bachelor party (the event which presumably emptied the ten bottles of Absolut on Hugo’s tab, which were only discovered hidden under Blake’s “cat’s cradle” deathtrap after Batman broke free).
Anyway, I was sure Jervis must be using the Z to set up his “something big,” so I sent word through the Iceberg that I was looking to set up a new lair. I said money was no object as long as I could have it fast, and I left a number. Not ten minutes later, I received a text from “Zed” naming a time and place to meet. I had Robin and Batgirl waiting in the shadows, and as soon as Zed showed, they swung in.
On my instructions, they both swung right past him and came at me. He ran, as any sensible small fry would, but he didn’t get very far, since I was just tossing Batgirl off my shoulder and she landed on him. The batarang she was holding put a nasty slice in his leg, but he still managed to get away (since, of course, the bats were there for me and had no real interest in him). Unfortunately, that gaping wound in his upper thigh kept him from getting very far, so as soon as I had finished off the junior bats, I was able to catch up with the little fool. I was furious that anyone with the Z’s reputation could be so sloppy, letting himself be followed straight to the feet of a Rogue of my standing. Followed by Robin, no less! How can anyone be so oblivious they miss a yellow-lined cape flapping in the breeze?!
It was fun. I enjoyed chewing Zed’s ass on Rogue grounds. He was going to taste whip because he had crossed Catwoman, not because he was selling drugs in the park or breaking into a townhouse I’d decided to protect. It felt so good to just be me again, even if it was a charade. That pretense felt a lot more natural than my reality the past few weeks.
And it worked. Zed was desperate to prove that Robin and Batgirl could not have followed him—or, to be precise, he was desperate to keep his intestines. The best way to do that was to convince me that teenage crimefighters hadn’t found me because of him. He gave me a full account of his movements for the last day and a half, and that gave me all the locations the Z had been setting up for Jervis.
I’ve got to admit, it’s impressive. They were rigging sixteen billboards in Times Square in some way we’ve yet to figure out. Robin retrieved the equipment, but it will be a few hours, at the very least, before Oracle cracks what exactly it was all meant to do. But whether it’s strobes or subliminals or pulses, the gear was almost certainly meant to send people to the photo booth. That was the Z’s second location. They hadn’t taken it over yet; they were in position to move in when it opened for business in the morning. They had taken a room in the tourist hotel right above… Woof. Getting ahead of myself again.
One of the stupidest legacies of the Wayne-Luthor pissing contest was a hundred-year lease LexCorp had bought on what was then the biggest video screen in Times Square. When the Demonspawn bankrupted the company, the balance of their lease reverted to the city, and given its location, the city decided to use it for goodwill with the tourists. The Gotham Visitors’ Bureau set up this cute little photo booth where tourists can get their picture taken on a digital camera, and it’s projected for a few seconds on the vid screen. They get a little certificate with the timestamp and a printout from the Times Square webcam during their 15 seconds of fame.
So, the Z had taken a room in the hotel right behind this photo booth. Batgirl raided it and found copies of all the Visitor Center signage and literature, as well as a duplicate “camera” tricked out with all kinds of mysterious Jervis gizmos. And, of course, a box of freebie hats—“I heart GC”—to remember the experience and reinforce whatever the camera had programmed them to do. Once again, it will be a day before Oracle can take the stuff apart and analyze all the details of what it was meant to do to people, how it was meant to do it, and what Jervis would have gotten out of it. None of which has anything to do with me. I was taking the Z’s third location. Not Jervis’s stuff but Jervis himself, the actual lair.
But first, I zipped through Museum Mile, scooted down Park Ave and over to Fifth, checked on Cartier and Tiffany’s. Still no overreaching amateurs attempting a Catwoman target that’s far too good for them. Woof.
So it was downtown to 36th street and my first tête-à-tête with a fellow Rogue.
Now, no name Rogue skimps on perimeter defenses, but everyone has their own style. Harvey, for instance, likes lasers. Nobody knows why, maybe there's a hidden Trekker under all that Harvard suave. Pammy doesn’t like technology; she likes rosebushes who snitch. And Jervis? Jervis likes hatted drones dressed as playing cards. Preferred suit: hearts. He's not cheap; he just prefers hatted slaves to gadgets. It's a preference. Like me, I always preferred claws to henchmen (and for that matter, letting Batman waltz right through the front door). But I'm me. Meow.
So anyway, approaching a Jervis lair before Jervis could have hatted himself an inside straight of lookouts, I didn't anticipate much in the way of defenses. I scoped it out from across the street and six flights up, and I must say, I had quite a chuckle when I saw what the building actually was. Quite the variation on a theme, for Jervis. Not really a hat. You could say he was cheating, actually, but it's so cute, you can’t hold it against him.
That’s just… damn, Jervis, it’s good.
Now, most buildings in Gotham will take what they can get for natural lighting, and Hudson Hairpieces is no exception. They had a nice fat skylight that just screamed “Come inside and play.” Or, in keeping with the Lewis Carroll motif: They had a nice fat skylight that may as well have a little tag on it reading “OPEN ME.”
I figured with the skylight being that obvious an entry point, the Z wouldn't have rigged the top floor windows. If someone on the roof was coming inside, it would be through that big glass OPEN ME hole in the ceiling. So I went for the window. It had exactly the kind of ten year old lock you'd expect on the top floor of a thirty year old building that had nothing much to protect inside anyway.
So in I went.
And down I went.
Down this fucking greased chessboard chute, like some kind of spiral staircase in a Hitchcock dream sequence designed by Salvador Dali. Halfway down, this puff of mint green gas hits my face, which might have been what knocked me out or might not, because I swear to God, my head kept bouncing off every goddamn white square the whole fucking way down. Dot-dot-dot, I woke up in a teacup. Not Kitty’s finest hour.
So I wake up, and I’ve landed in this giant teacup, like something you’d see at the original Disneyland. My head is absolutely throbbing—either from the gas that smelled like iodine and Tic Tacs, or else from the 32 bumps on the head. Either way, my head HURT, and Jervis was there, yipping like a Palmaranian. Pomaranian. Christ, how do you spell that? Jervis was jumping up and down, yipping like a Pomeranian. Boy, that looks wrong. I am not a dog person.
Anyway, Jervis explained how he was testing a bat trap (no kidding), working out the very delicate timing between the crimefighter breaking the electric eye at Point A and reaching the gas nozzle at Point B. His problem was simple enough: a big hulking Batman would fall a lot faster than a little wisp of Batgirl, and he had no idea which he might get.
At least, his problem WOULD have been simple to explain if he was anyone else. But with Jervis, the crimefighter isn’t falling down a chute, he’s “going down the rabbit hole.” And this is where a thorough knowledge of Alice in Wonderland, Chapter 1 becomes necessary to follow the story, and if you can manage it without 32 fresh bumps on the head, that would be good too.
You see, Alice was falling down that famous rabbit hole for quite a long time. She had time to observe all the things around her as she fell: there were shelves and cupboards, there were maps and pictures hung on pegs. At one point, she picks up a jar of marmalade from one shelf and puts it back on another farther down. She falls for so long, she starts to wonder if she is going all the way through the center of the earth and will come out the other side. She recites facts she learned at school, she gets to missing her cat and hopes that someone at home will remember to feed it. By then, she has been falling for such a long time that it’s getting to be past her bedtime, and being only a little girl, she is getting quite sleepy.
So, back to Jervis explaining his bat trap problem in JervisSpeak: if the crimefighter is going down the rabbit hole, he refers to Point A/the electric eye as “passing the shelf with the marmalade.” Point B, where (if properly timed) they get hit in the face with a puff of knockout gas, that’s where “Alice began to get rather sleepy.” Flawless logic. For Jervis, it actually MAKES SENSE. There’s just one small problem. As Alice is getting sleepy, her thoughts get rather fuzzy. She’s missing her cat and wishing it was there with her. There are no mice for it to catch, but it might catch a bat. She starts wondering if cats eat bats, or if bats eat cats.
In other words, midway through explaining a timing problem with an electric eye and a gas nozzle, Jervis saw his life passing before his eyes. He was about to say something catastrophically wrong to a woman with very sharp claws and a notoriously bad temper, and the more he tried to avoid the dreaded words, the more he kept flipping them around and repeating them.
Bats ate cats, and then cats ate bats, and then bats ate cats again. No, of course, he didn’t mean that. He meant cat—NO! He meant bat—NO! He meant cats ate bats, no, no, for there is a rule about that which he would never dream of breaking, for he’s a bleeder, don’t you know, and the bat cat has baw claws and he will bleed cleed. He would never dream of batcatting, of catbatting, of batandcaterwauling…
On and on. He couldn’t seem to stop himself. He just kept DIGGING. I finally had to haul my own aching ass out of the teacup and clamp a hand over his mouth just to make it stop. I very succinctly described the electric eye/gas nozzle situation in ENGLISH without any rabbit hole allegories, and that at least put an end to the bat/cat-eating portion of our encounter. Jervis concluded, rather lamely, that it wasn’t a very effective trap he had devised.
I agreed as far as the gas went, but I thought it was extremely effective when you factored in the misaligned checkerboard squares and resulting 32 head lumps. That set him off all over again. It went something like “ohdear ohdear ohdear ohdear ohdear ohdear ohdear.” I think repeated 32 times, one per lump.
You see, in his panic, Jervis hadn’t processed that there was no good reason for me to be there. He was convinced I had been coming to tea. He did invite me for a tea party last October (10/8, it’s a Jervis thing) and thought my coming “late” was the highest compliment imaginable—a line of logic that did nothing to make my headache any better.
He couldn’t seem to get past this idea that I would take having landed in a teacup as the ultimate proof that the tea party invitation was a ruse. He was absolutely convinced that I thought he’d asked me to tea just to drop me down a chute, puff gas in my face, and plop me into a teacup. Scared himself right past Alice into iambic pentameter.
And this is where “Rogue” really trumps “crimefighter,” because as a crimefighter, I don’t think I had a leg to stand on. He hadn't done anything that terrible yet. He was planning to, but thanks to the Z, we were shutting him down before he’d even begun. So I’m not sure what Batman would have arrested him for. Luckily, Rogues don’t need that kind of unassailable logic: Jervis had invited me to tea, and I hit my head 32 times and got a snortful of green gas that smelled like iodine and Tic Tacs. Those are sufficient grounds to throw him out the window. I wasn’t prepared to take fussy little Jervis to jail and say “This fiend committed a crime. Lock him up, and throw away the key.” But I was perfectly happy to forget he was a bleeder and use him as a scratching post, and then drop him off at the nearest hospital to get his corpuscles clotting before he bled to death. That hospital happened to be St. Stephens. They’re not used to masks, and it's a good bet they'll decide he's crazy and send him to Arkham for observation. Case closed. Grunt.
So my first actual Rogue-driven episode as a crimefighter came and went without any damage to Kitty’s reputation as a bad girl, but it was something of an anti-climax. There are certain images that come to mind when you hear “crimefighting in Gotham city”: Batcave, Bat-Signal, Batarang, swinging over rooftops on a silken batline, gloved fist with the scalloped edges. Not filling out a clipboard in a hospital emergency room.
So, not willing to end the evening on “O-negative and allergic to tetracycline,” I popped into the Wayne Tower again and made sure they had closed the vulnerability on the executive suites. Lucius Fox’s office was secure. Bruce’s was too, naturally. And while I was there, I stopped in the penthouse for an aspirin and an ice pack. I was really tempted to crash there for the night, but I knew Bruce would worry if I didn’t come home. Alfred’s got enough on his hands without my stirring that up again.
I also knew Batman wanted me to check the NMK ships’ manifests. Oracle already confirmed that all the DEMON agents coming into Gotham were sailing on the faux shipping lines Batman set up for the purpose, but he still wants to see the hard copies now that the first wave of ships are en route. He says that Ra’s knows far too much about Oracle for us to trust any computer data without corroboration.
I’ve been putting it off, but as my last dreary chore for the night, I went down Canal Street to the Bowery and tried to ignore the stench of the East End, which technically began a block and a half from my left boot heel. I located the building at the base of the Gotham Bridge, what had once been a graceful old bank and was now the offices of twenty or so small businesses, including NMK Shipping. I picked a twenty-dollar lock and found all the physical paperwork for the DEMON agents Ra’s thought NMK was smuggling in for him unawares. Everything checked out, but I took out my scanner and made digital copies of each page.
I knew Bruce didn’t have to see the paperwork with his own eyes. He would have been satisfied if I said I’d looked it over and everything matched the computer files. But that seemed like such a sidekick assignment—not just crimefighting, but anal, dreary “show your work and check the math” crimefighting. Whereas breaking in and taking pictures of confidential internal documents to turn over to the head of a high-powered company the size of Wayne Enterprises, that’s where I live. Just the kind of job I used to do from time to time, although God knows I never had a corporate employer as hot as Bruce Wayne. I spent the drive home in that state of mind, pretending this was one of those old corporate assignments.
I thought how the break in itself was insultingly simple, really beneath my talents, but that wasn’t Wayne’s fault. He had no way of knowing this company’s security was so lackluster, and that a thief of my skill wasn’t required.
Or possibly he did know and simply wanted the cache of hiring the very best. I used to get that a lot.
Or maybe he thought that since the job was in Gotham, Batman might get involved. Corporate firsttimers always think their scheme is as important to the rest of the world as it is to them. If Wayne thought his shady maneuvering was “Batworthy,” he would naturally want an operative with Catwoman’s experience handling caped irritants.
Or maybe it was just a test, like with Luthor that first time. Maybe, like Lex, Wayne would take this data disk as soon as I handed it over and toss it straight into the trash. Maybe he’d say that, now that I had proven myself with something so trivial, he wanted me to break into his office and steal digital blueprints for the X-27 LexWing right from under Superman’s nose. Maybe, like Luthor, Wayne would even try to duck out of paying me when the job was done. Although Bruce Wayne really didn’t seem like that type. If his reputation was to be believed, he might make a pass when the job was over, but I didn’t see him skipping out on the check.
I was in Bristol by then, turning onto Country Club Drive with the tip of Wayne Manor just coming into view over the horizon, as I started to consider that possibility of a sexual advance. It happened a lot with the corporate hires, but I never considered saying yes before. But Wayne was definitely tempting. He was handsome, of course, very handsome. And beyond the superficial appeal, there was an undercurrent. He gave off a vibe that was terribly sexy. Maybe, just this once, I would accept the drink they always offered, and meet his eyes with an encouraging smile when he hinted, instead of snarling and reaching for the whip. Maybe just this once…
I decided to forego the logs and go straight up to bed. The mood I was in, I didn’t want to break the spell by writing out the whole Denisovich story, Zed, Jervis, and giant teacups. I wanted to stay in the headspace I was in: Having just taken the NMK information for Bruce Wayne, as commissioned, I had driven out to his manor to deliver them. I evaded his surprisingly good ground security and reached his bedroom window, to find an equally challenging lock and alarm, which seemed impassable by any means known to jewel thieves other than my claws. Meow.
I opened the window silently and crept towards the bed.
“Good evening, Mr. Wayne,” I purred seductively. “I have those files you wanted purrrrrrrloined from NMK shipping, and I thought rather than wait or go through channels, I would deliver them… personally.”
“I know this is unexpected,” I tried again, “but I’m sure there are any number of items in this room with which you could… pay me.”
By now, my eyes had adjusted to the darkness and I could see he was asleep. I crawled onto the bed and gave a little nudge… no reaction. So I crawled on top of him and placed a claw tip under his chin—because, quite often, even if Bruce isn’t waking up, Batman will still respond to the old signals. But not tonight. Even with Catwoman hovering over him, poised to take off his mask, he didn’t stir.
Score one for Alfred, damnit.
The Vicodin Wars have been raging for nearly a week now, and apparently Alfred had finally won a round. Bruce gets more frustrated by the day, stuck in that chair while the rest of us are out in the city, and the realization that he was only approaching the halfway mark of his convalescence seems to have sent him into a spiral of defiance and bad temper. He’s completely had it with the painkillers, says he wants to feel whatever is really happening with his body and not shut off important receptors for the sake of a little temporary comfort. He says the pain is good for him at this point; it gives him focus.
Alfred isn’t hearing it. Apparently, there is a long and checkered history of Bruce refusing medication as the pawn to king 4 to overturn whatever medical opinion he doesn’t like. What comes next is his superior position inside the body in question makes his observations unassailable. Medical training is generality: you’re taught guidelines and norms for the widest possible range of human bodies, not one specific body as fit and honed as Batman’s. This is a body Bruce knows intimately, and as his perception is not blurred or blunted by painkillers, he is in the best position to determine when he is sufficiently healed to resume activity.
Long story short, Bruce is smarter than Dr. Thompkins, he’s smarter than Alfred, and he’s smarter than me. If any of us sit down to play chess with him, we’re going to get our ass kicked. Alfred has done this enough that he simply doesn’t sit down at the board. Bruce is to keep taking his meds, period.
Hence the war of wills which I’ve been doing my best to stay out of. From what I can see, medicating Bruce is like pilling a cat: all methods work ONCE, and never again.
Whatever Alfred did tonight, it won’t work tomorrow. But for now, Bruce is asleep, so I came down to fill out the damn log.
This cave is awfully big when it’s just you and the bats. I’m not sure how he could stand it all those years. I mean, I know he takes a lot of satisfaction in the work, it’s not that. And the cave itself is a wonder of the world. It’s almost an extension of him, and it’s hard not to be awed by it, even now that it’s so familiar.
But this time of night, having written out all that’s happened tonight on patrol, all that’s going on with Bruce and his injury, and trying to bring it all down to some final thought so I can call it a day and go upstairs to bed, just at this moment, it seems very big and… empty down here.
Maybe it’s just knowing there’s no one to go upstairs for. Bruce will be out until morning, so it’s just me. Down here. With the bats.
… … … … :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: … … …
To be continued...