Chapter 2: A Tale of Two Headsets
Bill Gates… Stephen Jobs… Bruce Wayne. To the world, one of these things was not like the others. To the world, Bruce Wayne was the figurehead of WayneTech, a wholly owned subsidiary of Wayne Enterprises. Nobody thought he actually knew what went on underneath the sleek black and silver casing of any given WayneTech product. The select few who knew he was Batman would not have been surprised when advancements in “Dark Knight Tech” paralleled those coming out of WayneTech, but there was little overlap between the two worlds. When holographic imaging was introduced to the Batcave, only Alfred and Dick had access and neither of them had any knowledge of the medical imaging systems WayneTech was developing. When the Batwing doubled its engine thrust, only Clark was in a position to notice and he never made the connection to certain products released by Wayne Aerospace the following year. So Selina’s position after accompanying Bruce to all those Town Halls was unique: She knew he was Batman. She knew the spiel on upcoming releases from WayneTech as well as he did. And she knew she was looking at the guts for the WayneTech GeoSeek laid out on Batman’s work table in the center of the Batcave. Why those GeoSeek innards were hooked up to a headband with a pair of fuzzy purple cat ears attached, that she couldn’t guess.
“You’re early,” Bruce said, without looking up from his contraption. “I didn’t think you’d be up for another hour or two.”
“Well, I got your note,” Selina said, referring to the bat-shaped homing device he’d left beside her toothbrush. “So I came. I can go away and come back if you’re not ready for… No, I can’t. I have to know now, what the HELL are you doing with those?”
“It’s only a prototype. I had to approximate the shape and they’re a bit larger than the ones on your cowl, but that’s better to work out the movement over the mesh.”
“Sorry, I’ll start at the beginning in a second,” he said, adjusting one of the connections with a device that could only be described as bat-tweezers. Then he turned to her with a proud, broad, seldom-seen-in-the-Batcave smile.
“Electroencephalography,” Jervis announced happily. “Changing the subject’s focus by changing brainwave frequency.”
“I see,” Oswald said with an air of the world-weary. This was the sixth lair he’d visited, and each host had to show him something they were working on. The presentations had ranged from fifteen minutes at Hagen’s to over an hour at Crane’s. Jervis he’d found hunched over his worktable, with a pair of stereo headphones strapped on what looked like a silver mannequin head with tiny television screens built into its forehead, ears, and the back of its skull. As he chattered, Jervis swapped these little metal postage stamps in and out of the headphones—at least they looked like small metal postage stamps to Oswald—then he’d push some buttons, lift one of the earphones and look at something on the dummy’s head, let the headset snap back into place and make a note.
“A mix of low-theta and mid-alpha waves should do the trick, a pinch of 5 Hz with a dash of 10 Hz. For as the Duchess always said, ‘Take care of the sounds, and the sense will take care of itself.’ Of course she said it the other way around, but that’s the way it often is with duchesses. And once you listen to the sounds, it will all make sense to you anyway, thanks to the theta and alpha waves. So my way is better.”
“Perhaps I’ll come back later,” Oswald said quietly.
“The essence of the smart chip is accessing data from an outside source and running certain processes within the unit in response. With the GeoSeek, it detects information from your cell phone and the GPS satellites, and makes recommendations based on what you’re interested in and where you are. Whereas this—”
“Reads my mind and moves the ears?”
“It doesn’t read your mind, it just detects the upsurge in brain activity that indicates concentration and initiates programming to manipulate the mesh.”
“To perk up the ears.”
“That’s completely strange—I love it, but, damn—that’s strange.”
“If you don’t like the idea, say so. I’ll stop right now.”
“I love it,” Selina said, leaning over the table and kissing his cheek. Then she looked expectantly for a quarter beat and said “And once I’m done being the guinea pig, what’s the real one going to do on yours?”
“What makes you think I have any plans for my own use?”
“Infrared lenses engage,” Selina said in her imitation of the bat-gravel.
“I don’t quite glean its purpose,” Oswald said skeptically.
He meant the headset, but there was a plenty to not glean in the Mad Hatter’s Wonderland lair. The chair Oswald sat in was plush, oversized, comfortable—and shaped like a rook. The glass coffee table was tilted, supported by a bishop on one end and a smaller pawn on the other. As if to warn you to be careful setting down your teacup, there was a small sign on a toothpick standing in the middle of the carpet under the low end, reading “Splat.”
“It isn’t that easy to get someone you don’t know to put on a hat,” Jervis explained patiently. “But anyone is happy to put on headphones if you’re going to play them some music or show them a video on one of those portable players. So you see, sound is really better. Make a lot of low-theta and mid-alpha waves in their brain, put them in a proper mood. Then they’ll put on that hat, don’t you know. For as Alice always said, ‘four times five is twelve and four times six is thirteen’ and we shall never get to twenty at that rate. So it really is best to put on the headphones and flip a switch.”
It wasn’t even the chess piece furniture that bothered Oswald, it was how… nice everything was. Meticulously clean, small and dainty ornaments arranged neatly in rows on the mantelpiece or in little groupings on the end tables, the whole place smelling faintly of blueberry jam… When all was said and done, it was a lot creepier than Jonathan Crane’s. The Scarecrow had skulls covered in corn husks hanging off little hooks. This place smelled like blueberry jam. It conjured images of some sweet old lady’s cabin you come upon in a childhood fairytale when you’re lost in the woods. She invites you in, since it’ll be getting dark soon, and has some homemade cookies just coming out of the oven. Before you know where you are, she’s after you with a hatchet wanting to bake you into a pie.
“But that’s enough about theta waves, it’s almost tea time!” Jervis cried happily. “I must put the gooseberry tarts in the oven so they’ll be ready to have with our tea.”
“Perhaps I really should come back later,” Oswald said quietly.
It was an odd scene in the Batcave as Selina put her hair into a ponytail and pulled it over one shoulder, then carefully strapped on the prototype headband while Bruce held the wires and smart-chip behind her. The whole time, Selina probed. It was obvious to her that while the headset itself was a prototype, the finished moving-ears cat-cowl would be a prototype too—for some magnificent new piece of Batman uber-tech he had in mind for himself. “Accessing data from outside source and running processes within the unit in response.” It wasn’t going to be sensing brainwaves and moving ears for him, it was going to be interfacing with satellite feeds or picking up minute signal traces for a tactical advantage. She was burning to know, but every time she asked about the ultimate goal, he said the finished unit wouldn’t be a headband and the sensors would be built into her cowl. Or else he’d say the final version of the ears would be covered in the same leather as the rest of her costume and the fuzzy muppet-felt was only temporary.
It. Was. Infuriating. The woman who loved him as Bruce and the Cat who fought him as Batman wanted to know what that remarkable Bat-Brain was up to, and it seemed like he was deliberately missing the point. All he did was tell her to “clear her mind” (read: watch the bat Walapang sit on its perch above Workstation One while he set a baseline for the ears’ default position).
“O…kay,” Bruce said finally, drawing the syllables out as he made little adjustments on a hand-held unit. “Ask me now.”
“About the modifications I’ll be making to my own costume using this same technology,” he prompted.
“You’re going to tell me this time?”
“Of course…” As he mapped it out, her focused attention registered on the sensors, and after a few tweaks to the mesh manipulation routines, the ears realigned to produce the shape of rapt feline interest. After programming a few variations on the ‘ears alert’ settings, he told her to relax so he could set them to their flop-down position. After a terse smile and declaration that he was a manipulative Bat-prick and she’d pay him back later, Selina closed her eyes and began one of her ki-breathing exercises. Bruce went back to work making adjustments on the hand-held unit. He almost had it when both ears shot up.
“Later. I’m late. I forgot the time. I’ve got a lunch with Harvey.”
“I’ve almost got the left one done,” Bruce said—but it was too late. She was already pulling off the headband.
“You think I’m going to relax at this point? I’m looking at lunchtime traffic, midtown.”
“Okay, okay, go. We’ll finish later. Give Harvey my best.”
“Will do—You’re a genius—Love the ears—Ciaomeow.”
“What is the one redeeming virtue in being Fate’s Bitch?” Edward Nigma asked himself silently. “If you’re in Gotham, then Batman is involved. And if you know he’s Bruce Wayne, that means you will be learning your way around the back roads of Bristol.”
Eddie would never forget sneaking around the Wayne property that day the butler shut the door in his face, finding his way to a window and trying to warn Selina via charades—only to have his mission cut short by Superman appearing out of nowhere and flying him off the property! Then there was that recent debacle, where he’d somehow messed up the directions Selina gave him to the Bristol Country Club and damn near wound up driving into the lake. He had to present himself at the front door of the manor and beg that same snooty butler for directions. Just another day in the life of Fate’s Bitch in Gotham, but at the end of it all, he at least knew the one spot where Selina would have to pass on her way into the city. He didn’t know the answer to “Where is Harvey living since he passed on the East End lair?” and he didn’t know “Where are Harvey and Selina meeting for lunch?” But he knew “Where is Selina starting out?” Wayne Manor. And he knew “Where is she going?” Into the city. That meant she had to come down this road on her way to the bridge, and he could just wait here, safely off Wayne’s radar but where Selina couldn’t miss him. It’s not like there were that many green and white Dodges with the license plate GAME N ID in the wor—
A motion blur of Catwoman-purple Lamborghini went streaking past him at approximately 220 mph.
“Catfish Bet,” Nigma said quietly.
It was one of the enduring mysteries of the Rogue world. Jervis Tetch could babble for hours about mock turtles and march hares, nonsencalicious nonsense and contrarywise comeupetry—paying no mind to the Jabberwock, which most do, because notwithstanding for nothing, Jabberwocks are like that—in January, June and July.
But the minute you confused him, his eyes got that dark and beady look. “I’m afraid I don’t follow,” he’d say, like it really was trying his patience.
Oswald took a deep breath and tried again.
“I was saying if we want to stop this wedding, we must be careful how we go about it. We must be subtle. If Bruce Wayne develops a rabid fear of wedding gowns, Selina will know who to blame.”
Jervis began to snicker.
“Remember the time she set him on fire?”
Oswald did, but he was determined to keep the conversation on track.
“And if he puts on a hat and moves to Istanbul, she will also know who to blame too—kwak!”
“She would, but then again she wouldn’t. For I would never do such a thing, for I’m a bleeder, don’t you know. The vorpal claws go snicker-snack, the blood starts to flow and won’t stop. She has to take me to the emergency room herself, so it really is a lucky thing she has such a fast car. Which I do believe he gave her, so it would be most ungrateful if I went and plopped a hat on his head.”
“And that’s exactly why we must be subtle,” Oswald said, pouncing on the opportunity. “Crane can be useful in ways unrelated to fear—kwak! He is an expert in human behavior.”
“No he’s not.”
“He has studied it.”
“Only the part where someone says ‘Boo!’ and someone else jumps.”
“I believe it is a good deal more complicated than that.”
“Sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast,” Jervis said helpfully.
“Yes, quite. The point is, finding a way to put a stop to all this without it coming back to hurt us. Jonathan has made a rather clever suggestion. That we get Pamela to do it, but in a very subtle way. Not making Wayne wash the feet of the goddess with his tears, just delicately jumpstarting the old—kwak—playboy. Kick starting the perfectly natural desire not to confine himself to one woman for the rest of his—kwak—life.”
Jervis pursed his lips, and that dark beady look returned.
“I’m afraid I don’t follow.”
There was no hope for it. Eddie didn’t want to resort to the telephone. Wayne probably had her bugged fourteen different ways: ten that she knew about and four that she didn’t. But he didn’t see that he had any choice at this point. Now that he’d missed his chance for a face-to-face (and wasn’t it just typical that Wayne bought her a car that was a defacto purple Batmobile and that she’d taken to driving it like one), calling was the only way Eddie could think of to get to her before Harvey did.
He still didn’t want to risk open, unambiguous voice communication, but he could send her a few clever texts. The words ‘marriage’ and ‘engagement’ both had ‘game’ in common and… No. No, what was he thinking? If he was too clever, she might not solve it in time. Much as it grated, he would have to spell out those key words plainly.
Catwoman’s criminal activities were always about profit and excitement. She had a temper, but it was fueled by passion, not anger, hate or disgust for her fellow human beings. One of the few things that could provoke a truly villainous response was midtown traffic. Midtown traffic followed by a futile search for a midtown parking space, and finally falling back on the underground parking at the Wayne Tower almost twenty blocks from the corner where she’d agreed to meet Harvey. She was in full villain mode by the time she passed the 41th Street Subway Station and had to swim against the human tidal wave coming out of it. She had visions of pulling out her whip to clear a path as she pulled out her cell to call Harvey and say she’d be late—so of course she clicked right past all the incoming texts. Harvey was more than understanding on the phone, and he seemed almost amused at how pissed she looked when she finally showed up in person:
“Ten million people in this city and only fourteen parking spaces, whose idea was that? It’s no wonder they all take the subway, but did they all have to take it right now?! Of course they did, you know why? Because there’s only six million counter spaces, and it’s lunchtime, that’s why. Sorry I’m late, Harvey.” She paused and broke into a naughty grin, indicating the storm had passed as quickly as always. “That’s half a nice tie.”
“Thank you,” he said, straightening the knot. “We thought dividing the whole suit was a bit much, but since the scars are back, I felt like… acknowledging them in some small way was for the best. Not pretending Two-Face never existed, like before.”
Selina smiled and took his explanation at face value. Harvey pointed down the street and said if she didn’t mind walking a bit farther, he had a special place in mind for lunch. As they walked, Harvey couldn’t help but notice an odd beeping coming from her purse.
“Something in there wants your attention,” he noted.
Selina rummaged, remarking that it wasn’t one of her rings. She pulled out the WayneTech GeoSeek from the Auto Show and rolled her eyes. Of course, it wasn’t her phone, it was this thing. “Suggesting businesses in the area tagged to her preference profile” or whatever that song and dance was… She silenced it, but Harvey—accustomed to reading upside down and fast from his courtroom days, when an adversary often flashed a datebook or legal pad where he could see it—was sure he glimpsed the words “St. Paul’s” “Bridal” and “Bakery.”
He suppressed a smile as his lunch with Selina acquired a second objective: First, he would get her to tell him about the engagement, but second, he would find a way to switch their GeoSeeks so he could study that list at his leisure.
“Oh, now I understand!” Jervis said happily. “For the one thing that was certain: the white kitten had had nothing to do with it. It was the black kitten's fault entirely. For the white kitten had been having its face washed by the old cat for the last quarter of an hour (and bearing it pretty well, considering) so you see that it couldn't have had any hand in the mischief.”
“No,” Oswald said. The white kitten/black kitten stuff sounded promising when Jervis began, but Oswald couldn’t see how it had anything to do with Poison Ivy being the one Rogue who could act on Bruce Wayne in a non-lethal way, stopping the wedding in such a way that couldn’t be brought home to any of them.
“But Pammy liked the idea of Selina getting married,” Jervis whined, returning to his worktable and using a static cloth to wipe a bit of flour from his wrist. “That’s the only real flaw in your plan that I can see. I was right there at the Iceberg when she heard the news, don’t you know. She definitely liked the idea of Catty getting hitched.”
“And that is why I mentioned Jonathan’s expertise in behavioral psychology.”
“’I don't know the meaning of half those long words,’ said the eaglet, ‘and I don't believe you do either.’”
“I mean that Pamela’s mind can be changed—kwak! Quite easily—kwak, kwak. The key to persuading her the marriage is a bad idea is to first persuade Ms. Quinn it’s a good one. If Harley were to see this wedding as a template to becoming Mrs. Joker, Ivy would certainly oppose it.”
“Yeah, she sure would,” Jervis said in a low, awed voice, the sheer tonnage of the notion knocking the nonsense from his mind.
“And, Jonathan assures me, manipulating Ms. Quinn will be simplicity itself. He should be running into her right about now, if she keeps to her usual schedule. Playing on her fears: she’s not getting any younger under all that greasepaint, etc. etc. kwak-wak Victor will approach her next: the simple joys of companionship. ‘What a man really wants, even if he doesn't know it. Sometimes all he needs is to see another man get it.’ Then tonight, you move in for the kill: remind her of how attached Joker is to ‘Brucie.’ Where Bruce Wayne leads, his good buddy Joker will surely want to follow.”
Jervis adjusted a wire on his “Brainwave Tuner” headset and let a pulsing fluttery tone play for a few seconds, then he nodded thoughtfully.
“I guess that could be managed,” he said finally.
The pulsing fluttery tone continued, and Jervis scrunched up his nose.
“I call this one the Schumann resonance. It sort of… makes your teeth hurt.”
The restaurant should not have been a surprise. Harvey wanted to go back to Jinatra’s, the Vietnamese place near his old hideout where the family were accustomed to facial scarring and never seemed to notice he was Two-Face. There was a little homecoming when he walked in. Jinatra came out of the kitchen and they spent a few minutes catching up: Jinatra said now that her son Tuan was old enough to serve alcohol, he did all the serving himself and her daughter had taken a job uptown. Harvey said he had “spent some time out West,” didn’t think much of it except for the high rent coffee, and was back in Gotham to stay. Jinatra went off to the kitchen, telling Tuan not to bother with menus. She would be sending out some special dishes for “Mr. Two-Dents” and his friend.
Since Selina was standing there during this little reunion, Harvey seemed to feel he was covered getting caught up with her too. Through the sake and steamed shrimp, he waved off any questions or passing reference to himself, as if nothing about him could possibly be of interest, and he wouldn’t dream of boring Selina with anything more than what he’d already told Jinatra. Then, with the arrival of the bao tu jambon, the tone changed. He asked about Bruce… lightly, casually, but Selina couldn’t help noticing that she was being ever so subtly grilled by an amazingly crafty prosecutor.
She was polite, friendly, very much her usual self—but as she chattered happily about Bruce taking her with him to the town halls, two thoughts began to rage under the gracious façade. The Cat was furious that this, this district attorney—an insufferable cape in a tie—thought he could sit there and interrogate her without her noticing! The rest of her began to wonder. Bruce and Harvey were friends before he became Two-Face. They’d gotten reacquainted after his face was healed. In between, Two-Face fought Batman. Now he was back from months at the Meadowlark Institute getting his head clear. Was it possible he knew something? Noticed something? Suspected without really knowing why?
The more she subconsciously considered the question, the harder it became to lay those fears to rest. Harvey was smart, he was observant—and he was quite clumsily flicking cream from the banh bo cake onto her blouse. Selina laughed it off and went to the powder room to clean up, leaving her purse behind in the booth… Harvey held two fingers up to his lips in a shushing motion and winked impishly at Tuan as he leaned across the table and swapped his GeoSeek for hers.
One job. Victor Frieze had one job: talk to Harley. He had one talking point: the simple joys of companionship. Anybody could handle that. Anybody should be able to handle that.
If there was any clearer evidence why they needed to keep Catwoman in their numbers, this was it. A few more sane, old-fashioned, professional criminals like Catwoman to keep the Rogue community grounded.
Just consider: if he wanted Catwoman to purloin the Jeweled Finch of Antioch, he would ask her, they would agree on a price, and the Finch would be his. If he wanted Jonathan Crane to come up with a roadmap to stop a wedding, he had to spend an hour looking at skull sponges and scorpion tanks, gas-emitter pumpkin heads, and some hooded apparition with only the glowing red eyes visible from within a darkened hood and a grisly lifelike heart protruding from its robes. Shudder. But at least the end of it all, he had the plan he was after: lining the Rogues up like dominos—Crane, Victor and Jervis knocking Harley into Pamela, then he himself stepping in to curb her excesses and bring about a stop to the wedding with a delicate touch that would never be brought home to any of them—kwak!
Yet here they were, stymied when the second domino failed to fall. Jonathan had played his part admirably, but Victor, Victor let himself go on the whole ‘joys of companionship’ thing. Memories of his beloved Nora. He wound up crying on Harley’s shoulder, figuratively and then literally, which caused a condensation problem within his cold suit and she wound up having to help him get home. More reminiscing about Nora on the way and even more once they got there and he defogged his helmet or whatever. By the end of the afternoon, if Harley was thinking of marriage at all, it was in Victor’s original marriage=misery equation. Kwak!
But the domino plan was still good—kwakwak—that’s what was driving Oswald crazy. It would work. Plus, he’d invested an hour looking at skull sponges and gas-emitter pumpkins to obtain it. He wasn’t ready to abandon it after one little hiccup. Unfortunately, there was only one married man left to undo the Victor damage, and Harvey was firmly in favor of the wedding. Not an insurmountable obstacle. It only meant that Harvey couldn’t be told why he was being asked to talk to Harley. That was a pity. It was the second domino which hadn’t fallen and which Harvey was being asked to set in motion. It would be simpler if he could be told in those terms, but—kwak—alas. Luckily, Oswald had a plan.
“Two cases of twenty-two year old double malt scotch?” Harvey gaped.
“Indeed. An accounting error. Sly had ordered it in your original Two-Face period as part our standing inventory. When your face was healed and you were no longer coming to the Iceberg to drink it, it was inadvertently placed on your tab.”
“You charged us for booze we were never going to drink?”
“Inadvertently—kwak—but as I say, since you have already paid for it, the whiskey is yours. I can have it delivered here, or keep it at the Iceberg for your private use.”
It got the door open. An expensive means to gain entrance to Dent’s new hideout, but it set the right tone for friendly conversation. From there, the wedding was an easy subject to introduce, particularly when—
“Just had lunch with Selina. She says ‘meow.’”
Harvey introduced the subject himself. That was a bit of luck.
“Very good of her. So congenial—kwak. A sign of breeding… Any news?”
“No,” Harvey grimaced. “She’s ’s being awfully secretive about it, so we did a little snooping. Take a look at this list of businesses we lifted from her purse: wedding photographers, hotel in Soho with a big ballroom, two churches, something called Pnina Tornai—that turns out to be the dress, we Googled it—engraver, calligrapher, a couple bakeries, bands, dj, a jeweler, and a hair salon that specializes in wedding dos. And she doesn’t tell us a thing!”
“Yes! Only thing she has to say about Bruce is all WayneTech and town halls and all the traveling they’ve been doing.”
For a moment, Oswald considered that Harvey’s views might be changing on the wedding. If he viewed Selina’s discretion—perfectly understandable, dignified and well-bred discretion as far as Oswald was concerned—as some sort of betrayal. Oswald was just weighing the risks of taking Harvey into his confidence when he realized if he had that list Harvey was holding, he wouldn’t need to be playing these asinine mind games at all. Crane’s psychological roadmap—kwak—there were far too many variables, as they’d already seen. Trying to line human beings up like dominos—kwak-wak—how typically roguishly overcomplicated. Here was the thinking man’s solution. The sane, rational, thinking Rogue’s solution: follow the money. All Oswald would need to do was get his hands on that list and they could put a stop the wedding the old fashioned way—kwak! Sabotage!—kwakwak! Without any more psycho-babbling fear-mongering Victor-weeping nonsense—kwakwakwakwakwakwakwak!
“I’m afraid I don’t follow.”
Oswald sighed, looked down at the tea cup before him, which said “Drink me,” and the petit four on his plate which said “Eat me.” If he could just stick a label on that gizmo of Harvey’s that said “Take me” and shove Jervis in the door to read it, this would be oh so simple. But of course if he had that kind of access to Harvey’s gizmo, he wouldn’t need Jervis at all.
“Go over to Harvey’s,” he began again, patiently.
“But I’m supposed to talk to Harley tonight, remember? Remind her of how attached Joker is to Brucie. If I can remember to remind her, I don’t know why you can’t. It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards, don’t you know, and it was your idea.”
“Forget Harley, that plan has already laid an egg. Just go to Harvey’s and get your hands on this list he has.”
Jervis set down his teacup and looked piercingly at his guest.
“Why can’t you get it?”
Oswald sighed. After an entire day of these conversations, he was finding it hard to maintain his usual hauteur.
“It’s on a gizmo. One of those infernal high-tech objects which have so eroded modern civilization. I am not adept at gizmos.”
Jervis remembered how Ozzy was always calling Dove or Raven into his office to contend with anything electronic. Privately, he wasn’t surprised. The market for the cutting edge stuff was driven by teenage girls in Tokyo, girls not much older than Alice. Oswald’s fingers were just too chubby.
“Very well. Since the walrus needs a loaf of bread, pepper and vinegar besides, but you only need a list, I can go and get you this list. But then I really must finish work on that headband, because the low-theta and mid-alpha waves really are the key. Once you have the key you can turn it, and then everyone shall come to tea. You see?”
“Yes,” Oswald said, pushing his teacup away untouched. “Kwak. Quite.”
Selina went straight back to the cave when she got home. Her intention was to tell Bruce about Harvey’s behavior at lunch, but as soon as she saw him working on the cat ears, she was reminded:
“You can stop working on those. I’m not wearing them.”
“What? Why?” said Bruce, looking up, astonished.
“Powered by the same smart chip as the GeoSeek from the Auto Show? No way. That thing doesn’t work, and I don’t want anything that wonky hooked up to my head.”
“Selina, the GeoSeek was tested more thoroughly than any consumer product we’ve put out in the last ten years. You think I’d risk a promotional give-away with that kind of exposure not working as advertised?”
Selina held up her card like a silent bidder at an auction—one with acid indigestion or perhaps one making the bid at gunpoint.
“A sale on designer neckties. Happy hour at Quesadillas. A Mariska Hargitay calendar. The Classic Malt Society. A chiropractor. And Rangers tickets. Does any of this sound like me?”
“Those are your recommendations?”
“Let me see that thing.”
Return of the Penguin—kwak!
It had been a while since Oswald Cobblepot had done any field work, and he was enjoying himself. Endless Love Video Memories, Thelma Croydon Photography and Cardington Bakery weren’t exactly Fort Knox, but then Oswald wasn’t exactly The Shadow Thief. There were too many businesses on Harvey nee Selina’s list for one Rogue to investigate them all in time, so Jervis and Jonathan began splitting them up. While Oswald trusted his cohorts up to a point, he didn’t think this critical intelligence-gathering phase of the operation should be left entirely in the hands of the crazies. So the list was divided into thirds and here he was, re-armed with all his old equipment, performing an old-fashioned B&E—kwak!
At first, his eagle eye suspected Cardington was more than it seemed. The building looked too big to be a simple bakery. The storefront was very much what you’d expect. Once he got into the back, the need for all that space became clear. Sheets of fondant icing were laid out everywhere: draped over here, rolled out over there, cut into strips or hung up like washing in between. With little pyramids of cakes arranged here and there, which were either works in progress or exercises for some junior baker learning the trade. Oswald’s nose twitched a little at the sugary smell that lingered in the air and the sweet profits it implied. While he snooped for something with the Kyle-Wayne name on it, he considered the mark-up potential: sugar, water, food coloring and a little gelatin. The only real cost was the time it took a skilled pastry chef to create these confections, and the illegals Oswald hired weren’t in a position to negotiate a higher payrate if he made them learn a new skill…
Hmmm, little iceberg cakes and some Penguin cakes too, with his profile—kwaaaak! What could he get for those? $7 a piece? $8? If one diner in four ordered dessert, times two seatings a night, times seven nights a week… He checked the desk again, looking for a price list. If they got eight dollars a slice, he could certainly charge nine for an individual cake with a bat bug…
Oswald’s eyes narrowed as he saw a small black dot on the head of one of the screws inside the desk drawer. He leaned over and peered into the drawer, his nose quivering a mere inch from the screw… peered at that little dot of black… peered at it… peered at it… There could be no mistake. He had found six of those the first year the Iceberg was open.
A sharp stab of realization made him jerk upright as a shocked intake of breath straightened his back and threatened to manifest as a loud kwak.
Batman was bugging the bakery.
Batman was bugging the bakery.
Batman was bugging the bakery!
To be continued…