“When you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”
you going to be like this all week?” Selina asked.
always loved Sherlock Holmes,” Bruce answered with a boyish grin.
I gathered that from the nine times you mentioned it on the drive over.”
were in COME AS YOU’RE NOT, a costume store conveniently located between
the park and the theatre district.
It benefited equally from uptown masquerade parties and the hundreds
of theatre companies, nightclubs, and entertainment venues throughout the
city. When Bruce and Selina
entered, the salesclerk immediately recognized them as “Society,” not
“Showbiz,” and he led them to the more luxurious (and more expensive) costumes.
pointedly ignored the selection of Batman, Joker, Harley Quinn and Catwoman
costumes, although Selina was gratified to see the dingy gray of that
tabloid imposter was relegated to the discount bin, while the “Cat-Tales
Classic” look still brought top dollar.
clerk, noticing her glance, informed her that the purple catsuit on the mannequin
was the last in stock. She looked to be the right size for the display model.
If she wanted it, he could give her a ten percent reduction for wear and
no, thank you,” she demurred.
“We can’t seem to keep them in stock,” the clerk enthused. “The gals that come in wanting Catwoman are so disappointed—and I try to point them to the gray version, instead. They say it’s more practical but the gals aren’t dumb, they know better. ‘Catwoman is not about practicality,’ this one told me, ‘it’s about style.’ So what could I say, I sold her a Scarlett O’Hara dress. And I got her phone number. We’re going out Friday.”
listened to this amiable young man with the fixed listening-face she’d seen
Bruce use at Wayne functions. When
the clerk reached a stopping point, she asked about period costumes and he
directed her down a hallway where Bruce was already browsing.
already found the trademark deerstalker hat, a vintage suit that seemed to
possess the right level of tweediness, and a high period collar and tie.
Selina smiled warmly, spotting an overcoat with the requisite half-cape
that hung from the shoulders.
she held it up to him with a twinkle, “It’s you.”
perfect,” Bruce beamed.
never seen him like this.
yes. Passionate—blush—certainly. Intense, most
definitely. But boyishly enthused,
that was a new one. Yet, from the
very first mention of this party, he’s been positively buoyant.
started at d’Annunzio’s. I got there first for once, and Giovanni seated me with
assurances that ‘the riffraff’ (meaning Miller and the wannabes) would not be
seen there again.
arrived in… well, I guess the only way to describe it is musical comedy mode: a spring in his step, a smile on his face, and the overall impression that—with the right motivation—he might burst into song.
scary! Even without the mask, it was
SCARY. And Halloween was still a
Folklore Museum,” he began, leaning across the table while Giovanni brought his
drink, “The Gotham Museum of Mythology and Folklore is opening a new
on,” I interrupted, “This would be the charming institution that pissed off
Jervis last year because they didn’t have an Alice in Wonderland exhibit?”
weren’t like an art museum; they had no valuable antiquities or relics, just dioramas and tableaus about legends and literature—like a
science center about books. As
such, they weren’t of much interest as a criminal target. And they weren’t
of much interest to society patrons that funded the arts.
But the Wayne Foundation was a sponsor and Bruce was on their board. He
seldom missed a committee meeting.
opening a new wing, on the Murder Mystery.”
confess, I didn’t exactly see why that was cause to sing.
Bruce saw my expression, but misread it. “You know, mysteries, whodunits, detective
am familiar with the genre,” I said.
heard of him.”
will be a complete recreation of Holmes’s study on Baker Street,” Bruce
beginning to see the light.
loved Holmes since I was a kid. And
the opening party is on the 31st. Halloween! A costume party.”
All of which brought us to COME AS YOU’RE NOT, costumes and novelties for all occasions. By the time I reached the backroom where they kept the period stuff, Bruce had already found several items. His enthusiasm was contagious, and I picked up a coat that looked right and held it up to him. He beamed.
I had never seen him like this.
gave me a chill. It was the same
chill as that night in the vault, the
night I looked into his eyes and saw a real person looking back, the guy inside Batman.
a creepy feeling to be going along, living your life, doing what you do, all perfectly normal, and to look up, see him doing something so ordinary and
natural, and be STRUCK - like a sudden, physical blow - with this sense that you
truly love him.
panicked that night. Today, I managed to do a little better. I
avoided the eyes and concentrated on the coat.
The detective’s coat - with a cape.
you,” I said. A purr I hadn’t
intended crept into my voice, so I turned my attention to a dress.
on the other hand, is not me.” It
wasn’t. It was Mae West.
not supposed to be you,” Bruce pointed out, “that’s the idea.”
picked up a parasol and gave it a twirl.
“Here we are,” Bruce said with a curious inflection I’ve only heard in the cave. When he’s sitting at his console. When his overnight downloads have turned up a Gemini Jewelers or a Starling Imports, something that’s sure to be a rogue target or a lair. He was holding a dress. Fawn. With ivory embroidery. “This is Irene Adler.”
Eliza Doolittle,” I said.
I heard whispered in my ear, “There
are only two female options in the Holmes canon:
dear old Mrs. Hudson the housekeeper, a supporting role at best… And
Irene… ‘To Sherlock Holmes, she is always the woman,’ Watson wrote,
‘In his eyes, she eclipses and predominates the whole of her sex.’
Holmes himself said he’d been beaten only four times in his long
career, three times by men and once by a woman… THE Woman.”
pressing against me and had drifted into the deepest Batman tones.
devoured Sherlock Holmes stories since I was seven.
Do you know why I don’t already have a costume? Why I’ve never once
dressed as Sherlock, even though Bruce Wayne has to attend some masquerade party
or other every year? Because
I had no one to go with.”
“Couldn’t get Dick to go as Watson,” I smirked.
If I didn’t already know from the voice, the twitch-smile made it clear this
my Irene,” he breathed, and he said it with this delicious burr: Ee-ray-nah.
“Selina, put on the dress. Be
tried it on.
emerged from the fitting room some ten minutes later, a vision of 1890s chic to
be sure, but once you’d said that, you’d said it all.
Victorian Adventuress is something of a misnomer, the Victorian canceling
out most of the adventure.
think we’ve just answered the question of why there isn’t a lot of sex in
mysteries,” I remarked.
won’t ask how it feels,” Bruce said apologetically, “I think I know.”
not so fast, Dark Knight, I thought. You started this game; you’ll
I pressed in just as closely as he had before and breathed Catwoman’s sultriest whisper into his ear.
“I’ve gone to all the trouble to put it on, pity not to find out how it feels… first hand…”
Then I took his hand and placed it firmly on my hips - where four layers of period underwear made it impossible to feel a live body in there.
“‘THE Woman,’” I quoted, “how could he tell?”
Alfred who came up with the solution.
was right. The limitations of that
particular dress not withstanding, Irene Adler was a perfect fit for me.
Unfortunately, the perfect fit included a corset.
I don’t know about Irene, but I personally find it difficult to feel
sexy without a reasonable quantity of oxygen reaching all those parts that like
to move during sex.
as much, and Bruce pulled that face where he tries to look disapproving even
thought he’s clearly turned on - one of the few expressions that looks
equally silly with the mask on and without it.
great fun to tease him whenever that face appears, and I would have done so,
except there was a respectful cough from the doorway.
That meant Alfred would leave if we wanted, but he had something to say
if we’d knock off the nonsense and listen.
houses of a certain stature, sir, miss, charades were a very popular
entertainment until the invention of the radio rather displaced it.
The game was far more elaborate than what is played now, being intended
to pass entire evenings. Teams
would be formed to pantomime scenes, complete with costumes and props, to
illustrate a particular syllable. For
that purpose, it was the custom of country houses to keep a ‘dress-up box,’
a large trunk with a great variety of garments from many periods.
I believe you will find such a trunk in the attic along the north wall to
the left, beside a George III Sheffield samovar and an indifferent portrait of
Sir William Howe.”
never in my life been so envious of Bruce’s ability to keep a straight face.
went up to the attic. And I must say, I never fully appreciated what a shameless
hypocrite the man is. It’s one
thing to hide your face and commit the occasional assault, battery, blackmail,
and assorted infractions in the name of upholding the law.
It is quite another to critique other people’s storage closets while
living underneath the accumulated clutter of nine generations of Waynes.
stood there, this man who called my closet a hell mouth, he stood there in front
of, I swear to God, a skeleton wearing a Union army jacket.
The little brass plaque on the skeleton read “Gotham University
Medical Center, 1959.” The brass
buttons on the jacket read “Vigilant
is certainly a samovar,” Bruce said, lifting an elegant silver urn with
scrolled handles and a spout.
there’s the trunk,” I said, “So we’ll assume the guy in that oil
painting is Sir William Howe. P.S.
Alfred needs to get out more.”
does,” Bruce agreed, opening the trunk.
happened to the amateur dramatics?”
petered out when the flirtation with that director came to nothing.
A shame, really, he enjoyed it.”
pulled a ruffled pirate shirt and a rapier out of the trunk and stared at them
like they were specimens.
didn’t get it. Fingered the tip
of the rapier as he asked,
“Whatever happened to Cavalier?”
to Las Vegas,” I answered casually. “Doing voiceovers for local radio.”
hardly put it that way,” I smirked. Bruce
looked blank. “He’s living with
a blackjack dealer named Stan.”
returned our attention to the trunk.
I can get Alfred involved in the party,” Bruce mused. “The planning
committee thought about having a butler serving tea and port all night, always
hovering, generally looking suspicious.”
he gets to hear ‘the butler did it’ all evening? Oh, I’m sure that will be
great fun for him.”
“If I’m going to this thing as history’s greatest detective,” Bruce insisted, ignoring the sarcasm, “and you’re going as his adversary that just happened to be the love of his life, I’m sure Alfred can pull off serving tea.”
I sighed. There’s no arguing with him when he gets like this, so I dropped it. I found an elaborate Egyptian headdress in the trunk. Bruce took one look at it and winced.
“Not the Cleopatra story again,
please,” he said, then
returned to the subject of the party. “Besides, the curator of this museum, she’s
an older woman, about Alfred’s age, very erudite.”
returned to the subject of the party. “Besides, the curator of this museum, she’s
an older woman, about Alfred’s age, very erudite.”
we’re going to play matchmaker,” I teased.
fair, he did it to me.”
had to,” I growled under my breath.
gave me a very curious look and said,
“You don’t think I would have found you on my own?”
There was a strange intensity in his voice, and I wasn’t sure what to say. I opted to tease.
“Finding me, you always seemed to manage. It was knowing what to do with me that posed the
“Impossible. You are an impossible woman,” he balked. Then the curious look returned and he looked straight into my eyes while he pulled a glorious gown of deep green from the trunk. “You’re an impossible woman, but you’ll look stunning, in this.”
Moira sat at her keyboard, fingers poised, eyes focused on the monitor before her… and hadn’t a clue what to type.
Since she was transferred to the Gotham headquarters to deploy her “Working With Difficult People” program for all Wayne Enterprises support staff, the story of how she’d been hired became legend within the company: Yes, she confirmed it at the start of every seminar, she was the executive assistant to Talia Head, CEO of LexCorp. Bruce Wayne was in Miss Head’s office, stormed out of a less-than-satisfactory meeting, and hired her on the spot on reading her screensaver: You don’t have to be a deranged psychopath to work here, but it helps. When the laughs died down, she would explain the moral: When it comes to dealing with difficult people, it’s all about choosing your attitude.
Whether they embraced her philosophy or not, everyone remembered the screensaver
story. And everyone who passed by
her desk stole a look to see what it said today.
this particular week, she simply couldn’t think of anything.
It was Monday. It was Monday
morning and Omar let them run out of coffee. And it was Monday morning.
Either they’d get it or they wouldn’t.
went for coffee, and in the break room saw the notice:
Mythology and Folklore Museum
possible by a generous grant
Trick or Treat
Moira had been reading Agatha Christie novels since she was thirteen. They had to go, she and Omar. That
was all there was to it. Costumes
Well, she would think of something.
Something whimsical. A
gothic nightie, maybe. Like the
those silly governesses wore to go exploring the creak coming from the locked
room in the great house after midnight. Yes,
that would be rather fun. Omar
might not be a mystery fan of course, but he’d go along to please her.
His costume, hmm... What goes with Gothic? Max DeWinter? Heathcliffe?
Mr. Rochester… those really didn’t suit him… she’d think of something.
turned, much invigorated although she’d not even sipped her coffee.
As she did so, she saw Lucius Fox reading the party announcement over
her shoulder. He had a sour,
morning, Mr. Fox.”
he said curtly, still eyeing the notice. “Going
to have to go to that now. Hmph.
Bruce said he’ll go, but you know what he’s like.
Chances are something more amusing will come up and he’ll give it a
miss. And somebody from the
Foundation should be there.”
left him to his grumbling. You had to choose your attitude, it was that simple. You
could let these things get to you, or not.
Grumbling about going to a party for heaven’s sake…
reopened her screensaver control and typed:
“Chemical formula for a healthy outlook:
1-part Inspiration, 1-part Caffeine, 6-parts seeing someone grumble on
a lovely Monday morning and deciding not to be that guy…
Ashton-Larraby read the invitation aloud to her husband.
mysteries, pah,” her husband replied, “Bunch of chinless Oxford dons and
repressed vicars knocking each other off with African blowguns.”
“It lacks the cache of the Opera Gala, I’ll grant you that, Randolph, but we weren’t asked. We’re off the A-List, I tell you since... since the unpleasantness with the foreigner…”
For that was the way one described Randolph Larraby’s involvement in Ra’s Al
Ghul’s network trafficking in underground information.
By assisting Batman in taking down the network, Larraby had escaped criminal
prosecution. But the scandal set
him back socially, and his wife was
determined to repair the damage before the Christmas round of parties.
are off the A-List, I tell you, and the one way to get back on is through Bruce
Wayne. The Wayne Foundation is
sponsoring this institution.”
with every other damn fool thing,” Randolph harrumphed.
his wife pulled out the big gun, “Your son, Randolph Larraby IV…”
is so-named because you insisted on having that pretentious IV after his
yes, yes, and denying him any distinction from his mother’s illustrious Ashton
legacy, skip to the refrain why don’t you, Gladys.”
is almost eighteen. This year, the girls
in his circle will be coming out, and he will be asked to escort the most
sought-after debutantes, assuming we can get ourselves out of this hole you’ve dug us
into. For that reason, Randolph, we
are going to this party.”
Edward Nigma yelled, not because he was angry but because she was two rooms
away, “There’s a square cut out of the newspaper.
This little box announcing a MYSTERY EXHIBIT.
I love mysteries; they’re like puzzles.
It says opening at the ‘M-’ and then there’s a big gaping hole in
appeared in the doorway and glanced at his paper.
that, I clipped something off the back. Little
piece about that nice Mr. Dent from the Iceberg.”
looked stoically through the hole in his newspaper and resisted the urge to
smack his head into the coffee table.
Doris, Darling, my little PuzzleMuffin, do you still have the clipping, or have
you pasted it down flat into some scrapbook of ‘Loony Lawyers I have Lunched
need to be testy, Eddie; it’s right here.”
Doris, my own crossword-queen, what does it say on the back?”
AND FOLKLORE MUSEUM, Opening party October 31st,” she answered, “Ooh,
To be continued…