Batman and Catwoman in Cat-Tales by Chris DeeCat-Tales 42: Deja Vu All Over Again

Déjà vu All Over Again
by Chris Dee

So this is hell


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She had to walk… across a bridge… to a place called Brooklyn.  

After scouring the city for the better part of a day and a night searching for her Beloved—only to have hope dashed from her lips by that odious imposter!—Talia knew the only way, finally, to locate her Beloved Bruce was to wait until morning where she could find him in his civilian identity.

It was not an appealing thought. 

To go to his home meant seeing that vermin slut living in his house as if she were the woman in his life, as if she were the one he chose to open his home to and share his life with, as if she were mistress of the manor!

But to go to his office meant returning to Wayne Plaza.

In a way, that seemed more horrifying to Talia than seeing that cat-witch living in his home.  She had experienced… thoughts in Wayne Plaza that were an affront to her undying devotion to her Beloved. She had allowed herself, it was for only a moment, but for that moment, she had allowed herself to entertain the notion that Bruce Wayne was not, in fact, her Destiny, that he was not in love with her and indeed that he had never been in love with her; that she had, in essence, wasted all those years dreaming of a love that existed only in her mind… the ecstasy of his imagined feelings for her nothing but illusion, the anguish of all those frustrated hopes for nothing.  Those YEARS of suffering—for a lie, for NOTHING AT ALL, for a wisp of empty air.  He didn’t love her.  He never loved her.  He would never—it was all for nothing. 

No, of course Beloved loved her. She had evidence now, having discovered that odious imposter.  She had the means to prove to Beloved, once and for all, that he was bewitched by that hated cat.  She had to go to him.  She had, surely, to make him see.  And the only way she could do so was to face the demons of her own thoughts in Wayne Plaza.

And the only way to do that was to find a place to rest—and to repair her nails and shoes, all the worse for wear after she thrashed at that horrid imposter.  The training of those three moons in the League of Assassins, while remaining among the worst experiences of her life, had not completely failed her.  Though she had been hopeless in the training camps, she found surprising force within her as she charged and tore at the vile beast who dared to wear Beloved’s costume and spoke admiringly of cats!

It was true that he was tall and strong, and he departed the field of battle more energetically than she.  But Talia was pleased to view this as fearful flight from her vicious attacks and not, as might be thought, that she herself could not move very fast after the confrontation, between the painful bruise on her hip where she fell after he pushed her away, and the damage to her shoes after all that kicking.

All she had wanted after such a night was to retire to her room, remove those shoes and rub her aching feet, to draw a bath and wash the horrid mud of camping from her body and hair, then to have scented oils massaged into her skin, to relax with some warming consommé, and finally to collapse into her bed and cry herself to sleep.  That is all she had wanted.

But the vile clerk at the Parkview Hotel said his masters “declined to authorize the charge” on her Lexcorp Card, which she had, in the past, at least been able to check in with although it was now useless for paying the bill.  That left only the card obtained through her father.  It had no “limit” in the crass material sense of these petty Western clerks, but using it was bondage to her in a far greater sense:  If she charged so much as a penny on that card, her father would know at once where she was—and he would know she needed him once again.  It was insupportable.

She had no choice but to turn once more to her protector.  Gr’oriBr’di possessed lodging in Gotham City, after all.  He had to live somewhere when he wasn’t at the Chinatown base.  Unfortunately, Talia had no idea where that might be.  They had met always at her hotel in those heady days before he spirited her off on the adventure of camping. 

So when the odious Parkview clerk asked if she “would like to try another card,” Talia said that she only wanted to use the phone.  She called Gr’oriBr’di—who expressed his concern (which was strangely troubling) about the way she had disappeared after she left the curio shop in Chinatown.  After many assurances as to her safety and a few lies about what she’d been doing, he obliged her with the address of his apartment.  This abode was, like Beloved’s manor, located outside the central island of Gotham.  It was located, unlike Beloved’s manor, at a place called Brooklyn Heights—and to her horror, Talia learned the simplest way of reaching it was to walk across this bridge like a common peddler. 

Selina awoke alone in the bed. 

“Just as well,” she muttered as she got up.  She felt completely off her game right now and was happy she didn’t have to deal with him. It was all so complicated suddenly:  She looked at him as Batman and saw Bruce wearing a Batsuit.  She looked at Bruce, and she saw that face Batman revealed to her when he first took off his mask.  

She walked into the bathroom, grabbed the soap, and brandished it accusingly at the mirror.  “Don’t start,” she warned her reflection, yawned, and stepped into the shower.

When she returned to the bedroom, she saw that the tiny “bumblebee bat” had returned to its place on the window.  She adjusted her towel, marched up to the windowpane, and knocked on the glass.

“Shoo,” she told it heatedly.  “Don’t you know you don’t belong up here?  You’re supposed to be underground.  Away from the sunshine.  Jackass.”

“Who are you talking to?” a light, foppish voice asked behind her.

“So this is hell,” Selina grumbled under her breath before answering “Nobody.  Just thinking out loud.”

She felt Bruce walk up behind her but she didn’t turn.  He began nuzzling her neck.  When he spoke again, the voice had deepened into the intense bat-gravel.

“I feel like a violinist in a room full of pianos every time I go to the Watchtower,” he said, referring to their conversation the night before.

She turned to look at him, saying nothing for a long minute, just searching his eyes. 

“Come downstairs with me,” he said. “I have an idea.”  It wasn’t the commanding tone that always made her chafe, but it was a Batman voice.  It wasn’t Bruce; it wasn’t vulnerable or seeking or warm.  But it was more a request than a command, so Selina nodded and followed.

When they reached the clock, he set the hands to 10:47 and then turned to her as the passage slid open.  “10:47, that’s when it happened. Crime Alley. My parents.”

“I know.  You told me that,” she reminded him.  That first day, when they returned from Xanadu, he had just revealed his identity, invited her back to the house, introduced her to Alfred, and then after a brief tour of the manor rooms, he brought her to this spot and took her down to the cave. 

“I know I did,” Bruce said gravely.  “C’mon.” 

This time, the tone was more commanding.  Selina wondered if it was proximity to the cave or the subject of Crime Alley, but he became more commanding.  She stifled feline pride at being ordered to follow, and fell into step beside him. 

“This is the nerve center,” he said.  “Computer consoles, multi-tiered communication, holographic capabilities.  Batmobile hangar, Batwing and Batboat in through there.  Gymnasium, weights, training gear… med facility, chem lab… costume vault and trophy room.”

“Yes, Bruce, I know,” Selina said carefully.

“Do you remember what you said that day, when I first brought you here?”

“Of course,” Selina replied tenderly. “I said, ‘It’s you.’”

Bruce’s lip twitched, remembering the moment.  Then a stony seriousness returned.

“That’s as final and absolute as it gets, Selina. Bringing you here, here, into the heart of everything that I do, everything I am.  Isn’t that enough?”

She raised an eyebrow, and when she said nothing, Bruce went on.

“We’re never going to be like other people.  For us, for me, opening this place up to you went beyond anything ‘they’ do to say it’s forever.”

“Okay,” Selina said slowly.  “Can I make an observation or three without you going all psychobatty?”

“If you swear to never use that last phase again, I’ll think about it,” he growled.

She answered with only a naughty grin until he half-nodded, and then she proceeded:

“Alright, Item 1:  What I should have added that day is that this cave is a wonder of the modern world, and so are you.”

She paused and waited.  Seeing that some kind of response was expected, Bruce reluctantly grunted.

“Item 3,” Selina went on.

“You skipped two.”

“I’m inscrutable that way.  Meow.”

Bruce sighed and shook his head.

“Item 3,” Selina continued, “It was enough, for me.  It wasn’t for you, Bruce, because you asked me to move in with you.  I moved my cats into your house; do you even begin to realize what that is to me?  It’s your cave, and me and my cats are living on top of it— in your houseI’ve got a cranky demonologist living in what used to be my place.”

“That brings us to my idea,” Bruce put in.

“Oh?”

“Yes… Get out.”

Talia’s reluctance to go anywhere near Wayne Plaza made it easy to find other things to occupy her time:  first she slept, then she spent several hours perfecting her appearance.  This was no small task, given the mud of camping and the necessity to appear at her best to meet her Beloved once again.  This day, their reconciliation, would be forever captured in his memory.  It was important that she shine with undreamt-of beauty. 

The task of “Talia Beautification Day” was further complicated by the… the challenges (as the LexCorp financiers referred to such disastrous calamities) of Gr’oriBr’di’s… dwelling.  No bubble bath with scented oil was possible as there was no bathtub—at all! Only a filthy, grungy shower with stains on the curtain, rust around the drain and some sort of… gunky… substance growing in the corner that was not entirely dissimilar to the biological weapons developed in her father’s Feuer-Ziekte labs.  Nevertheless, Talia found it within herself to endure these conditions sufficiently to wash her hair, to use Gr’ori’s hairdryer without electrocuting herself, and she even managed to apply a little make-up in the 3 square inches of his bathroom mirror that was not covered by a greasy, cloudy haze of whitish… something that smelled faintly of a Turkish coffeehouse crossed with… jet exhaust?  When these ministrations were complete, Gr’oriBr’di had returned to the flat and was eager to “show her around the old neighborhood.”

Talia acquiesced, for what choice did she have, Gr’oriBr’di was her protector.  She didn’t expect to enjoy the outing, but within an hour of visiting the pizza parlor, the ball field, and other landmarks of his boyhood, Talia found herself relaxing back into the comfortable ease she often felt with Greg.  Those first days camping together, before the rains and the mud, had been very pleasant indeed.  And this “Brooklyn” felt… well, it didn’t feel like camping, but it did not feel like Gotham City either.  The angsty coiled tension, the fear and hate and bitterness all tangled up in a sickly dread that had plagued her since that first drive through the city was lifted somehow. 

Greg had introduced her as “Tee,” so the men at the pizza shop called her Tee also.  It was very freeing to be this Tee, to not be “Talia al Ghul, daughter of the Great One,” or “Talia Head, that worthless bitch that wrecked LexCorp,” or “Talia, the man wants to wipe out 3/5 of the human race, how can you stand idly by while that sick megalomaniac plans a global genocide?”

The mere thought of Batman’s entreaty was enough to snap Talia back to reality.  She had to warn him.  He was bewitched and she had to free him from the cat-slut’s clutches. 

It was only then that she noticed the lengthening shadows as she walked with Gr’oriBr’di by the river and realized the hour was so late. The business day was over; Beloved would no longer be in his office at Wayne Enterprises.  She had squandered the daylight hours, and the prospect of another night searching for him as Batman—only to encounter some vile, cat-loving imposter in his place—was too daunting to even contemplate. 

But wait, there was a third alternative.  This night alone she knew where he would be! The Gala Reopening, his name was all over those banners throughout the city advertising the Museum of Modern Art’s gala reopening, “Sponsored by the Wayne Foundation.” He would have to make an appearance.

Selina would have to admit, even if Mirror Bitch was stubbornly silent on the subject, that there was an upside to that arrogant Bat’s presumptuous idea that he understood her. 

She leaned in towards the mirror, daring Mirror Bitch to challenge the rightness of the current arrangement, and carefully applied her eye shadow.  He was right, there were simply too many associations attached to that gala.  It would be impossible for them—for her especially, to dress for it in the same room.  This way, she had her gown, her make-up, and so she felt truly at home, Whiskers and Nutmeg, all with her at the penthouse.  She could get ready on her own, just like she would have if nothing had changed between her and Batman.  Whatever feelings that evoked in terms of her long war with the Dark Knight, she could at least face it without seeing Bruce standing six inches behind her adjusting his tie in the mirror.

“Stay away from that Van Gogh, Catwoman.”  
“Bite me, Dark Knight—oh, and could you be a dear and zip me up, sweetie?”

No, it was definitely better like this. 

In the mirror, Selina couldn’t help but chuckle as the top two inches of a blue-gray tail came into view as Whiskers walked by behind her. 

“Best laid plans of flying mice and batmen,” Mirror Bitch observed.  The one part of Bruce’s plan that didn’t quite pan out, the one thing the great bat-strategy could not control, was her cats.  They were there in the penthouse with her, to preserve the illusion that this was her home, but the cats weren’t about to pretend.  For them, the penthouse was a large new territory and they set about exploring it the moment Selina opened the cat-carrier. 

There was something very comforting about that.  Batman’s great plan could not touch, control, affect, or anticipate her cats. 

Selina returned to the bedroom, unzipped the quilted garment bag from Dior, and slid out the dress.  There was an audible thik as a small, moderately heavy something was dislodged from the hangar and dropped to the bottom of the bag.  Selina peered in… and her breath failed as she recognized the red leather of a Cartier’s box.

“He didn’t,” she said flatly. 

Nutmeg darted out from under the bed and looked up at her. 

“You’re no help,” she told the cat. 

Nutmeg purred.

“Well, I guess one of us should be purring,” Selina shrugged, and then regarded the box suspiciously, like a too-easy-to-open safe.  “Only one way to find out,” she breathed. “Do it quick, right?  Like ripping off a Band-Aid.”

Nutmeg continued to purr.

Selina breathed in, closed her eyes, then sprung open the box and looked down.

She saw a folded note nestled in the otherwise empty folds of velvet lining.

She picked it up, carefully unfolded it, and felt a slow, naughty grin steal over her face as she read the words:

“You want the pink sapphire, you’ll have to earn it.  –B”

If Bruce Wayne bothered to calculate the number of parties, balls, galas, clubs, and cotillions at which he’d arrived “stag,” it would surely be over a thousand.  Advantageous though it was to cross the velvet rope with some photogenic starlet or supermodel, there was always the danger of the women being remembered.  When, after an hour, Bruce Wayne was gone and Iman was still at the party, most society gossips assumed he’d left with someone else (and he could expect only hang-ups if he called Iman again).  That was fine once or twice a month, but for the vast majority of his playboy appearances, Bruce found it best to arrive alone.  Then when he vanished, it would still be assumed he’d left with someone else’s escort, but he was spared the “paper trail” of women who thought at the start of the evening that they were his date.

These thoughts were far from Bruce’s mind when he opened the door of the limo and strolled glibly along the MoMA’s red carpet, nodding an empty smile at the cameras flashing wildly until he reached the door.  He greeted the museum director, the architect, and several board members all clustered inside the front entrance.  He put on the foppish party-voice as he told them they looked less like a formal receiving line and more like a row of proud papas in a maternity ward, koochie-kooing at the nursery window. 

There was a momentary pause, then they all laughed pleasantly at his feeble joke.  As they laughed, Bruce saw they each stole swift, subtle glances at the empty space to his right—then to his left—then to his right again. 

“Selina will be along later,” he said curtly, annoyed that her absence was seen as some kind of anomaly he was expected to explain.  He was more annoyed still when this announcement was met with such warm, relieved smiles, smiles much more sincere than the polite laughter at his earlier joke.

“I think I’ll just take advantage of my freedom while it lasts,” he proposed with a devilish grin, “I’ll be at the bar.”

“Fabric of Ka, I’ve missed you so,” Tom Blake said lovingly to the mirror.  Despite the black eye and fat lip he suffered at the hands of that crazy wildwoman at the spa, the combination of his new body and his old costume was truly a sight to behold.

Now he need only reclaim his prestige, appearing—as he should have in the first place—in his true guise of Catman! 

The crazed woman was quite right: he had fallen in with inferiors who pulled him down to their level: that Post photo in a loincloth, and then dressing up as Batman in a shameful charade unworthy of a great predator. 

He would correct those errors tonight.  Tonight he would appear as he was: the Catman, King of Cats! 

Reaching the bar, Bruce permitted the Fop to leer at the comely bartender.  He pulled a folded twenty from his pocket and held it up over her tip jar, sensuously rubbing the two halves together as he placed his order.  She made and held eye contact while she poured, but her look was difficult to translate.  Then she handed over the drink, Bruce dropped the bill into the tip jar, and that was that. 

He turned back towards the party—and started with uncharacteristic surprise as he saw Talia al Ghul standing close beside him.

“Beloved, I must speak to you at once,” she whispered hoarsely.

Bruce kicked himself that he could become so immersed in his Fop performance that he hadn’t noticed her approach.

“All that’s happened between us, my running off with Gr’oriBr’di that distressed you so, we will have time enough to settle it later.  For now, put aside whatever doubts and fears you have of me, and listen, listen well, my Best Beloved One, oh you must, you must listen, I have such dire, dire news…”

She was clutching the fabric of his tuxedo at the elbow and yanking it every few words, jostling his arm and making the scotch jump in his glass to punctuate her words.  Bruce looked wordlessly down at her hands on his elbow, then back at her, glaring hateful warnings.

“I shall say nothing to compromise you, Beloved, I swear it, but you must listen to me, please, you must, you must, you must.” 

“That’s a Dolce & Gabbana,” Bruce said, eerily mixing the foppish sentiment with Batman’s deadliest gravel.

Talia released her hold, looking truly frightened.  When the death-glare did not become more welcoming, she began nervously patting down the wrinkles she had created on his sleeve.

“Go into that gallery,” Bruce growled menacingly, pointing towards a hallway with his eyes, “I’ll give you 60 seconds, 25 words or less.  Second 61 or word 26, I’m out of there.  Do you understand?”

“Beloved I—”

Do you understand?” he hissed through clenched teeth.

“Yes, Beloved,” Talia said meekly.

Selina enjoyed her moment on the red carpet.  She walked right up to the Post photographer on the very end of the right ropeline—to the delight of the photographers around him. 

She paused, smiling, for several seconds, giving them all an unprecedented bonus of close-ups.  Then she made eye contact with the photographer just behind him.

“Daily Planet?” she asked. 

He nodded.

“Gotham Poster-boy here has no idea who I am,” she remarked. “Be sure to tell him.”

Then she winked and scampered inside as the cluster of paparazzi exploded with stage whispers of “Kyle, Selina Kyle” and “Catwoman,” “the real one,” “No, can’t be her,” “Looks nothing like,” “No kidding, dumbass” and then finally “Hey, it’s Debra Messing.  Debra, over here!”

Once inside and through the receiving line, Selina wandered towards the new sculpture court, sensing that she was being followed.  This wasn’t unusual; men often followed her at parties, working up the nerve to introduce themselves… and of course Bruce was there already; she’d gathered that much from the welcoming committee that greeted her at the door.  Three of them had mentioned it pointedly: “Bruce arrived a half hour ago, my dear.  He told us, of course, that you’d be coming.  So good to see you here at last…” 

Selina wondered what it all meant.  She was Catwoman—the art thief; they all knew it.  They didn’t know she’d once made plans for this very event, but they weren’t morons, they had to know she had taken an interest in the museum over the years.  Yet they were all so happy to see her there, so eager to tell her Bruce was there already…  Was it turning that screw?  Was this the first thorn this night would poke into kitty’s tender paw?  They didn’t fear Catwoman taking their Van Gogh anymore.  Oh no, they were happy Selina Kyle was here, finally, to keep the Fop in check: Bruce went towards the Atrium, dear, and so did the Hilton sisters.  Do go find him before he reverts to that foppish lout and does something unattractive in the sculpture garden 

Or maybe it was something Bruce set up himself.  Maybe it was a Bat-game? for the pink sapphire? in which case that was undoubtedly him following her.  She turned into a conceptual gallery, a dead end that would force him into the open.  She was astonished when the figure came around the corner and she saw who it was.

“GAME CHAMP SINS,” Eddie offered with a twinkle, extending a tray that held two fluted glasses.  “Champagne, miss?”

“Edward Richmond Nigma, what on earth are you doing here?” she asked, unable to conceal her shock.

“Same as you, my WEAK LION, I’m checking out the art.”

Selina raised a skeptical eyebrow, and Eddie took the remaining glass for himself and casually slid the tray into a double helix of twisted white metal.

“Wait ‘til you see it, ‘Lina.  James Sanborn, guy who did the giant code sculpture at CIA headquarters.”

“Kryptos, I know,” she declared.  “Nobody’s cracked it,” she added with a knowing smile.

Their eyes met silently for a half-beat as he straightened his tie smugly, then both eased into a soft, private chuckle.  Then Eddie spoke again:

“He’s got one here, in the museum, big code thing. Come and look.”

Selina laughed and followed. 

“Birthday sulks are gone, I see,” she noted.  “You’re ten years younger, Eddie.  And I think your hair’s growing back.”

When they reached the Sanborn installation, Selina could see why Eddie’s riddling nature was so excited.  The room was completely dark and empty, except for a cone of light in the very center.  The light was surrounded by metal from which numbers, letters, and symbols had been cut, projecting Cyrillic characters onto the walls, the floors, and the people in the room.

“And this is a code?” Selina asked—although she was well aware of the answer.  Eddie enjoyed it so if you phrased it as a question. 

“It is a code,” a stranger announced, entering the room before Eddie could supply the answer himself.  Richard Flay walked up to them, in full art-sycophant mode. “It’s a fragment of an old document of the KGB’s on espionage.  The idea is that merely coming into this environment of secret codes and deception, we become ‘stained’ by it.”

“She asked me,” Eddie told him petulantly.

“A fake Batman?”

“I saw him, Beloved, with my own eyes. The very likeness of your costume, it was monstrous sacrilege.”

Bruce massaged the bridge of his nose.

“Alright, I’ll look into it,” he growled.  He didn’t bother telling her that it was doubtless connected to a string of pranks reported around Times Square, pranks that seemed like a publicity stunt or teenage hijinx more than anything criminal.  “Is there anything else?” he asked wearily.

“Much more, oh my Beloved, more than you can imagine.  This imposter, he—”

“That’s more than 25 words,” Bruce noted dryly.  “Fewer Beloveds next time, Talia, and you would have made it.”

“Bruce, please,” she begged.  “She has bewitched you, the cat-witch.  I have proof, I have proof at last of her black sorcery.”

“So this is hell,” Bruce muttered to himself.

“This fake Batman was also ensnared. Don’t you see?  It is proof she has worked some enchantment on you, some spell that all who don that costume must become enamored of cats!”

“Mhm,” Bruce answered calmly.  “I see.  Well, thank you for telling me, Talia. I’ll look into that also.”

“You must believe me, Beloved, you must,” she resumed, clutching his elbow again.

“Yes, Beloved, you really must,” a new voice, amused yet menacing, purred from the doorway.  Bruce and Talia both turned to see Selina standing primly with a plate of hors d’oeuvres.  “Not like she’s ever been, you know, deluded out of her mind, or outright lied to you about anything, right? Crab puff?” she offered sweetly.

“You shameless harlot,” Talia spat, “What will you do now that your wanton sorcery is exposed?”

“Off our medication again, I see.  What have I done this time?” she asked Bruce, “Jimmy Hoffa? The Lindberg baby?  Enron?”

“Witchcraft,” he said flatly.

“Ah.  Well, if you count playing patty-cake with Etrigan,” Selina shrugged, popping the crab puff into her mouth.

“Hey ‘Lina,” Eddie called lightly, entering behind her, “That Flay guy invited me out to the Hamptons to see his—JENNIFER JIGSAW what is SHE doing here?”

YOU!” Talia hissed, “You loathsome worm.”

Selina let out a low whistle.  “Well now it’s getting interesting,” she remarked, equally intrigued by the scene unfolding before her and the sixth sense tingling from behind.  The Bat-tingle.  Of course, for Bruce would have snapped into Bat-mode the moment he saw Eddie appear where he wasn’t expected.

“Petty, vindictive, stupid little snatch,” Eddie cried, pointing at Talia with a stuffed mushroom impaled on a toothpick.

“Arrogant, monstrous swine!” Talia answered, pointing the corner of her peau de soie evening bag with equal venom.

“You two, eh, want to be alone?” Selina quipped.

“NO!” Eddie cried, jumping behind her, his hands at each of her elbows to maneuver her as a human shield between him and Talia.  Bruce shifted slightly, repositioning himself to intervene—but then realized that probably wouldn’t be necessary with Nigma, er, cringing (?) behind Selina.

“Eddie,” Selina said calmly, “may I remind you that you’re a mean, crowbar-wielding, psychopath now.  You want to stop cowering behind my Dior?”

“She sent DEMON-guy-superassassins to kill me!” Eddie wailed.

He checked into my hotel, thinking he could romance secrets out of me with his low, smarmy—”

She has to blame everybody but herself because she screws up—“

“—revolting, transparent—”

“—because she’s got a ridiculously high opinion of herself—”

“—bringing a diseased cat to my room!”

“—considering she’s such A-DIRE-HA AIRHEAD!”

“Trying to seduce me into revealing Beloved’s secrets!”

“Don’t flatter yourself, Sweetheart!”

“Like some simpleton pawn!”

“You ever hear the one about buying the cow after you’ve already got the milk?”

Selina’s eyes flicked over to Bruce’s.

“This is so not what I had in mind for tonight,” she confided.

“EVERYONE GET YOUR HANDS IN THE AIR,” a harsh voice rasped in the main room before a gunshot rang out.  

Bruce’s head jerked instantly toward the door, just as Nigma muttered:

“There we go. Another fine robbery brought to you by the Wayne Foundation.”

“Shut up, Eddie,” Selina hissed just as Talia shrieked, “How DARE you speak that name, you festering parasite!!!!”

Bruce would have vanished; Selina knew that without even glancing in his direction.  Rather than draw attention to his departure, she turned conversationally towards Eddie.

“Festering parasite?” she asked, sweetly.  He winked.  “Vermin slut, nice to meet you,” she quipped, offering her hand.

“HANDS UP, EVERYONE!” the voice in the outer room boomed again.  “PREPARE TO HAVE YOUR VALUABLES PURLOINED BY THE KING OF CATS!”

The last words echoed across the reflective museum walls.  There was no other sound in the quiet alcove for a count of five.  Selina’s eyes met Eddie’s, they glossed over Talia, they registered the empty space no longer occupied by Bruce, and they were drawn finally, magnetically, to the doorway to that outer room, where muted cries mingled with the hoarse rumble of Catman ordering his victims to empty their pockets and purses.

“Ho-kay, that’s it,” Selina exploded with quiet venom.  “Miniature bat on the window screen, groupies in catsuits, password, demonspawn, witchcraft, Richard Flay out to the Hamptons—and by the way, Eddie, already enough chatter about which way you ‘swing your cane, if you know what I’m saying—Oswald, Hugo, ‘Jennifer Jigsaw,’ ‘Festering Parasite,’ and ‘not buying the cow if you can get the milk for free’.  And I’ve been fine with it.  But King of Cats out there with my Van Gogh?!?  No.  That’s it.  We’re done here.”

She turned on her heel, wrenching her one arm free of Eddie’s last grasp and twisting the other one clear of Talia as she passed, and stormed off towards the main rotunda, snarling like a wild cat.

…to be concluded…

 

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