Batman and Catwoman in Cat-Tales by Chris DeeCat-Tales 43: Napoleon's Plan

Napoleon’s Plan
by Chris Dee

Needs Salt


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There are men of Bruce Wayne’s stature in the world who could not tell you the precise location of the kitchen in their homes.  Bruce had never isolated himself that way, but his visits to the butler’s pantry were rare.  He viewed the little room off the kitchen as Alfred’s private space and was always reluctant to disturb him there.  Bruce would naturally buzz the intercom if he needed something urgently, but otherwise he waited until he ran into Alfred in the cave, or in the study—or, if all else failed, when Alfred woke him in the morning.

So it was something of an occasion when Bruce knocked on the door to the pantry—with a surprisingly cheery demeanor at that (“Got a minute, Alfred?”).  So much so that Alfred stood, removing his glasses, and heard himself offering tea as if Bruce was an unexpected guest who dropped by for a social visit.  Bruce refused the tea but took a cookie from the little plate on the table.  Then he straddled the chair backwards.  Alfred found the whole performance puzzling at first.  It was a challenge, most days, to get Bruce to eat food pushed on him.  For him to casually walk into the room and help himself to a cookie that hadn’t even been offered…

At that moment Bruce grinned… and Alfred realized with a start what seemed so strange about the whole scene.

“You haven’t visited me like this for several years, young sir,” Alfred remarked, in a less formal tone than he generally used with the adult Bruce Wayne.

“Almost as long as it’s been since you’ve called me ‘young sir,’” Bruce said casually, his voice, like his grin, an almost unsettling throwback to an earlier time.  Bruce explained briefly about the barbecue:  just one guest, Harvey Dent.  Nothing elaborate, a couple steaks, pitcher of cold drinks, sit outside, that kind of thing.

“One guest only, sir?” Alfred asked, incredulous.

“Yeah, will just be the three of us,” Bruce nodded, smiling. “No fuss like the Labor Day shindigs.  Just a lazy Saturday afternoon, old friends catching up and all that.”

Alfred started to speak and then stopped, reconsidering how to phrase it.

“Am I to understand, sir, that you have invited Mr. Harvey Dent to come to the manor and share a meal with you and Miss Selina for no other reason than you expect you will enjoy his company?”

Bruce’s eyes narrowed, and the magic spell was broken.  The boyish grin, the light demeanor, all the echoes of that earlier time flickered away at the question.  Anyone else, even Superman, would have accepted the piercing stare as a dismissal, but Alfred raised a determined eyebrow and waited impassively until he received a verbal reply. 

“Yes,” Bruce growled in a deep bat-gravel.

“What a novel idea,” Alfred remarked. 

“He was once my friend,” Bruce said defensively, in a curious contrast to the Bat-bluster of a moment before.  “And he’s Selina’s friend.  It’s not that strange an idea, is it?  Have him over.  Get the two of them talking again.  You must admit, she can probably use some kind of support.  Somebody from that world she can talk to… someone who won’t try to play on her vulnerabilities like that Nigma.”

“I see, sir.  Then this is not, perhaps, as casual and impulsive an entertainment as you have stated?”

Bruce said nothing for a long minute, during which Alfred noted an alarming creaking sound coming from the chairback.

“Your fist, sir,” Alfred noted dryly.  “That chair represents a fine piece of 19th Century French country craftsmanship, but I don’t believe the spindle is meant to be clutched in that way, certainly not by a man of your size and strength.”

Bruce opened his fist mechanically at the rebuke, then spoke in the deadliest growl.

“He used her, Alfred.  Her good friend ‘Eddie’ used her like a pawn… to get to me.  I can’t…  Harvey would never do that to her, even in his Two-Face days.  He might flip a coin to decide whether to shoot at her or not, but… it’s not the same somehow.  It doesn’t cross that line between…”

“Master Bruce?”

Bruce looked up but said nothing.

“Sir, there is obviously more on your mind than the relative merits of Mr. Dent and Mr. Nigma as friendly companions for Miss Selina.”

Bruce’s lip twitched.

“I don’t really know if it’s the sort of thing…  I mean to talk about…”  Bruce stopped, shook his head, and softly chuckled. 

“Master Bruce,” Alfred said in a tone of such affectionate indulgence, so different from his usual understated sarcasm, that Bruce was forced to look up.  “You have not visited this room for a casual chat in many, many years.  You obviously have some matter you wish to confide, and I think you know by now, sir, that you can place the utmost confidence in my discretion.”

Bruce moistened his lips thoughtfully and tamed the grinning chuckle back to his accustomed liptwitch.

“It’s not that, Alfred.  It’s not a question of trust; it’s just somewhat… odd… It’s… boy, now I try to say it, it really is… Alfred.  Batman and Catwoman are having an affair.”

Once, after a particularly vicious Hell Month beating, Selina signed Harvey Dent’s legcast with the words “You really are Fate’s bitch.”  Stumbling into the Harvard Club, rain pouring from his hair, his jacket, and his blown out umbrella, Harvey had never felt it to be so true. 

That cursed cab:  Cab #220, he should have known, he really should have known that was a bad omen.  But he got in anyway and promptly got stuck in the midday, midtown traffic snarl.  Deciding it was better to walk than sit there watching the meter click away, Harvey paid his modest fare… with a painful recollection of a day not that long ago when he would have had to flip his coin to decide whether to pay the fare or shoot the driver, twice, with a .22.  He couldn’t have walked more than a block when the skies darkened.  He couldn’t have walked more than two before they opened in the kind of instant, drenching downpour that only occur in late summer.  Harvey ran, cursing, to the nearest shelter while the wind and rain intensified.  It was only once he stopped under the awning that he realized where he was:  Barristers’ Alley, it was called, a two-block stretch between the District Court and City Hall that was crowded with law offices: trial attorneys, patent attorneys, tax attorneys, corporate attorneys—and the eclectic restaurants and taverns they favored to meet in.  The finest and most exclusive of these was the Barristers’ Club, under whose awning Harvey had unwittingly taken shelter from the rain. 

Harvey had diligently rebuilt those parts of his life that he could rebuild:  he restocked his wardrobe with suits not divided down the center, he reactivated his memberships in the Harvard Club and the Racquet Club, he had reestablished tentative friendships with a few old cohorts like Bruce Wayne.  But there were parts of Harvey Dent’s old life that were gone for good:  Gilda, that dream of a wife and family, his political ambitions, and, of course, the law.  He was disbarred years ago, and he was a convicted criminal.  There was no question of his ever being able to practice law again.  So he avoided this part of town, avoided any reminder of those parts of his life he could never get back.  Hence why he wasn’t dating.

And now Fate, that faithless witch Fate, must have grown bored.  She must have noticed her old pal Harvey Dent hadn’t been seen for a while, and she’d gone looking for him:  Enter Cab #220 and a rainstorm that deposits him at the Barristers’ Club just in time to spy Ed Zinc coming out. 

Ed Zinc.

Jesus Christ. 

In Harvey’s day, Zinc was a junior associate called Scooter.  That was the kind of awe the man inspired.  The rapier wit, the penetrating insight, the dynamic personality, the brilliant legal mind:  Scooter.  Scooter Zinc was coming out of the Barristers’ Club in a slate-gray Armani. 

“…just bought a Lexus,” the walking pustule was saying, “now Karen can use the Hummer for the kids.”

“Why not,” the toady walking alongside him chimed in.  “They offered you a partnership at Deene, Devin, and Toloich right?  Winning streak like yours, they’d be dumb not to.”

“Well, it is a fact,” Zinc preened himself while the poor doorman waded into the downpour to get them a taxi.  “Winning as a prosecutor bodes well for your ability to get them off as a defense attorney.”

“And that’s where the money is,” the toady added, like the pasty-faced kissup that he was, like the pasty-faced kissup that Ed Zinc used to be.  How often had Harvey heard this conversation before, after he himself or a colleague had a high-profile win and the offers came flooding in?  Power breakfast at the Barristers’ was the usual place to be seen the next day, taking a bow in the center ring of Gotham legal circles.  And what better way to mark your grand exit than with a fawning little toady like Scooter Zinc trailing after you, enumerating all your kudos so you didn’t have to yourself.

“And, of course, once I’m no longer working for the city, we can move out to Connecticut.  So much better for the kids.  Did I tell you Karen is expecting again?”

Harvey tasted blood.  Literally.  He had bit his tongue.  Scooter Zinc: a partnership at Deene, Devin and Toloich, wife expecting again, a house in Connecticut.  Scooter Zinc was living the life Harvey Dent was supposed to have.  SCOOTER ZINC was???

In his mind’s eye, he envisioned tying Scooter up in a very specific posture he’d learned from Joker: bind the feet, tie the waist around a vertical support, then wrap each arm around a long horizontal plank, crucifixion-style.  Only then bind the wrists, taking care to run the rope behind the neck so the more they try to pull loose, the more they’ll tighten the knot.  Then, suspend the whole thing above a vat of acid—or fire—or leeches—or razor blades—or molten lava.  But since it was a Joker deathtrap, he’d always opted for the acid.  Joker just let them hang there until they regained consciousness, then lowered them slowly on a pulley.  He didn’t care about any kind of duality in the mechanism or any instrument of chance determining the victim’s fate.  Two-Face cared very much and spent long hours trying to come up with an appropriate two-related trigger to drop the victim into the acid…

While enjoying the mental image of Ed Zinc sweating bullets as his legs neared the smoldering firepit, of his gritting his teeth as he pulled against the bonds, of his simpering when the cuff of his silk Armani started to sizzle, Harvey reminded Two-Face sharply that they had not flipped for it and even Ed Zinc deserved a fifty-fifty chance of…

Uh oh.

There was no more Two-Face. Harvey reminded himself of that important fact just as sharply as he’d tried to remind Two-Face about the coin:  There was no more Two-Face.  There was no firepit, no imprisoned Edward Zinc, and most importantly, there was no more Two-Face. 

Just a slip.  It was just a slip; everybody does that.  Harmless little fantasy:  you see a no-talent, good-for-nothing shit, who, if there was any justice in the world, would be parking cars at the Hard Rock, enjoying all the success that should have been be yours.  It’s perfectly natural to set them up in that mental shooting gallery and aim a double-barreled shotgun at their dribbling double chin. 

But that wasn’t the worst of it.  The worst came as Harvey stood there with the rain slanting inward, soaking him almost as badly as if he wasn’t standing under any awning at all, and he realized he was waiting for Two-Face to laugh at him.  That coarse laughter, mocking him for being such a chump.  Of course no laughter came, because Two-Face was gone.

“That’s two,” he told the ghost of his alter ego.  He’d been suckered—twice. 

“I don’t think I understand, sir,” Alfred said carefully.  “Batman and Catwoman are having an affair?

Bruce expected that reaction.  He knew how the statement sounded, but that really was the only way to phrase it.

“Alfred, you’ve seen enough of secret identities to know that—”

“I am aware, sir, of the tendency to ‘compartmentalize’ aspects of your life, but I fail to see… That is to say, sir, you and Miss Selina have enjoyed an intimate relationship for a number of years now.  I fail to see—”

Bruce and Selina have, yes.  When it started getting serious, even before the masks came off it was… it was me, and it was her.  This is different.  This is… the first… the old…”

He trailed off, lost in some private thought.  Alfred coughed.  And Bruce took a new approach to the story.

“It was the night of the MoMA opening.  She needed it.  I guess I did too.  Hugo Strange and mind games, talk about marriage and mortality.  It was just a release.  Bit of escapism…”

He trailed off again.  It was nothing more than a bit of escapist fun; they both knew it.

What neither was prepared for was the morning after.  Bruce had stirred first, the deepest folds of his subconscious noting, as it always did, specific physical realities.  He was not in bed.  It wasn’t the hard coldness of an alley under his body… nor were his limbs bound or contorted in a deathtrap.  It was just… not a bed…  And his mask was on.  That detail jolted him awake, fully in Bat-mode. 

It was a second at most until he processed his surroundings—the penthouse—the living room floor of the penthouse to be precise—Catwoman, naked apart from the mask, tangled in his cape and curled against him… It was a second at most, but it was enough, he woke as Batman in that moment.  And there she was: Catwoman.  They’d done it.  Batman and Catwoman. They’d done it. 

He lay there in the quiet stillness, watching her sleep, the thought billowing through his mind like an atomic mushroom cloud:  what if they really had done it back then?  It could have happened, it almost did more than once.  A vault or a rooftop, or following her like this back to her lair, a moment’s lapse of control… They danced on that precipice so often, it could have happened, more easily than he let himself admit back then…  What if they did?

What if they did?

He couldn’t arrest her now—maybe he never could, maybe he was kidding himself about that—but now, she lay there sleeping, wrapped in his cape, some cat or other purring in the distance, and all he could think of was the way she had looked the night before, her head tipped back, flushed, panting… He closed his eyes and relived the moment… then another, then another.  And when he opened his eyes again, she was awake—and looking at him—and unless he was much mistaken, she was thinking the exact same thought:  What if we had?

The moment froze.  Those eyes of hers, framed by that mask.

“Good morning,” she said softly.  She meant Don’t spoil it. Don’t break the spell. 

What if we had?

There was no Bruce Wayne.  There was no Selina Kyle.  They didn’t exist.  There was certainly no Wayne Penthouse.  It was just a catlair. 

With his right hand, he gently cradled the side of her face, his thumb lightly caressing her cheek as it played across the edge of her mask, then he kissed her cheek.  “Good morning,” he graveled just outside the mask by her ear.  Then he dressed silently and left. 

They never spoke of it when she returned to the manor, not a word or a hint, not so much as a glance alluded to it. 

It was as if it never happened—until the next night when, almost on a whim, he passed through the diamond district at the end of his patrol.  It was part of her territory from the old days, but still an important part of the city to keep an eye on.  Then he passed the parkfront condos, also favorite Catwoman targets, and finally Museum Row.  And there she was, on that raised section of the Metropolitan’s roof.  It was an amateur’s way into the museum.  They had a food cart up there and a few outdoor sculptures:  that necessitated two elevators, one for the people and one for the art.  Catwoman was above such an obvious—

“Sir?” Alfred’s voice pulled Bruce reluctantly from the memory, his cheeks warming with a sudden flush. 

“I’m sorry, Alfred, did you say something?” he stammered.

Alfred sighed, clearly frustrated. 

“Nothing, sir.  I shall make the necessary arrangements for Saturday’s barbecue.  Will there be anything else?”

After such a morning, Harvey felt a strong need to touch some bit of his old life.  He stopped in Bergdorf’s Men’s Annex, shot a wary glance across the street at the southwest entrance to Robinson Park, and then proceeded inside the store and bought himself a new tie—and an umbrella, as he was not about to get caught in a downpour twice in one day.  Thus refreshed, he went to the Harvard Club.  After a lengthy ordeal drying off in the lobby, he settled in the lounge, picked a newspaper off the stack on the table, and began to read…  Harvey did a double take: Catman? the MoMA opening? But that was—then he checked the newspaper’s date.  It was several days old. 

Richard Flay came over, smiling agreeably.  And Harvey noted that Flay was pictured in the news story, along with several other men in tuxedoes, presumably the museum board.  Of course, that’s why he’d kept the paper laying around all this time. 

“Such a splendid evening before that uncouth ruffian made such a shambles of the party,” Flay said mildly.

Harvey glanced down at the newspaper, a quote set apart from the rest of the story in a box:  Such a splendid evening before that uncouth ruffian made such a shambles of the party.

“Eh.  Yes.  Quite,” Harvey answered cautiously.  He knew this was the way with Gotham socialites, but he couldn’t get used to it.  They all knew he had been Two-Face, but it would be rude to allude to that, like offering extra ice to someone rescued off the Titanic.  So they’d walk right up and say what a pity it was about that uncouth ruffian Catman, without once considering that, to him, Catman was Tom Blake, who he’d punched out one night at the Iceberg for calling Selina a flea-bitten she-cat… and another time for saying if Harvey went to karaoke night he must’ve sung I Am My Own Best Friend… and who Harvey had taken (under duress) on a roadtrip to Key West, along with Joker and Riddler, to bring Sly the bartender back to the Iceberg, until they all got sick of him and left him at the side of the road somewhere in the Carolinas with a stolen BMW and a neo-nazi auto mechanic…  Blake was a blister and Harvey didn’t like him.  But it was still strange to be on this end of a conversation about those awful costumed rogues.

Flay prattled on.  “Of course, the real pity of the evening was this fabulous new performance artist who presented such a challenging piece that’s been completely overlooked…”

Harvey tuned out most of the story.  He knew Richard Flay was a big shot in the arts world and always worked up about something.  In fact, few connoisseurs were as astute as Richard Flay, fine arts professor at Hudson University, essayist, collector and patron… and a homosexual.  He was seldom wrong about a new artist’s potential, but on those rare occasions when he overestimated some new figure’s artistic merit, the figure nearly always belonged to a handsome younger man.  And so it was with “this electrifying new performance artist” Greg Brady.

Harvey started at the name.

Flay, like all the other guests at the gala, had seen the strapping young man crash the party and angrily denounce his faithless lover.  But Richard Flay alone had recognized the scene as a challenging piece of performance art, in the truest spirit of the Museum of Modern Art.

“Did you say ‘Greg Brady?’” Harvey asked, weak with shock.

“Greg Brady,” Flay confirmed the name eagerly.  “Inspired, isn’t it?  A pop icon of the 1970s, the era of the sexual revolution, but a figure removed from the threatening gender confusion of the period, insulated in a sanitized world of the television sitcom.  The actress that played his lover bore a striking resemblance to that Metropolis woman, Talia Head: a failed CEO, a searing indictment of the woman-lover archetype—somewhat murky in its symbolism, perhaps, but that’s the only explanation for the references to arranged marriages, 1911, and Edward V or whatever it was.”

Harvey blinked. 

“Greg Brady?” he asked again.

“Greg Brady,” Flay repeated, pronouncing the name with a wistful awe.  “I would have so liked to speak with him afterwards, to discuss that magnificent allegory:  it is the technology of the information age which exposes this Talia’s infidelity.”

Harvey noticed that his mouth had dropped open, and he realized he must be staring at Richard Flay with a doltish gape.  He cleared his throat with a determined grunt and straightened his tie.

“Well, eh, yes, that sounds quite interesting. I mean, I know nothing about art, but the grant application writes itself, surely.”

Richard Flay walked off happily, not unlike Jervis after imparting some juicy bit of gossip.

Ra’s al Ghul’s mind was full of plans as his plane circled for its final approach into Gotham.  There was the minor question of Gr’oriBr’di, for the man entrusted with the important outpost in The Detective’s city in this hour of DEMON’S great triumph must be granted some special mark of distinction.  But Gr’oriBr’di had already received a second apostrophe, and Ra’s was uncertain what greater honor he dared bestow:  a place in the wedding procession would be far too dangerous.  Gr’oriBr’di was a Gothamite, afterall, to raise him so high at the very moment the Detective finally took his place at Ra’s side as heir presumptive, it could be perceived as a Gotham faction rising within the DEMON hierarchy, and placed so near the throne, it practically invited a coup d’état!

So some other boon was called for, something that recognized Gr’oriBr’di’s service but kept him safely out of the way.  A new assignment, perhaps; for Gotham, once the conquest was complete, would be the Detective’s Fife, there could be no question about that.  Gr’oriBr’di would have to be reassigned… Hm, perhaps he could have the honor of executing those “Rogues” whose deaths were to constitute Ra’s al Ghul’s wedding gift to The Detective—to Bruce Wayne, that is.  Ra’s reminded himself that the days of “The Detective” and “Ra’s al Ghul” formality were nearing a close.  Once the man had sired an heir of his blood, it would be woefully uncivilized to continue addressing each other by these formal titles.  Ra’s would address the Detective as “Bruce,” and Bruce Wayne would be the first man in a thousand years privileged to call the Demon’s Head “Akhenanpu.”

Harvey had never felt such an urge to flip that coin.  He was burning with curiosity as to what on earth Joker’s henchman “Giggles,” a.k.a. Oswald’s former bouncer Greg Brady, could be doing with Talia al Ghul… He had avoided contact with the old Iceberg crowd now that he’d turned his back on rogue life, just as he had avoided City Hall and Barristers’ Alley, but there was no way to find out more without renewing contact.  He wanted to learn more, he wanted to avoid the Iceberg…  He wanted to know more… and he wanted to avoid the Iceberg…  

As much as he told himself he was completely overjoyed with his change in fortune, the truth was he’d found his new life somewhat… dull—well, not dull, exactly, not “a let down,” those terms were too harsh.  But this little taste of a rogue mystery made it impossible to deny that he was, in fact, missing something in his new life.  His new life… needed salt.

He wanted to know more… and he wanted to avoid the Iceberg…  

It was a fearsome choice.  He had cut all ties with his old life.  If he went so far as to venture into the Iceberg and ask around, could he trust himself not to be sucked in?

He wanted to know more… and he wanted to avoid the Iceberg…  

It was a fearsome choice—and Harvey’s fingers itched to take the decision out of his hands with a coin flip.  He wouldn’t have to trust his judgment; he wouldn’t be responsible for the consequences…

…Good lord, except for the part where he reneged on the magical bargain with the universe and the healing of his face was reversed.  Except the part where Two-Face returned, all because Harvey Dent was too cowardly to make a decision.

Harvey felt his heart pulsing and palpitating like a jackhammer—he’d come that close!  He didn’t have a coin in his hand or anything, but he was literally thinking about flipping a coin having forgotten, just for that one moment, what the price would be.

Dear god…

Well then, there was nothing for it, he simply had to decide one way or another.  And if he opted not to go, he would go on being curious and the temptation would go on and on, day after day, until, in a moment of weakness, he might flip that coin.  Whereas if he simply went back to the Iceberg, then the decision was made and he wouldn’t have to deal with it again. 

It was better than nothing.  So Harvey stepped out into the street and hailed a cab.  #193.  He smiled.  That would do very nicely.

Talia thought the “grilled stickies” at “Ye Olde College Diner” were, without question, the most revolting foodstuff she had ever experienced.  It was some kind of bread—sweet, eggy, buttery bread—which might have been fine on its own, but then it was immersed in this hideous cinnamon-sugary goo.  Then they fried it, or sautéed it or… they did something to it involving heat and pans that made the whole kitchen thick with a heavy, greasy, warmish cloud of… of… she couldn’t even describe that smell.  It was as if the mustard gas of World War I was reinvented using cinnamon!  What kind of human beings could devise this kind of an assault on the senses?   It was, without question, the second most disgusting foodstuff in existence.  The most disgusting were the “Stickies Royale,” where they took the “Famous Original Grilled Stickies” and slathered them in a whitish icing that tasted like… like… like what she could only imagine plastic would taste like if melted and mixed into sugar, corn syrup, and more cinnamon. 

Never—NEVER—had her father’s teachings of the vile ruin of Western Civilization seemed so valid.  Stickies Royale, what kind of people could think up a substance like this? 

Oswald couldn’t believe his good fortune when Raven knocked discreetly on his office door and announced that “Harvey Fullface” had returned to the Iceberg.  Oswald had heard about the miraculous transformation, but hadn’t seen it in person.  He waddled eagerly out of his office and saw Harvey’s profile as he sat at the bar.  It looked the same as always, so Oswald walked casually to the far side of the room, then turned back to see Harvey’s other profile—IT MATCHED!  Oswald stared, awe-struck at the change, until Harvey finished whatever he was saying to Sly and winked, mischievously—spooking Oswald into a startled kwak.

Sly retreated respectfully to the far end of the bar, and Oswald waddled up to address Harvey at close quarters.

“Didn’t think you were going to admit you were looking,” Harvey teased when Oswald was close enough to hear.

After a bit of haughty quacking, Oswald permitted himself “to extend felonious felicitations to our prodigal prosecutor.”

Harvey hid his disgust, as he always had, at the affected mistreatment of the English language.  Privately, he wondered why on earth he’d come back to this place.  When Joker, Penguin, or Killer Moth were his only options for company with his evening scotch, he’d considered it a penance.  Now that he had a whole cityfull of non-freaks to commiserate with, he’d come back to the Iceberg Lounge.  God help him, he was actually amused to see Oswald Cobblepot.

“The Cobblepots were a warrior people, we heal quickly,” Oswald was saying excitedly.  “But nevertheless, it was a frightful experience-kwak, as Bat-encounters go, and I felt myself lucky to escape without any fracturing of my beak.”

“Yes, I’m sure,” Harvey agreed.  He’d always wondered how a miserable physical specimen like Oswald survived a bat-encounter. 

“Well, as I say, the super-ibuprophen has taken care of the swelling, but my shoulder still aches a good deal.  The experience called for a certain redefining of the Iceberg services and related fees.  Sly!  Show Mr. Dent the new menu, if you please.” 

Oswald puffed up proudly as Harvey read the new document.

“Alibis,” Harvey muttered, “that’s nothing new, you were always padding our tab, my tab, Two-Face’s tab, that is, with some alibi charge or another.”

“That was quite different,” Oswald explained with the smooth manner of a salesman used to explaining subtle differences in the product line.  “If something happens elsewhere in Gotham, like, say, the robbing of the Second National Bank or the blowing up of the Second Street Bridge, when your good self actually was here in the bar chatting with Sly, I fully understand the need to say where you were between the hours of midnight and 2 a.m. if a masked vigilante has you hanging by your heels from a batline.  But the reality, my good fellow, is that when someone says they were at the Iceberg, Batman is then going to show up, kicking over tables and choking the proprietor –kwak!– and there must be some sort of compensation for that inconvenience.”

“You always charged us twice,” Harvey reminded him acidly.

“You are, or were, two men; it is only reasonable that you each pay your fair share.”

Harvey shook his head, almost admiring the boldface greed.

“But as I say, that was then.  The new Iceberg is… curtailing certain of those activities which—”

“Which bring on too much Bat-heat?” Harvey interrupted, eyebrow raised.

“Eh, quite,” Oswald admitted, although he himself would have phrased it differently.  “So I shall be leaving the high-risk endeavors to younger men, for a time –kwak– but in order to keep the nest well-feathered, we are rolling out these new programs.  Read on, Harvey, I think you’ll be most impressed.”

“Deluxe ‘Golden Egg’ Package,” Harvey read dutifully, “With the Golden Egg Package, you get a DVD copy of timecoded security footage that puts you undeniably inside the Iceberg at the time of the robbery/kidnapping/hijacking.”

“And an Iceberg employee of at least Gina’s seniority will claim to have spoken to you,” Oswald added.  “There is a twenty percent surcharge for Raven, however.”

“What about Sly?” Harvey asked, curious.

“If you have to ask, you cannot afford Sly,” Oswald said dryly.

Harvey chuckled and stole a glance at the guileless bartender.  Oswald went on with his sales pitch. 

“If you don’t take the Golden Egg, you’re stuck with the economy or ‘Sitting Duck’ package, wherein someone with a serious drinking problem and dubious mental competence will say they saw you come in with Elvis.”  He paused for effect then added, “We recommend the deluxe package.”

Selina felt quite ridiculously happy.  Like any woman days into a new love affair, she was primping.  Like any cat discovering cream, she was savoring the sweet linger of yesterday’s pleasures and purring in anticipation of tomorrow’s.

The primping consisted of new eye shadow, her eyes being the focus of attention when she was masked, and a new hairstyle, just as long, but curlier.  “A froth of curls,” Antonio called it.  Selina was still uncertain if she preferred the new look as Selina Kyle, but there was no question the fullness of the curls was more striking pouring from under her cowl.

The cat’s anticipation took a different form.  She had quietly evicted Mr. Freeze from an old cat lair she’d lent him to store his spare coldsuits, and was busily arranging to have it refurnished in its former, feline glory.  She was also scrutinizing the Lifestyle section of the Gotham Times as she hadn’t for years.  If Batman wanted to play, she would be happy to oblige, but it was Batman she wanted and Batman she would have.  Not Batman’s body alone, not Bruce in a batsuit, but the whole man, the complete crimefighter.  She wanted that mind of his as well as the deliciously muscular exterior, and that meant finding some serious cat targets again. Something clever and playful, nothing obvious like the museum’s Egyptian wing.  Something delectably unexpected.  Something to make him sit up and take notice.  Something… Cat-worthy.

To be continued…


 

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