Batman and Catwoman in Cat-Tales by Chris DeeCat-Tales 63: Trophies

Trophies
by Chris Dee

Predators and Prey


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Catwoman stretched out on a gargoyle across from One Police Plaza, as she always did when Batman answered the signal and she opted to wait rather than end the evening early.  It had been a strange afternoon, hearing Batman’s side of the stories she knew so well. 

Jervis’s St. Patrick’s day escapade, for instance.  His version always began with Rosetta Leesburg, a typist in the Mayor’s office.  How he hatted her from above as she climbed the stairs at the 19th Street subway station and, through her, infiltrated the Parade Planning Committee.  How she brought him the name of the Grand Marshall as soon as he was chosen, and added his dummy corporation as a local sponsor supplying 5,000 paper bowlers to be given away to the crowd.  How he labored over the master hat to be worn by the Grand Marshall: the richness of the velvet, the careful selection of the dyes, the conductivity of the underlying electro-mesh, and the delicacy of the algorithms that enabled him to control only the Grand Marshall’s hat, which in turn would control the 5,000 puppets in the crowd.

Batman’s story only began when the patrolmen working crowd control stopped reporting in.  He focused on their placement along the parade route, recognizing them as surgical strikes around cash-rich targets.  Cash-rich targets near bars, where anomalies like the pockets of radio silence would be attributed to disturbances by rowdy drunks.  How, testing his theory, he discovered the nearest missing patrolmen had not gone silent because she was occupied with the patrons of Flannagan's Ale House but because she’d been subdued by a quartet of hatted drones.  How attempts to warn police were futile, since the gimmicked hats were distributed all along the parade route and there was no way to determine who or how many might “go off” at a particular time.  How Batman himself had to fight his way through a pack of powerfully strong drones at the OCB and another at the Empire Bank before he was able to trace the signal controlling them to the Grand Marshall’s float, and from there, track his controller in Mad Hatter’s own location...

Jervis had never mentioned that he ran his magnificent operation from a Porta-Potty behind the sponsor’s tent, and Selina was still giggling at that revelation. 

Sitting on her gargoyle now, watching Batman on that far rooftop talking with Commissioner Muskelli, she felt a little… out of sync.  He seemed like the Batman who first started dropping by her apartment after patrol.  Before Xanadu, before “My name is Bruce.”  At least he did until he finished with Muskelli.  The way he fired a line parallel to her gargoyle, expecting her to swing into place beside him as he passed her roof, it restored the easy familiarity of the present.  

“Anything big?” she asked when he was close enough to hear.

“Possibly,” he graveled.

Selina would have to admit, there was an excitement in that period, a thrill of discovery she never got to savor.  They had so many years of desire and denial behind them, when the dam started to burst, there was no time to dwell on the details.  She wouldn’t trade the comfortable partnership they had now for anything—but she couldn’t deny the tingle she felt from these stories of his behind the trophies.

“They lost a CI last night,” Batman reported, unaware of her thoughts and focusing on the case Muskelli just brought to his attention.  “Second in a year to die in… this particular way.  The first was attributed to Joker.  ‘Wrong place, wrong time,’ was the thinking, no connection to his being a confidential informant.  But now...”

“Two is more than coincidence,” Selina said, completing the thought.  “’Course Jack doesn’t care about anything as normal as silencing informants, so it must be someone trying to hide in his shadow?  That doesn’t make a lot of sense.  You kill a snitch to send a message to other would-be snitches, right?”

Batman shook his head.

“The killer wasn’t intentionally mimicking Joker.  It wasn’t a SmileX attack.  And Muskelli didn’t call me just to ask my opinion.  He knows I have samples of Bud and Lou’s DNA.”

“The hyenas?  I have a feeling I don’t want to see the crime scene photos on this one.”

“They’re very efficient killing machines.  Ate everything except the hair and bling, left enough spittle on the latter for a DNA match.  Let’s go back to the cave.”

What they found on reaching the cave was that they had a wait on their hands.  Batman’s samples of Bud and Lou’s fur were pristine.  The organic matter from the crime scene was anything but.  Batman predicted it would take the computer thirty-five minutes to isolate the genetic code from the hyena’s saliva from that of the victim’s blood, bile, sweat, and other contaminants.  While they waited, Selina went back to the Trophy Room.  Bruce assumed she was planning to do more work on the display cases, but he found her looking up at the dinosaur.

“Speak of the devil,” she said softly. 

Bruce hugged her from behind, saying nothing.  He knew what she meant.  If it wasn’t Joker, then ‘murder by hyena’ could only be the work of animal smugglers.

“Speak of the devil,” he repeated softly into her hair...

When he’d returned to the cave that morning after helping Cassie, Selina had Ivy’s orchid moved to a dark corner between a fake football trophy Scarecrow made to infiltrate the Hudson U athletics department and a straitjacket from the private hospital where Hugo Strange tried to imprison Bruce Wayne.  But it was clear the move wasn’t vindictive, since she was now moving the track lights to spotlight the orchid in its new location.  Catlike, she hadn’t bothered with a ladder when there was a perfectly good overhang already available.  She had swung up to the dinosaur’s head, secured her leg and lowered herself upside-down over the orchid case as she would in a museum to avoid sensors in the floor. 

When she saw him, she pointed up to the T-Rex and called out “I want to know where you got this guy!”

It wasn’t that cold as Batman approached the roof of One Police Plaza, not cold enough for the overcoat Jim Gordon wore, but it was blustery.  Batman arched his back to counter a final gust as he landed, and Gordon suggested they move inside to his office.  Batman could now see from the drape of the coat that Gordon was holding a file folder inside.  He agreed to move indoors.  Looking through papers on the roof was an obvious impossibility.

When they reached the office, Gordon tossed the folder onto his desk, but rather than referencing it, he pulled out his wallet and pointed to a photograph on the wall.  Four young officers in uniform, including a very young Jim Gordon, posing in front of a podium. 

“The one on the right is Matthew Foln.  Now Lieutenant Foln.  Heads the 28th Precinct.  We came through the academy together.  This is his son Robert.”  Gordon had removed another photo from his wallet and handed it to Batman.  It pictured Gordon and Foln, several years older but still young, dressed in flannel shirts in front of a small boat.  A boy of about ten stood with them.  Each man held up a small trout while the boy held out a large one cradled in both his hands. 

“Must be in his twenties now,” Batman said, handing back the picture non-committally.

“Twenty-five.  Was going to follow in his father’s footsteps, but Matt wanted him to go to college.  So I suggested he aim a bit higher, get a degree before applying to the Academy, then consider his options, maybe the FBI—which is exactly what he did.”

“What’s happened, Jim?”

“He’s gone missing, near a game reserve in Botswana,” Gordon said crisply.  “Matt asked me to find out what I could, which wasn’t much.  ‘Poaching,’ of course.  You know what a nasty business it is over there.  Poachers murder game wardens and vice versa.  But that’s local: their local law enforcement, nothing to do with our national security.”

“Until the animals are shipped,” Batman interrupted.  “Poachers have a network of customs officials and airport personnel already on the payroll.  You couldn’t pay them enough to transport military grade ricin, but if they think it’s just another shipment of tiger’s bones heading into China.”

Gordon nodded soberly.

“Or Gotham’s Chinatown, or San Francisco’s or Hawaii’s.  I suppose that would warrant the attention of an Agent Foln.”

Bruce broke off the story and glanced at Selina. 

“Tiger’s bones aren’t half of it,” she said bitterly.  “The live animals, the most beautiful cheetahs and leopards and lions, brought into Texas for caged hunts.  There better be a special hell for those bastards, because nothing we can do to them here is bad enough.”

She’d finished with the lighting and they were emptying out one of the long cases prior to moving it.  Riddler’s cane was in her hand, and she set it down, opting for the longer and more lethal weapon behind it: Ra’s al Ghul’s “Dragon Blade.”  She pointed the tip at a stalagmite, which Bruce guessed represented a poacher or hunter. Her eyes went cold and hard, and stepped through her limited but flawless repertoire of sword kata. 

Then she gave a pleased smile and delicately replaced the sword in the case.

“Go on,” she said sweetly. 

“Well, Gordon called me in on this case because a man named Chase was coming to Gotham,” Bruce resumed—or he tried to.  He got no farther than that when Selina’s eyes widened, her mouth dropped open slightly, and her breath froze mid-inhale.

“Not Stephen Chase?” she said, barely audible.

For so many years, Batman and Catwoman had spoken without words.  What they did say out loud seldom matched the message in their eyes or what they said and felt with their bodies.  Now the years fell away, and words gave way to that old rooftop telepathy. 

~That was you?~ Selina asked, while Bruce berated himself ~Of course, smuggling wildcats, I should have realized you’d know all about it.~

“What can I do?” Batman asked, as the wind continued to whistle outside the Commissioner’s window.

“Stephen Chase, one of the… ‘celebrity hunters’ in the region, is coming into Gotham next week,” Gordon said, finally handing over the file on his desk.  “You’ve probably heard about this Dinosaur Island that Murray Hart is building out past Laney Point in Bludhaven.”

Batman grunted.  Bruce Wayne had received a prospectus on the theme park in the earliest stages when Hart was still looking for investors.  He didn’t think much of the park’s economic potential, but he did note that the animatronics Hart was commissioning were a good three generations beyond anything Disney had come up with.  He estimated the park would fail in three to six years but those animatronic dinosaurs would raise the bar for all other theme parks in that time.

“Hart is an old school showman,” Gordon continued.  “He’s invited a group of big game hunters to a special dinner, as a publicity stunt prior to the park’s opening.  He’s allegedly feeding them steaks from a wooly mammoth discovered in a glacier last year.  Nonsense of course, but—”

“But Hart knows there is no story so stupid that some paper won’t run it,” Batman said.  Probably the Gotham Post, he thought, considering the sensational but preposterous nature of the idea. 

“And someone will always take it seriously if they see it in print,” Gordon continued.  “They’ll talk about it, their friends will tell them what idiots they are, and at the end of the whole thing, Hart’s event is on everybody’s lips.”

“And this Stephen Chase is coming to the dinner,” Batman said, trying to get the conversation back on track.  “What’s his connection to Foln?”

“I wish I knew,” Gordon said.  “If I had some proof, even a circumstantial tie, anything to justify detaining him while he’s here.  He’s delivering himself right into my backyard, damnit, and there isn’t a thing I can do.  I’m the one who talked Robby into the FBI.  I owe Matthew, owe them both more than ‘nothing I can do.’”

Batman appreciated Gordon’s feelings, but it wasn’t much of an answer, not from an experienced policeman.  He tried again.

“Tell me more about Chase,” he asked.  His own research would probably turn up more than Jim could tell him, but he wanted to draw him out:

“Most of these guys aren’t big game hunters anywhere but on book jackets,” said Gordon.  “Let’s face it, the Great White Hunter was a cliché twenty years ago.  They write books or lend their names to books that other people write, give lectures at the big resorts and make public appearances.  Stephen Chase is the ‘face’ of one of the smaller safari lodges over there.  They run all their expeditions in the Central Kalahari Reserve, where Robby was last seen.  There were reports of a stampede that day, started by a gunshot, but it was one of the guests on the driving tour that heard the shot.  That’s on par with a tourist in Gotham saying they saw Batman’s cape silhouetted as he was swinging past the moon.”

“Anything else?” Batman graveled.

“His income.  Chase’s seems higher than this simple lodge can possibly be paying him.”

“Unless they’re more than they seem as well.”

“Could be,” Gordon admitted.  “The place is aptly named Deception Valley.  And there’s a souvenir business, nothing large and none of the merchandise is patently illegal but it’s one of the few gift shops where the ‘native’ goods aren’t made in Taiwa—”

Gordon stopped when the whistling of the wind outside his window shifted to an abrupt, silent chill.  He turned, knowing the chair in front of his desk was now empty.

“I hate when he does that,” he remarked to the open window.

The next day, Bruce Wayne returned to the Empire Club.  It was his first visit since Poison Ivy got to him there, pulling him and other board members into a nightmare of secret control that nearly destroyed the Wayne Foundation.  It was understandable that he’d been reluctant to go back, even all those months after escaping her control.  But it was the only place he was likely to run into Murray Hart without deviating from Bruce Wayne’s typical routine.

It wasn’t difficult making the meeting seem accidental.  A glance at the seating chart told him Hart was having lunch with Clive Holbrook, who had a passion for racehorses.  Bruce waited near the coat check, bumped into Clive when he came in, and prattled on about the three-year old from Grenville Farms heading for the Derby this year.  Clive was completely absorbed correcting all Bruce’s misconceptions about the horse when Hart showed up for their lunch, so of course Bruce was invited to join them.

For once, Bruce learned quickly, and by the time the soup was served, the conversation could move on to Hart’s plans for Dinosaur Island—and particularly the dinner to kick off the promotional campaign. 

Bruce deftly planted the idea that hunters alone weren’t all that interesting—not to Gothamites.  The paper might run the story if nothing better was going on, but a bunch of safari guys from South America (South Africa, Hart corrected, but Bruce didn’t seem to hear him) could easily get upstaged if Batman and Robin took down that plant lady or something like that.  Now, if he could somehow get Batman involved, he’d have Page Six locked up for sure, maybe even get a secondary headline on the front page.

Hart thought for a minute, and as Bruce babbled on about Batman’s exploits, it occurred to him that Batman and Robin were hunters too, in a way.  They hunted criminals, which were more cunning than any animals… 

An invitation was dispatched through the GCPD, which Gordon naturally passed along to Batman, who naturally accepted.  Any sane Gothamite who wasn’t Murray Hart would have been astonished, but Hart simply viewed the double miracle as the kind of reward that comes to the man who thought to ask what no one else would dare.

The size and scope of the miracle began to sink in when the man walked into the dining room.  There he stood, Murray Hart, in his new and scrupulously tailored tuxedo, welcoming his guests: some in black-tie as he was, some in business suits, some in less formal jackets and ties—when in walked this figure from a Bosch painting.  The Batman who loomed on rooftops, silhouetted against the night sky, the Batman who swooped into alleys to decimate a nest of criminals before they even knew what had happened, that Batman had just walked into his dining room.  What looked like a hundred pounds of body armor, cape and mask shaped like a giant bat… was shaking his hand and wishing him a good evening, because he, Murray Hart had invited Batman to dinner.

And he came.  He spoke, he said “Good evening” like any other guest, he thanked Hart for inviting him like any other guest.  He accepted a drink, sat down at the table, and chatted like any other guest.  It was all quite surreal.

At the dinner, Batman took every opportunity to provoke Stephen Chase, making eye contact as he discussed the trafficking in exotic animals:

“The third largest criminal enterprise, second only to narcotics and guns.”

“But far less deadly,” Chase said with a light dinner party laugh he would use at the Lodge.

“Hardly,” Batman said with a feral glint in his eye that belied the light conversational tone.  “Estimates vary, but most put it at an eight to ten billion dollars business.  Eight to ten billion a year going into the coffers of organized crime.  I consider that very deadly.”

“Not to mention the number of animals who die in transit, many if not most endangered species to begin with,” another chimed in. 

The conversation took a more “environmental” turn, but as the others chattered on about extended droughts and shrinking rainforests, Batman’s eyes bored silently into Stephan Chase. 

“The fines and prison sentences aren’t nearly severe enough,” Batman graveled, barely audible and ignored by the others, but heard well enough by the man to whom it was directed.  “Unless of course it’s a RICO case, or there are… more serious felonies attached.”

Chase panicked, as expected.  He didn’t dare challenge Batman himself, but he didn’t have to.  Gordon was quite right about the divide between the dinner guests’ Great White Hunter image and the unvarnished reality of their daily lives.  The gap was exacerbated by the dinner.  Gather so much faux-machismo in a room filled with leather and tiger skins and well-oiled guns, feed it steak and ply it with 30-year scotch and you can pretty much lead it where you please.  Chase had no more difficulty manipulating his fellow diners than Batman had manipulating Chase.  He found a Mr. Breech the most suggestible: The romanticism of the lone hunter against the wilderness.  The elegance, style and grace of the old ways: Man against beast.  Both predators, both cunning, both worthy…  After a few deft turns of the conversation, it was Breech who issued the challenge:

“With all respect to our guests of honor, I don’t buy Mr. Hart’s rationale for inviting them.  A modern manhunt in the concrete jungle is one thing, but there is no comparing the ‘beasts’ of civilization with those of the natural world.  Those we hunt are far more dangerous, and would make short work of you.” 

Rather than respond himself, Batman allowed Robin to rise to the bait and the other guests to join in, taking sides.  Encouraged by their support, Breech went on:

“I propose a challenge: 36 hours on Dinosaur Island.  I will rig up a number of paint ball-style traps, and if you are able to survive in the ‘primeval wild’ of Mr. Hart’s park for 36 hours, I will donate $50,000 to the charity of your choice.”

There was no hint that Batman suspected Chase’s involvement, no sign that he welcomed the deathtrap as a chance to put Stephen Chase in a vice.  With two counts of attempted murder hanging over him and no choice but to turn over the rest of the African operation…

“Seriously?” Selina exclaimed.  “He seriously did not think you suspected.  He… he thought you were that dumb.”

Bruce raised an eyebrow, looked down at a microchip from Brainiac’s failed attempt to hijack the Batcave systems through the Watchtower uplink, and straightened the freeze ray next to it in the display case.

“But you’re Batman,” Selina said, stating the obvious under the circumstances, but Bruce pretended to adjust the batwing-shaped latch on the display case, simply to underline her point.

“Unbelievable,” she said, shaking her head.

“All Robin and I had to do was survive.  It was easy to determine where Breech would situate himself to stage manage his ‘traps,’ and I stationed Robin where he would see Chase coming.  The only concern was that Chase would actually try to kill Breech rather than simply incapacitate him to take over control of his traps.  If he had, Robin would have had to intervene.  We’d still have him on one count of attempted murder, but with Breech as the victim and Robin as the witness… I felt our chances were better to pressure him if he succeeded far enough into his plan to where he tried to kill me.”

“Yes, I’m sure,” Selina said—and Bruce started.  An undercurrent in her voice pulled him out of his own story, and he noticed a slight warming of her skin and a shift in her weight, which he confirmed with a glance at her nipples.  She was turned on.  

“It must have been wonderful,” she breathed.  “All that… Bat… I can just see you, boring into him, burning away whatever little pocket of vapor lock that monster mistakes for his soul.  I bet he still has nightmares about it.  The eyes, the voice…  Oh, Bruce.”

She threw her arms around his neck and hugged him tight. 

Bruce hugged back dully.  He would never understand how she could look on that darkest, angriest part of him and remain unaffected and unafraid, but now she was actually turned on by it?  Reveling in it?

He pulled her head back from the embrace and looked deeply into her eyes.  Unable to read what he saw there, he continued the story, hoping for a clue.

“Even with an army of robotic dinosaurs at his disposal, there was nothing Chase could come up with to pose a serious threat.”

“Of course not,” Selina smirked.  “Joker, Luthor, Ivy, Scarecrow have all taken their best shots and failed.  Stephen Chase?  Give me a break.”

“The worst it got was a sort of sea monster, held me in its jaws and pulled me underwater in this artificial lake in the center of the island.  Getting free was more like an underwater straitjacket escape than fighting an actual opponent when you can’t breathe.  Clayface has had me in far worse holds.  Once I got free, I drew Chase out into the open, positioning myself where he thought I was vulnerable, and sprung a trap of my own.  He came out ‘riding’ that T-Rex like a stallion.”

“That can’t possibly have been as silly as it sounds, because the picture I have in my head right now…”

“I don’t know about that,” Bruce said, “but strategically, it was as stupid as it sounds.  I had the trees, the ‘wings’ of these pterodactyl kites the park had positioned around the entrance, and a world-class acrobat.  I don’t think I ever saw Dick have more fun in costume than in the two minutes it took him to knock Chase off that dinosaur.  Once he fell, I finished him.”

Selina was rubbing her fingers slowly over his knuckles as he said the last.  “You did a lot more than that,” she said softly.

“Naturally nothing about the dinner or the challenge was ever released to the public,” Bruce said in a brusque ‘summing up’ tone.  “Chase made his deal with the authorities, and Batman was never mentioned.  We thought the best case scenario would be finding Agent Foln’s body and giving him a decent burial, assuming the desert left anything to bury, and sending the perpetrators to jail.  As it turned out, they found him alive.  Badly dehydrated, arm broken, legs broken, near death, lost his one leg up to the knee.  But he was alive, he still is, and Jim’s friend Matthew is now a grandfather.  All in all, a satisfying conclusion.”

“Except that wasn’t the conclusion,” Selina said, a tiny tear forming in the corner of her eye.  “I had just bought the land for the Catitat.  I’d been saving, and the Bjornbar Jade put me over the top.  I had a serval, pair of caracals, and a lynx.  That was it.  No big cats yet, but I had a contact at the World Wildlife Fund who had a lead on a jaguar.  The poor thing had been in a magician’s act.  Crammed into tight spaces, cage too small, abused, hated men… but he responded to women with long dark hair.  We figured one of the magician’s assistants who had been kind to him. 

“I hadn’t met him yet.  I went over to the fund office to pick up Sandra and go meet the jaguar.  I found her in tears.  They’d been tracking forged documents.  It’s not illegal to own exotic animals, just selling them for profit.  So fraudulent ‘donation’ documents is a business.  That’s what Sandra had been working on.  She’d followed the paper trail of these four tigers to a ranch in Missouri, and just learned they’d been slaughtered.  Sent on to someplace in Illinois to be ‘distributed.’  She was naturally very upset.”

Bruce could tell that she wasn’t the only one, but he said nothing.

“With tigers, people think it’s the hide,” Selina said, barely controlling the pain in her voice.  “But it’s not.  The gall bladders, skulls, teeth, there’s a market for… everything.  The poor things are worth more dead than alive, and… Well, I knew all that, but it’s one thing to know and another for a weepy, overworked bureaucrat to be telling you between sobs. 

“I guess I’m a soft touch,” Selina said, and Bruce couldn’t restrain the lip twitch.  She said it like it was a character flaw.  “I wanted to help.  It’s not like Fish & Wildlife has any kind of budget to go after these bastards.  Ninety agents watching the borders, I’m shaking.  And even if they had the manpower, putting a sting together is a lot more complicated than pulling a seized Ferrari out of impound to pose as a drug dealer.  I actually had a huge plot of land earmarked for a wildlife preserve and a lot of money to spend on cats.  I could pose as a buyer better than any undercover.  So I put out some feelers.”

“Which led you to Chase.”

“Eventually.  It led me to a Mr. Sanders and a Ms. Hardy and a Mr. Bruel… They were scum but nothing I couldn’t handle.  Bruel’s the one who got greedy, after I’d been outbid on a panther by some Texan.  I was feeling around for the name of the buyer—of course what I wanted was the location of the cage hunt, but Bruel figured I was just one of those rich people who can’t stand to lose.  He didn’t want me making a better offer on that particular panther when he wasn’t going to get a cut, so he suggested I write off that cat and use the extra money to make sure I never lost out again.  Cut out the middle men and go straight to the source.”

“Chase.”

“I don’t think I’d ever hated anyone so much in my life,” Selina said.  “He talked to me the way I’d talk to a collector.  That… was very hard to take.”  She looked up at Bruce with an expression he had never seen in a thousand vault-front confrontations, an expression that almost looked like guilt.  “There is no comparison between a diamond or a painting and a leopard,” she said emphatically.  “A diamond is nothing but compressed carbon that we’ve all agreed is valuable.  It’s not a living thing.  You’re not taking it away from its mother and there’s no chance of it dying in a loot sack.”

No, there’s no comparison,” Bruce agreed.

That minor concession (in Batman’s ominous rooftop gravel) was enough to calm her down and redirect her focus to the story.

“He faxed me satellite photos of the preserve like it was a catalogue. I could order three tigers, two cheetahs and a lion the way you’d order a Cobalt Blue Porsche from a specialist car ring… And it got worse when I checked the fax number. It was sort of a ‘craft market,’ and they had a website: ‘exotic local goods.’ Nothing that interesting, a lot of copper and straw—until you read the testimonials. There it was quite clear: ivory, tortoise shell, coral, indigenous hardwoods, animal skins. Nothing was too ‘specialized.’ Nothing was too rare, endangered or illegal. If you asked for it, they’d get it.”

“What did you do?”

“Nothing.  Sandra’s agency was useless.  They couldn’t do much with the leads I gave them on Hardy, Bruel or the cage hunts, and those were all within U.S borders.  So I kept Chase to myself.  I hadn’t come up with any kind of gameplan yet when Chase went silent.  The fax number disconnected and the whole operation shut down.  I never dreamed that you had anything to do with it, or even that Chase had been in Gotham.  But Sandra did contact me that a number of big cats were seized from a dismantled smuggling operation and stuck in legal limbo.  I took them in… and that was the starting population of the Catitat.”

“Oh,” Bruce said, inexplicably embarrassed by that last twist in the tale. 

“Yeah,” Selina nodded, her voice just above a whisper.

It was unusual for Oracle to summon Robin to the co-op in costume.  She used the comm if it was urgent, the rest of the time she’d call and offer to meet Tim on campus or ask him to drop by after class. 

Tonight’s job was time-sensitive, but it didn’t require a face-to-face meeting.  Batgirl had nailed a Maroni capo for the murder of Dr. Rita Desantis.  She’d tracked Tony Buffon to his hangout above the P-Lounge on West 55th  and made short work of him and his crew—but the location meant the Major Crimes Unit for the West Side would be taking the perps into custody and writing up the case.  They were used to the evidence packs left by Batman, Robin, Huntress, and occasionally Nightwing, but this would be their first packet from Batgirl.  Cassie’s communication skills being what they were, Oracle wanted Robin to go to the P Lounge and keep an eye on things:  ..:: Watch, eavesdrop, and if you see any signs of confusion, get in there and clear it up before anything gets written down.  I monitor these things, but by the time I pick it up, it’s in the system, part of the official record and a defense attorney can use it.::..

All clear enough, just another episode in a night of Gotham crimefighting, until:

..:: Then come by when you’re done.::..

Tim liked Barbara (although he was still a little bitter that she made it so difficult for him to download those Roxy-Ivy catfight vids), but going to see her in person seemed like a waste of time.  He could report back over the OraCom.  As it turned out, the cops finished with Buffon and his men quickly and he had time to finish patrol and still make it back to the dorm in time to get five hours sleep before class.  But Barbara was insistent:  she didn’t want to hear his report over the comm, she wanted to see him in person.

What could he do?  He knocked on the window as requested, because a “request” from the All-Seeing Oracle wasn’t something you refused unless you were bleeding.  He gave his report: it seemed like Cassie did a really good job, considering the complexities of the case.  The only ambiguity concerned the pharmacy Buffon “controlled.”  He didn’t own it or have any hold over the owners.  It was run by an older couple drifting towards retirement, and their son-in-law worked one day a week in the dispensary.  He’s the one Buffon owned, through a combination of payoffs and intimidation.  Cassie’s evidence pack didn’t cover any of that, but it was easy for the cops to piece together from the pharmaceutical logs and inventories.

Barbara made a note, and Tim waited while she typed away on her keyboard.  He knew whatever he was there for, it had nothing to do with the mob hit on Dr. Rita Desantis.  Now that Babs stopped typing and wheeled her chair around to look him in the eye, he hoped he was going to find out what was going on.

To be continued…
 


 

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