Catwoman. Upside down. KWAK!
It wasn’t the first time Oswald Cobblepot was put in this position: trying to stare down an interrogator with all the offended hauteur the situation demanded after a ropeline had coiled around his ankles and hoisted him into the air like a prize turkey—KWAK! It was the first time he found himself staring, not at an upside-down bat emblem situated above a bat scowl, but at a very differently-shaped chest. There was no comparing the diagonal strap of a black loot sack against the purple curves of a catsuit with that annoying winged bat against that obnoxious yellow circle. The scowl below was strikingly similar, however.
“What did you idiots do?!”
The style of interrogation was quite different.
“So help me, Oswald, if I don’t get some answers fast, I’m taking the thirty grand you still owe from the Rosenthal Rubies out of your prized collection of antique parasols. I’ll set up Vault again and steal Sly right out from under your oversized nose. You know what that means: the club that has Sly for its bartender is the hub of the underworld, and my very first item of business once I’m holding court again as queen will be to tell Roxy what you told Eddie and Harv after that Christmas party—and I think you know how she’ll retaliate...”
A few blocks to the south and several stories down, the smoking ruin of the Roff SoHo smoldered. Fire engines, ambulance, SWAT and animal control competed with news vans and bullet-proof limousines for the few precious feet of curb space that wasn’t occupied by evacuation chutes, jumper nets, and an unmarked FBI surveillance vehicle that had been overturned and set on fire.
A few blocks south of that and several stories up, Scarecrow hung by his ankles in much the same position as Oswald Cobblepot. It was batline instead of cat-whip that coiled around his ankles, and he was staring into the familiar bat emblem.
Roff SoHo, Downtown Gotham’s
finest wedding venue.
It was not unusual for a best man to reserve the hotel limousine for the night before the wedding, to have it waiting to pick up the groom and groomsmen immediately after the rehearsal dinner, and for him to have Andre the concierge call ahead to XTC-3 to ensure a prime table and special attention from the girls. Anthony Marcuso’s party was only unique in that they had their own limo and driver. That meant the hotel staff would have no warning when the party was returning, so Andre asked the XTC doorman to call when Marcuso’s party left.
They were a well behaved group when they returned: which meant they brought no strippers back to the hotel and refrained from singing in the lobby or vomiting in the elevators. There was the usual flutter of phone calls once they got to their rooms. The kitchen dully sorted out the legitimate order for a late night cheeseburger from the drunken ones for deep fried Mars bars, fried chicken with waffles, and observations on how the term ‘room service’ might be misinterpreted. All drunks returning from XTC seemed to make that jump, and all found it hilarious. Marcuso’s groomsmen were a bit more graphic about the specific X-rated services they’d like to order off the room services menu, but on the whole, they were a typical bachelor party and the Roff staff geared up to treat them as such in the morning.
At 5 A.M. a maid came through to collect the shoes to be shined and breakfast order cards from the doorknobs—all of which should have been left out by ten the night before, but which grooms and groomsmen never remembered. A few minutes later, a bellhop came through dropping a Gotham Times outside each door. A few minutes after that, Oswald came through, replacing each Times with its staid headline about rebels in Tripoli with a Gotham Post displaying a particularly graphic cover of Batman kissing Catwoman. It wasn’t part of the original wreck-the-wedding plans, but Oswald had seen the cover when he passed the newsstand. He couldn’t believe his luck and bought the whole stack. For Bruce Wayne to start the day seeing his bride—or the Post’s goggled facsimile at any rate—massaging Batman's tonsils with her tongue—KWAK! One didn’t let a gift like that pass unused.
At 6 o’clock, the maid returned with the shoes. She left each pair outside the appropriate door, noticed the picture of the very hot Batman/Catwoman kiss on the cover of the Post, and curious to read the story behind it, she took the paper from outside the last room. A few minutes after that, Harley Quinn came through and replaced each Post with a Wall Street Journal. Then she saw the empty space outside the last door—SHIT! Did that mean the occupant was already up and had already collected his paper. She hoped it wasn’t Bruce Wayne’s room—that would be terrible! Seeing that big old awful Batman with those big old awful bat-gloves wrapped around Catty that way, with his big old awful bat lips on her and everything! So she picked up all the shoes, and knocked on the door. “Housekeeping! Got your shoes!” she called out.
There was no answer, so she had to put all the shoes down to go find a maid and steal a master key. She left them in a heap outside the last door, and as soon as she disappeared down the hall, the service elevator dinged and Andre the concierge came through with a cart of floral deliveries. There was a large arrangement for the bride and the mothers, medium-sized ones for the bridesmaids, and a small box containing a simple boutonniere for each of the groomsmen. Andre saw the deplorable heap of shoes, but he had no time to deal with it just then. The delivery of the bridal arrangement is what set the tone for her day, and the mothers had a big impact on everyone’s tips. He had to get to the bridal floors before room service brought their breakfasts, so he made a note to have someone come down later and sort out the shoes. He returned to the service elevator but had to wait. It had been called back down to the ground floor. While he waited, Harley returned and her eyes bulged as she saw someone in the hallway. His back was to her, but still... She tiptoed in her best animated rabbit tip-toe up to the pile of shoes, took the first two she could lay her hands on, used the master key and snuck inside the room with the missing newspaper.
Andre had an odd feeling, like a chill creeping up his neck, and he turned to look behind him, half-expecting to see the ghost of Father Gotham… but the hallway was empty. He took a few steps towards the center and the pile of shoes—but then the service elevator dinged and the doors opened, revealing a waiter with two room-service carts and a bellman with a rack of garment bags. Both rolled their respective deliveries into the hall, allowing Andre to get on with his flower cart.
As he did, Andre noticed that both room service breakfasts consisted of only a single glass: a SoHi, the Roff SoHo’s answer to The Prairie Oyster, hangover remedy of choice for gentlemen who have been out drinking until four when they need to be standing in the Eternity Chapel at eleven. He also noticed that he didn’t recognize the bellman. That could have been because the guy was new, but was in fact because he was Special Agent Pike of the Multi-Jurisdictional Task Force on Organized Crime.
The waiter left one of the breakfast trays outside each of the Falcone Twins’ rooms, while Agent Pike, worried at having already been seen by two different hotel employees, simply left the rack of garment bags between Anthony Marcuso’s room and Jimmy Carbone’s. He saw the pile of shoes in the center of the hallway and decided to put a pair into each of the garment bags to make the whole thing look more legitimate.
The door at the end of the hall opened silently, and Harley peered out. She couldn’t guess what the bellman was doing with the shoes, but since he was wearing a hat, she guessed it was Jervis’s doing. There was a loud snore behind her, and she closed the door again before it could be heard.
Agent Pike had almost finished with the shoes when he felt a chill up the back of his neck, a feeling of dread that any experienced agent should be above. He turned around slowly, but the hall behind him was absolutely empty. Then the guest elevator dinged and, just to be safe, he dove under one of the room service carts to hide himself.
Once again the door creaked open and Harley Quinn peered out. This time she saw Jonathan Crane standing over a lone pair of shoes situated in the middle of the hallway carpet. He looked down on them, puzzled. Then up at the ceiling, as if wondering whether someone could have been pulled bodily into heaven, leaving only his shoes behind. Finally Crane shrugged and—that creepy creepo creep!—he put something into each of the drinks on the room service carts!
Another loud nasal rumble behind her forced Harley to close the door again. She turned back to the room’s occupant, still snoring in his bed. At least it wasn’t Bruce Wayne. She didn’t see any sign of a Gotham Post in the room, but since she had the extra Wall Street Journal, she made it into a tent and laid it gingerly over his face. It didn’t diminish the sound of that jet turbine snoring, but at least it cut the cloud of bourbon fumes that came forth on every exhale. Now she just had to wait until the hallway was quiet…
Outside, another ping of the guest elevator sent Crane scurrying under the second room service cart. Tony Russo had been dispatched to check the boutonnieres and make sure the FBI hadn’t planted any cameras or microphones inside them. He was checking the third box when he heard one of the doors opening. He searched frantically for a place to hide—saw a pair of SHOES in the middle of the fucking hall, that must be some fucked FBI thing—and in his panic, threw one shoe under each of the room service carts (in his hysteria, he actually thought he heard them yelp) then stepped into the center of the garment bags to hide himself, closed them around him like curtains and hoped whoever came by didn’t notice the legs extending underneath.
The door opened. Tony Russo, who knew it was Anthony Marcuso’s room, saw a blonde floozy coming out. Jonathan Crane, who thought it was Bruce Wayne’s room, saw Harley Quinn coming out. Agent Pike, the only one who knew it was Marcuso’s room and that it was the Joker’s girlfriend coming out before dawn on his wedding day, was simultaneously searching Gotham Theme Criminal-Organized Crime connections in the FBI database and wondering why someone had thrown a shoe into his hiding place.
Meanwhile, on the bridesmaids’ floor, Jervis Tetch had snuck through and swapped the lids of white hat boxes with the word “Louise Couture Millinery” in gold lettering with those of gold boxes with the lettering in white. A few minutes later, Ivy came through and switched them back. A few minutes after that, Drita came by and, sensing that something was off, she opened two of the boxes and looked inside. She’d been taught to always trust those instincts and assume ‘off’ meant the FBI, so she took out both hats, shook them, felt around the netting, felt through all the tissue paper, and just to be contrary, put them back in the opposite boxes. A few minutes later, Ivy returned and put the hats back into their original boxes. A few minutes after that, Jervis came back and once again switched the lids. A few minutes after that, the FBI really did come in and swapped two of the boxes. Ivy returned and changed them back. Then she stopped, doubting herself, and changed them again.
She paused, finger poised in the air, shifting back and forth trying to reconstruct the last few changes (and looking like she was trying to solve a math problem on an invisible blackboard) when Harley appeared with two eggs, a bottle of Worchester sauce and two miniature cans of V8 tucked under her arm.
“Red, quick, how do you make a prairie oyster?”
Ivy had no damn idea and said so—But she knew there was no tomato juice, so she told Harley to lose the V8—Just eggs and Worchester, she thought—and there might be hot sauce involved—Or maybe cayenne pepper—You know what, call Sly.
For Harvey, the day began with a knock at the door and the curious experience seeing his own face(s) staring back at him from the other side of the peep hole.
“Hagen,” he said, greeting his visitor. “Maybe not the best way to announce yourself,” he grumbled as Matt Hagen glorped into his usual clay form once he was inside the door.
“I’ve found it’s most effective for calling on fellow rogues,” he said. “They know it’s me. And people are reluctant to shoot at themselves.”
The news wasn’t good: Hagen had been amusing himself trying new noses at the Iceberg, using character actor Ian McNeice as the base. Norm Pace, the Channel 6 sportscaster was giving the scores on the TV over the bar, and apparently, a younger thinner Ian McNeice wearing Norm Pace’s shnoz is the spitting image of Victor Friez’s old henchman Frost. Two of Scarecrow’s boys came up to him and gave him the details on a big operation going down in SoHo…
This is where the coin came out, because Two-Face didn’t have a lot of patience with long drawn-out stories that didn’t involve strippers or killing Batman. The coin came up scarred, the revolver came out, and Matt Hagen morphed his chest into a big bull’s-eye and invited Two-Face to fire away. Two-Face swore, put his gun away, and Hagen continued:
Scarecrow, Hatter, Freeze and Penguin were all mobilizing to stop Selina’s wedding. Oswald had come to Matt a while back, hinting about something, but Matt hadn’t paid much attention. Oswald was always trying to get Clayface’s shapeshifting abilities on his payroll, and since Hagen had no use for money, Oswald was always trying some new appeal. But now it looked like this is what he was getting at: a bunch of the Rogues didn’t want Selina becoming Mrs. Bruce Wayne and they were going all out to stop it. Matt tried calling C.W. directly, but she wasn’t answering her phone.
..:: You’ve reached Selina Kyle. She’s a little busy right now doing things that good little girls don’t talk about, but if you ask nicely, she’ll think about getting back to you. Leave some catnip after the meow.::..
Eddie hung up. Fourteen texts. No responses. Now she didn’t answer her phone. Enough.
He walked to the newsstand, picked up a Times and returned to his lair. He stopped in the kitchen, picked up a pen and a beer, settled into his favorite chair and… froze. On the way to the crossword, he’d glimpsed it. It was just a flash as he turned the page, but somehow he knew—he KNEW—it was her. He knew she’d be with Wayne, he knew she’d be smiling up at him with that damnable party smile of hers, and he knew—he KNEW—she’d be engaged in some act of hypocrisy that would make him want to KILL any other woman in the world—but which she’d pfft away as ‘felinity: take it or leave it’ and what could he do?
He’d frozen, paper in hand, his head turned away and his eyes closed, his neck stretched far to the side as if keeping the paper as far from his peripheral vision as he could get. Now he let his far hand scrunch into a fist as he opened his eyes. He heard the crinkle but he ignored it for a full second, and then, slowly and deliberately, he turned back to the paper and turned back the page… The flash he glimpsed was a picture alright. And the word Wayne. The Society page… Hermoine’s Society Chit-Chat covering some shindig at Gotham Stadium. “GCN AT THE WAYNE SKYBOX RECEPTION” the headline read above the picture. And below “COURTING MEDIA BEFORE ROGUES-METRO GAME.”
And there she was, smiling up at him in the picture. That damnable party smile. Wearing a Gotham Rogues ballcap—not the real Rogues, of course, but the football team. The blasted Gotham Rogues FOOTBALL TEAM! And a WayneTech polo shirt. Eddie squinted at the picture, trying to see it as a riddle: Selina, the Catwoman, sporting the emblem of roguery and at the same time wearing the name and logo of the man who fought them. There was a time, he was sure, he could look at this picture and think she’d staged a puzzle just to amuse him, or maybe as a present, or possibly as a prank. But he would see the riddle in it rather than the gut-wrenching hypocrisy. But then icy intellect intruded, taking the pieces of a jigsaw he’d turned and twisted to resemble a certain picture and coolly pointing out that they wouldn’t fit together that way: There was a time he would have thought that of Selina, but that was long before he knew Wayne was Batman. He wouldn’t have seen anything in this picture back then because, to his uniformed eyes, there would be no contradiction—and therefore no riddle—to see.
“Enough,” he said, throwing down the paper and getting up for another beer. He would call one more time to warn her, just one more time, but if she didn’t pick up this time (and if the first words out of her mouth were not an apology) then that was enough. He’d done as much as a man could, and if…
There was a knock at the door, and Eddie had the bizarre experience of seeing himself on the other side of the peep hole, standing next to Two-Face.
Roff SoHo, Downtown Gotham’s
finest wedding venue.
Eddie, Harvey and Matt had argued the whole drive into SoHo. Eddie insisted it was all a big mistake, Selina was not getting married! Matt insisted she was. They were all at the Iceberg the night the news broke. Then Oswald had come to his lair hinting about it. And now he had news of this plot, straight from the henchmen: no fewer than four rogues united against it. Penguin, Scarecrow, Hatter and Freeze. Were they ALL wrong? Eddie said yes, of course they were, it’s not like it was that unprecedented! Oswald was wrong when he thought Batman would never catch his false trail on the Malay Penguin, Crane was wrong when he thought nobody knew about him and Raven, Jervis—
“Is never wrong about these things,” Harvey pointed out.
“Which he makes up for being wrong about everything else!” Eddie wailed.
“He’s right, Jervis is never wrong about gossip,” Matt noted.
“He thought he could kill Batman and Robin with a giant cat head shooting lasers out of its eyes!”
“That’s not gossip,” Matt insisted, pulling into the valet.
But Harvey had started to doubt. He had no doubts Bruce and Selina were getting married, he’d seen her GeoSeek full of wedding vendors with his own eyes. But he was starting to suspect…
“Nigma’s right,” he declared finally. “It’s a mistake. They’re engaged alright, but the wedding can’t be happening today. Selina would have invited us. Bruce would have too. Well, not you two. Selina would have invited all three of us, and Bruce just us.”
“Selina is not getting married,” Eddie chanted. “Not getting married, not getting married, not getting married. Enraged Timing Tort, Grenade Toting Trim, Angered Grin Tom…tit…”
He trailed off as his eyes narrowed on a splash of purple where no splash of purple should be.
“If she’s not getting married here today, what’s the Catmobile doing here,” Matt said, pointing to the unmistakable car as the valet drove it through the entrance of the reserved parking garage.
“It’s not him.” The old rooftop gravel. All business, all Bat. “Not him.” That should have been the end of it. The gnawing in my gut that began with the Batwing taking off for Texas should have ended with those words. But Bruce was there with him, in the same room, had shaken him down like any other thug…
The Pelacci-Marcuso wedding.
There was just no time to think about it. Batman—Bruce—my Bruce was there with that Bane, the hemorrhoid in a hood, but there was no time to come to terms with any of it because DefCon-1 had ground surveillance of this mob wedding to a halt, diverted his attention elsewhere. And we were still at DefCon-1 until he’d confirmed there was no identity exposure, so contact with anyone was verboten. Batman was still in Texas… that meant there was only me, driving like mad to the Pelacci-Marcuso wedding at the SoHo.
To do what, I didn’t know, but I gunned it anyway, down the FDR, across the 10th Avenue Bridge, and all the way into the reception circle outside the Roff SoHo. I even threw caution to the wind and entrusted that million-dollar, limited edition Lamborghini to a valet who looked younger than Tim, and I raced inside.
To do what, I didn’t know… I just didn’t know.
The Ivory Dressing Salon, Roff
Susannah was proud of herself. Every wedding has its little disaster, and what separates a lady from a bridezilla is the way she handles it. She had carried off her disaster without ever losing her cool. The bridesmaids had all checked in, found their dresses delivered to their rooms, gone shopping in the arcade in the Roff lobby, gone to the spa, and then changed for the rehearsal dinner. It wasn’t a dress rehearsal, and they had a wild bachelorette party after. There was a certain hangover factor in the morning, so none of them had unzipped their garment bags until an hour before the ceremony was set to begin. None of the mini top hats had made it to the bridesmaids. Instead there were these insipid satin headbands that made her bridesmaids look like astronaut’s wives from The Right Stuff. Did Susannah throw a fit? No, she very calmly told Daddy who told Uncle Tony who sent some men over to Louise to get them.
Russo’s men Pollati and Biscotti were known as “Chicken and Biscuits” to their associates, to the Keystone DA and certain divisions in the FBI. The latter was all they were worried about today. They knew to expect a tail as they left the hotel, and they were alert for the kinds of tells they were used to. They failed to noticed the hoarse whispers coming from behind a trellis of greenery as they passed…
“Red, I don’t like this idea,” Harley hissed, pulling a bridesmaid’s dress on over her street clothes and then removing her blouse, bra and skirt underneath. “Catty’s gonna recognize me, and the other bridesmaids are gonna know I’m not one of them.”
“Relax,” Ivy said, ordering the living flowers on the sash to speed-grow their stems and weave themselves into a corset. “As long as you’re wearing salmon-colored satin, you can go in where we need you to be. Just don’t get too close to anybody, don’t talk to anybody, and if you see Selina, run.”
One minute. She’d turned her back for one minute to help Harley make a prairie oyster, and then to prevent her from tossing the doctored fear-toxined drink she was replacing into the soil of a defenseless houseplant that just happened to be sitting in the hallway. By the time she got back, some officious hotel staff had spirited away all the bridesmaids’ dresses, shoes and hat boxes to this bridal barricade of a dressing room.
“Catty’s got some fat friends,” Harley complained, looking down at the superfluous fabric. “This thing is huge.”
“It’s probably for another wedding,” Ivy noted. “This place can host five or six in a day. It’s practically a wedding factory.” Harley gave a dreamy sigh at that wonderful thought, and Ivy gave the corset a hard yank to snap her out of it. “Just get in there and make sure all our hard work isn’t wasted. We’ve kept the blossoms safe this long, I’m not going to have those men opening a window and freezing them in the last seconds before they bloom.”
“Yeah, okay,” Harley nodded. Catty did deserve not to have anything else go wrong on her special day. It was such a shame the Post running that picture…
Selina Kyle stood near the concierge desk in the lobby, looking down at a Gotham Post she held in her hand. She wore a tailored white suit that privileged brides of an earlier generation might have worn to leave on their honeymoon. It positively screamed Liz Taylor and Nicky Hilton, Rita Hayworth and Orson Welles, Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier. And if the skirt was a little short to compliment the virginal modesty implied by the cut and color, it more than made up for it showing off her shapely legs. Her breasts were larger than they would appear if viewed objectively in the mirror instead of through Matt Hagen’s eyes, but if his memory had prevented him from reproducing Selina’s figure with pinpoint accuracy, the scowl with which she regarded the Post cover would have fooled Selina herself.
“Goggles again,” she murmured. “Again-still-always with the goggles.” As soon as Harvey joined her, she showed him the picture and continued, “They know it’s a terrible costume design, that’s why they get them off my face at the first opportunity—but they just won’t admit it’s a blunder and fix it. Look at this, the silly things have rolled around the back and are hanging off the back of my neck—it looks like a bra, doesn’t it?”
Harvey looked at the picture and then at her.
“That’s not an observation a woman makes,” he noted blandly.
Selina’s scowl of disapproval sank into the frown of a disappointed actor receiving an unwelcome note.
“But the rest was good, right?” she asked hopefully.
“Tits are too big,” Eddie said, joining them.
Selina-Matt looked down at the Post cover. “Looks pretty good to me,” s/he remarked.
“Not there, THERE!” Eddie said, slapping away the paper and then waving half-heartedly at her chest.
The icy cat expression changed again, this time to an outraged diva.
“I cannot work under these conditions,” she said haughtily, and with that, she stormed off.
“And there goes Bridezilla,” Jonathan Crane murmured as he watched from across the lobby. P.O.’d at the Post, no surprise there. Nigma and Dent, her little pets, rallying around for support. One of them was probably giving her away. That meant taking them out of the picture would delay the ceremony.
He rubbed his hands together, wondering how to go about it. Fear was always preferable, but hatting would be more predictable. Hatting was also harder to explain later. Anyone might drink from a bowl of wedding punch, there was no reason for Nigma or Dent to think it was a personal attack. But no one of their intelligence would believe Jervis could drop a hat on their head without noticing whose face was underneath it.
By sheer chance, at that moment, Jonathan Crane saw an ice sculpture being wheeled into the ballroom. That was it! A blast of ice freezing a door shut, no way of knowing who happened to be on the other side. Yes, that was it. Ice was the way to go.
-slakftw- -slakftw- -slakftw- Hard. Crisp. Rhythmic. -slakftw- The meaty squelch of fist on concrete. -slakftw- The fleshy crunch of his knuckles on a wet concrete sack. -slakftw- The first punching bag Bane ever knew. -slakftw-
Slow. Hard. Crisp. -slakftw- A mantra that blocked out the pain -slakftw- blocked out the fire -slakftw- the fire in his knuckles -slakftw- not the fire that burned in his gut. -slakftw- The Batman -slakftw- The Batman. -slakftw- Questioning him like a nobody. -slakftw- Interrogating him like a thug. -slakftw- He was the man who broke Batman. -slakftw- He was the man who BROKE Batman. -slakftw- Did anyone give him his due? -slakftw- Did any of them give him his tribute? -slakftw- Those ‘rogues.’ -slakftw- -slakftw- -slakftw- Was this what he was reduced to? Pity look-ins from Batman?
He said no one couldn’t take it away. -slakftw- His achievement. -slakftw- His victory. -slakftw- But they had. -slakftw- They did. -slakftw- He was nothing. -slakftw- He was nobody. -slakftw- Less than feared. -slakftw- Less than hated. -slakftw- Less than ridiculed. -slakftw- Forgotten. -slakftw- Forgotten. -slakftw- -slakftw- -slakftw-
Those rogues and their wounded pride. -slakftw-
He broke the Batman. -slakftw- He owned the city. -slakftw- He owned them all. -slakftw- And they treated him like garbage. -slakftw- Treated him like dirt. -slakftw- He broke the Batman. -slakftw- And they treated him like a puppy that pissed on the carpet. -slakftw- He broke the Batman. -slakftw-
He broke the Batman. -slakftw-
He broke the Batman.
The Hudson Ballroom at Roff
SoHo, Downtown Gotham’s finest wedding venue.
“Harvey, listen to me,” Eddie pleaded. “Selina is not getting married here today.”
“That’s what I thought too,” Harvey said as he led Eddie into the alcove beside the ballroom. “Until I peeked in here and saw this hysterical waiter heading out the other door. At first I thought it was because he saw me, because of the…” he gestured to his scars. “But then I see this.”
On the far table in a place of honor stood a magnificent 4-tiered wedding cake with two batarangs wedged into the icing.
Eddie closed his eyes and shook his head. Harvey left as soon as the kitchen staff came in, but Eddie continued to stand there as the experts diagnosed the damage. He stood, shaking his head mutely as they determined that the ‘rangs could be carefully removed, leaving only a small slice in the icing, and that could be turned to the wall where no one would notice.
The bride, they all agreed, should not be informed.
Harley ran like mad down the corridor between the Ivory Salon and the Eternity Courtyard, her one hand holding up as much of her skirt as she could, the other holding a stolen veil several inches above her head in order to conceal her face without risking mind-control contact with her scalp. All she had done was answer the door. The bridesmaids had all gone in to help Selina, so Harley was free to enjoy the beautiful dressing room. All the pearls and lace and white satin pillows, it wasn’t’ as nice as her carnival wedding idea, but it really was very pretty. There was a knock at the door, and since the bridesmaids were too far away to hear it—and very busy anyway helping Catty—Harley answered it herself.
“A terrible mix-up with the hats,” Jervis began before noticing who he was talking to. “But it’s all straightened out now-HARLEY?!” And then—and then—he got this almost euphoric look on his face, and he grinned wider than anything Harley had ever seen (Even on PUDDIN’!) and he said “Oh of course, you’d be one of her bridesmaids!” Then, before she knew what was happening, there was this little black top hat coming right at her head! So Harley pushed it back towards Jervis’s face as hard as she could, punching him straight in the nose—through the hat. He started yelling ‘NOSEBLEED-BOSEBLEED” because he was a bleeder, and… and… the bridesmaids and Catty were all coming out to see what the commotion was about… Harley grabbed the veil and ran!
She rounded a corner and— “Oh excuse me.” —Screamed. She’d run right into Eddie! Of course, Catty would never get married without inviting Eddie.
“Could I trouble you for a bapkib?” she heard Jervis asking someone around the corner.
And if Jervis saw Eddie, he’d realize a hatted Edward Nigma could walk right up to Bruce and Selina and do anything he wanted.
“Harley?!” Eddie blinked, “What the—”
“COME ON!” Harley screamed, grabbing Eddie’s wrist and dragging him along after her.
Harvey Dent stood frozen in front of the sign outside the Hudson Ballroom. Pelacci-Marcuso. He thought he’d seen Chicken and Biscuits walking through the lobby earlier, but it seemed impossible. But now—Pelacci-Marcuso, as in Falcone’s godson Marcuso? Could it be? Chicken and Biscuits definitely meant it was that Pelacci. What were the odds a mob family like that would be in Gotham marrying a different Marcuso?
Before he could even think, the coin was in his hand.
Pelaccis. Macusos. Falcones.
“Hey, Harv,” he heard a familiar voice purr a split second before he felt the tap on his shoulder.
Harvey turned and looked at Selina. Then his eyes flickered down to her chest.
“Better,” he said.
“Excuse me?” Selina said, her eyebrow shooting up.
“Shit, it’s you!” he jumped.
“Yes, it is,” she said gamely. “How about we take a little walk outside, Harvey. You can tell me why you’ve got that coin in your hand.”
He took a long, longing look into the ballroom, his finger caressing the coin between his fingers as the left side of his mouth curled slowly in a wicked, wistful half-smile. “I think you know why,” he said finally.
“Let’s take a walk outside,” Selina repeated. “Breath of fresh air will do us good.”
He looked down at her—the woman he thought of as a kid sister—and slid the coin back into his pocket.
“A short walk,” he said finally. “Half way around the block.”
“Twice around the block,” she countered—and Harvey laughed.
Enough. Eddie tried fourteen times to explain to Harley that they were trying to ‘save’ a wedding that was not happening. Selina was not getting married, Targeted Mining Rot. Tormenting Tiger Ad. Danger Remit Toting.
At that very moment, who does Harley see—SELINA!
“Don’t be silly, Eddie, she’s right down there. See! Right beside Harvey, checking out the banquet room.”
Eddie massaged his brow, and Harley started blithering that Selina should be dressed already, and what if Brucie saw her. She ran off in a panic, and then—and then—the Selina that Eddie assumed was Matt Hagen was suddenly hugging Harvey.
Matt and Harvey would not hug.
That was really Selina.
That. Was. Really. Cold. It was awfully cold in here all of a sudden.
Eddie looked around, a part of his brain continuing to rail: Enough was enough. He’d been a friend. He tried to warn her. She didn’t take his calls. She didn’t answer his texts. She didn’t return his messages. Now she was down there hugging Harvey. He didn’t need this. He did not… seem able to leave. He meant to, he moved his foot planning to storm out of the hotel, but it seemed like something was wrong at his back and… GODDAMNIT! His back belt loops were frozen onto a giant wedding bells ice sculpture!
Agents Pike, Folten, and Russel sat in their unmarked car across from the SoHo.
The Multi-jurisdictional Inter-agency Organized Crime Task Force Standard Operating Procedure for Social Event Surveillance—or MUJU-IA-ORC SOP:SEV—was explicit. After the initial penetration for the purpose of placing such surveillance equipment as is specified in a warrant, agents were not authorized to enter, intervene or interact in any way unless they had unambiguous evidence of gunfire within the observation perimeter, explosions within the observation perimeter, reports of an officer down within the observation perimeter, or if an arrest warrant arrived for someone within the observation perimeter. Simply seeing a criminal enter the building was not cause to do anything. There were a hundred and fifty criminals in there already, that’s what they were there to observe. The fact that number one-hundred and fifty-one turned out to be Two-Face did not, according to the MUJU-IA-ORC SOP:SEV, mean anything.
When the total dropped back down to one-fifty because Edward Nigma, aka The Riddler ran out of the premises without pants, Agent Pike wanted to go inside and take a look. He was voted down while Nigma argued with the doorman—who he apparently wanted to wade into traffic for him and hail him a cab. Folten chuckled about that, and Russel even supplied some dialogue, when the argument was cut short when a cab pulled into the valet circle on its own to drop a fair.
“Crisis averted for Mr. Riddler,” Russel joked… until they saw the fare getting out of the cab before Edward Nigma got in.
“Is that who I think it is?” Fulton asked.
“Who else could it possibly be?” murmured Russel.
“Didn’t think Falcone had that kinda draw.”
“I’m going in,” Pike said definitely.
“Right behind you!”
In the short sprint across the street to the hotel door, Pike wondered if one should stay behind and call it in to their superiors even though they were breaching protocol. The thought broke off abruptly when the doorman failed to open the door for them. He was looking up, so they too looked up… to see a man in formal tailcoat crawling out a tenth floor window and shimmying along the ledge.
“Jesus, is that Marcuso?” Russel asked.
“From the monkey suit, I’d say it’s the bridegroom,” the doorman noted.
“Anthony Marcusso is the—” Russel started to say, while his partners ran inside, right into a cloud of floral and citrusy aromas. The odors were so strong, their eyes clamped shut until a stream of stingy tears eased them open again. Through the watery blur, an absolute goddess of leafy beauty stepped into focus.
“You boys look big and strong,” she said sweetly. “Come and help. One of the doors is frozen shut on the hinges and I think the groom is stuck in there.”
The F/X driven action flicks that made up the bulk of Matt Hagen’s career didn’t leave a lot of room for improvisation, so he enjoyed those rare occasions when he did get to improvise. Having seen there was no Kyle-Wayne wedding listed on the hotel events calendar, Matt realized immediately that Bruce and Selina must be using shield names to hide from the paparazzi. That’s what you had to do when you were Bruce Wayne-famous or Catwoman-famous. Matt understood that. It’s what he would have done if he’d wanted to get married in secret back in his Hollywood days. But he also understood that the hotel would be freezing out anyone who didn’t have the codeword or know the shield names—so he’d assumed the identity of the one person nobody would challenge: the bride!
But now he’d just seen Selina—overpowering some mafia hood holding a gun on Scarecrow from the look of it—and Matt decided it was too risky to continue his disguise as her. He improvised once again, switching to the one other person sure to have unfettered access to all rooms and events connected to the Wayne-Kyle wedding: Bruce Wayne himself.
The dress was perfect. Her hair was perfect. The veil was perfect. Susannah looked in the mirror and saw perfect—but there was no one else to tell her so. All her bridesmaids had left—Uncle Tony had finally called up from the lobby to say he got the hats, they all left the suite to pick them up and never came back. So her mother went down to look and then she never came back. Susannah’s foot began to tap in a hyper triple-time rhythm as she hummed ‘Here Comes the Bride’ in her head a few times, but then, at last, the knock came at the door. Susannah ran to answer it, thinking it must be her father come to escort her to the Eternity Courtyard, but it was Uncle Tony.
“FBI in the building, Sweetie. Your father can’t come up. But I’ll take you down in the elevator and he found a nice little room where you can have a private talk before he takes you down the aisle.”
Harley had made her way back to the Ivory Salon when she saw Selina was leaving! Red might have said something snarky about all the virginal white and that veil completely covering her face, but Harley thought she looked beautiful! She didn’t recognize the big burly man escorting Selina. He was certainly too big to be Eddie, but she couldn’t tell much more from the back. So she cut through a meeting room and circled back to get ahead of them on their way to the Eternity Courtyard, that way she could see them coming and get a good look from the front. But then—OH NO!—as she stepped into the hallway, she saw Bruce Wayne on his way down the hall.
HE WOULD SEE CATTY! ON THE DAY OF THE WEDDING! HE WOULD SEE THE DRESS! THIS COULDN’T HAPPEN-THIS COULDN’T HAPPEN-THIS COULDN’T HAPPEN!
“Banzai!” Harley cried, hurling herself forward to tackle Bruce at the waist.
“AAEEEH” Wayne cried.
“Cant’ see, can’t see!” Harley yelled, tearing into his lapels as if trying to yank his jacket up to cover his face.
“AHHH” Wayne said again—because the tux was part of Matt Hagen’s disguise, and the sensation of Harley’s fingers pulling at his clay wasn’t as appealing as it might sound to non-shapeshifters. He grabbed at her arm, and they struggled, as the bride and her burly escort walked on, failing to turn into the hallway as Harley expected. In their place Selina, Ivy and Scarecrow appeared, Selina in the center, her arms outstretched as wide as she could, holding each of the others by the scruff of the neck—apparently trying to maximize the distance between them as they talked over each other like cable news pundits.
“Harley?!” Matt-Bruce said, finally recognizing his wrestling buddy.
“See, I told you, they’re at it again!” said Scarecrow.
“Wayne!” said Ivy.
“Red!” said Harley.
“Selina!” said Bruce-Matt.
There was a slight pause as everyone became aware of a wooden creaking the moment before the door was kicked to splinters and Joker stood in the opening.
Roff SoHo, Downtown Gotham’s
finest wedding venue.
With impeccable service, delectable catering and magnificent hotel rooms, your wedding at Roff SoHo will be an affair your guests will never forget.
An outrage. FBI agents covered in vines chasing down rabid penguins, Made Pelacci soldiers incapacitated by fear gas, terrorized by hatted bridesmaids wielding fish knives from the gift table. The harpist, the best man and the rings trapped behind a wall of ice, and the Joker’s idiot girlfriend trying to ‘stall’ by singing “I’m so Excited” while a hysterical pastry chef tried to melt them free with a creme brulee torch. It was AN OUTRAGE… but at least it was over.
Eighty guests remained to see Joey Pelacci walk his daughter Susannah down the aisle and leave her at the side of Anthony Marcuso. He gave the boy a wary look before stepping away, then gave Carmine Falcone a withering glare of contempt.
Carmine ignored it. It wasn’t an ideal wedding, but there was triumph in it. The guests who remained were the ones that mattered. They were the elite of the East and Midwest Families and they were witnesses to the triumph of Roman Falcone, presiding over a mob wedding besieged as only a Gotham mob wedding could be besieged.
“Dearly beloved,” Father Ercolani read, “We are gathered here today to join this man and this woman in passionate bliss as he thrusts the throbbing arrowhead of his love-spear through the honeyed petals of womanhood into her quivering love pudding…”
“What the FUCK!” Anthony exploded, forgetting for the moment he was addressing a priest.
Father Ercolani looked down at the page where several passages of a bodice ripper had been substituted for his prepared text. (For as Joker would later explain, it really is the perfect gift: Everyone gets a good laugh and remembers your special day forever—HAHAHAHHAA!)
Father Ercolani’s eyes ran frantically down the page, skimming over a fair number of throbbing members and moist velvet butterflies, until at last he saw a familiar phrase.
“If anyone here has an objection,” he read confidently, “to this man and this woman being united in holy matrimony, let him bite down on a batarang and take it like a man. Ha. Ha. Ha…”
He looked up with an air of infinite confusion, and Anthony Marcuso punched him in the jaw.
Batman’s boot hadn’t touched Gotham soil. The automated systems in the Batwing alerted him that the Bat-Signal was lit, so he made a wide arc over the river giving the plane time to transition from jet to hover mode. Then he switched to autopilot, switched to hover mode, and lowered the ladder.
Commissioner Muskelli was waiting, but his report was superfluous. From the One-PP roof, Batman could hear the sirens and see ambulance, squad cars and fire truck heading down 7th Avenue towards the SoHo. Batman touched a control on his belt, ordering the autopilot to recede the ladder and return the Batwing to its hangar. He waved off Muskelli and fired a line, heading towards the SoHo.
The Spring Terrace at Roff SoHo,
Downtown Gotham’s finest wedding venue.
“Of course, I came to give the bride away,” Joker declared gleefully. “This is as close to a royal wedding as we’ll ever get in Rogue society, and the man who does the honors is obviously Top Rogue HAHA—”
Harley’s lip began to quiver.
“—HAHAHA! Brucie understands that, why do you think he didn’t ask me to be best man!”
Harley ran from the terrace, crying. In the doorway, she collided with Susannah Pelacci who was running crying from the ballroom. They paused for a moment, looked at each other, hugged in a moment of dashed-bridal-hopes-solidarity, resumed bawling and each ran off in a different direction.
Inside, Carmine Falcone paced—four strides this way and four strides back—like a hungry tiger in too-small a cage. “Enough,” he uttered in a menacing whisper.
Joey Pelacci chased after his daughter calling “Susie, we’ll fix it, we’ll fix all of it.” He somehow missed her change in trajectory and wound up chasing after Harley. “We’ll fix all of it, Baby, I promise,” he said, grabbing her by the shoulders, spinning her around, and assuring her that the grinning clown who did this to her would be slops at a pig farm by sunset—before realizing his mistake. He and Harley screamed into each other’s faces before once again running off in different directions.
Four strides this way and four strides back… “Enough!” Carmine bellowed.
Three stories above, Batman looked down on the chaos with clenched teeth. Scarecrow, Penguin, Freeze, Hatter, Ivy, Harley… Joker. “…Enough.”
Two time zones away, Bane rammed his fist into a cement punching bag. “ENOUGH!” he roared, smashing it free of its moorings to burst its seams against the wall.
One block away, Edward Nigma looked at the photo of Bruce and Selina smiling up from the society page and ground his fist into the table. “Enough.”