Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle in Cat-Tales by Chris DeeCat-Tales 67: Inside an Enigma

Inside an Enigma
by Chris Dee

Inside an Enigma Chapter 1: Diamonds are for StealingDiamonds are for Stealing


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Pre-dawn Gotham.  The Batmobile raced across 58th Street while inside the man at the wheel considered the autopilot.  The burn from last night’s fiery takedown of the Cráneos Sangrientos was sending fiery ripples down the sides of his fingers on his left hand.  Beneath the gauntlet, the flesh across the outside of the palm remembered where the flames had licked down to the inner wrist, heating the gauntlet into a weapon that punished him as much as the biker on the other end of his fist.  Still, a few days’ pain wasn’t much to pay compared to what was gained.  The fall of the Cráneos would send a message.  While the biker gang stuck with stealing motorcycles for their principle income with a sporadic sideline in crack cocaine, they were a GPD concern.  One truckload of automatic weapons coming up from Atlanta promoted them from a secondary 12th Precinct nuisance to the first item of business on Batman’s Thursday Night hit list. 

“Autopilot engage.  Home,” he graveled, releasing the wheel and ripping off the glove.  Parts of the bandage came with it, and Bruce’s eyes nearly rolled from the new wave of pain as the cool dry air of the car hit the outraged flesh around the burn.  He could see now that the bandage had been jostled during that last episode with the jumper, letting in air—the air inside the glove, air moist with his perspiration and warmed by his exertions.  He popped the first aid box and sprayed it with a numbing coolant.  That would do until he reached the cave.  There he postponed the logs just long enough to visit the med-lab, apply a new layer of salve and rebandage.  There was no point in waking Alfred for such a simple patch-up, though Alfred would insist on redoing it in the morning.  Even though Bruce was perfectly capable of patching himself up this way, Alfred always found fault with his efforts however flawlessly done.

Bruce inspected the work on the walk back to his workstation, turning his wrist and flexing the fingers—it was really a fine job considering how long it had been since he’d applied a bandage like that himself.  Up until last week, Selina would have been with him in the car on the drive home.  Speaking of which—

He glanced down at the console and touched a few buttons to open a certain dashboard on the monitor.  An icon was flashing, as expected.

“Good morning, Kitten,” he said, tapping it twice.  As the file opened, he settled into the chair the way another man might to read a few more chapters of a book he was enjoying before bed.  A mystery novel in this case, although Bruce didn’t see it that way.  She was presenting him with a mystery, but for him, the powerful nostalgia of the experience blotted out any other flavor.  He was out in the city on his own again, no Catwoman a commlink away.  At the end of the night, he simply got in the car and came home.  No checking to see if she wanted a ride back.  She wasn’t padding around the cave now, making cocoa while he typed up the logs, nor was she waiting upstairs in the bed.  He was alone in his cave with the bats.  And before him was a file, a crime report from outside of Gotham, where he could read—where he could sense with a crimefighter’s instinct—the enigmatic woman in purple behind the actions reported on the page.

Bruce moistened his lower lip as he read, the once familiar sensation rippling through his memory.  Interpol’s Aggregator Database, the slush pile from which the International Crime Bulletin for Western Europe would be culled.  Three insurance firms, one English and two Swiss, had quietly amended their inclusion on a number of crime reports related to certain art thefts.  Any experienced crimefighter knew that meant the stolen items had been recovered privately, usually in exchange for a finder’s fee ranging from one to three percent.  Freed of their financial obligation, the companies no longer cared about the thieves being found and brought to justice.  Ironically, while a footnote went on to bemoan that deplorable attitude, Bruce’s mind wandered.  It wandered from text on the page which had once been his own inflexible opinion, wandered because Catwoman had—yet again—knocked that first principle of Justice from his mind, presenting him with a distraction he simply couldn’t ignore. 

What was she up to?  That was the distraction this time.  What was she up to?

Like any detective, nothing riveted his attention like an unanswered question.  A mystery waiting to be solved.  If only he could uncover the right facts and look at them the right way.

She’d gone to Europe in the wake of a diamond heist, in theory.  But even then, even that first day when they got back from lunch in the city, something seemed off. 

Bruce set up a few searches which churned quietly in the background while he wrote up the logs.  By the time he’d finished, the search found no common denominators in the art that had been recovered.  The pieces were taken from private homes, corporate collections and public museums.  One Goya had a shady provenance related to the Nazis, but no other pieces were contested.  Some thefts were recent, some a few years old, and some dated back more than ten years.  There were no similarities in the security of any of the facilities, or in the way it had been defeated.  The thefts were attributed to Il Fantasma, Chacal, Der Rote Geist, Das Panter and even The Shadow Thief.  They simply had nothing in common—except that they had all, apparently, been recovered since Selina went to Europe.  That wasn’t a common denominator Batman could ignore.

What was she up to?

He leaned back into the chair, his fingers interlaced clumsily because of the thickness of the bandages on his left, and he looked up at the low-hanging bat Selina had named Walapang…

Three weeks earlier, they’d had a picnic in the park.  Some early riser at the Wayne Foundation scheduled a board meeting for 8 a.m. and because Selina’s NMK projects represented several items on the agenda, she had to attend.  She felt strongly that charitable giving was fine as long as it was limited to money and real estate, but when it cut into her sleep schedule—and Batman’s—compensation was required.  It was after four when they both got to bed, and if she was going to drag ‘her sweet purple ass’ out of bed only three hours later, compensation was required.  She had Lucius cancel Bruce’s appointments for the rest of the day, had box lunches waiting for pick-up, and spirited him from the building after the meeting with the swift and invisible stage management of a kidnapping.

Afterwards, they took a stroll through the Robinson Circle Market.  Like the park, the teeming street market offered an invigorating dose of Gotham: the intensity borne of so many people, so much emotion and ambition, anxiety and vigor packed so densely into such a confined space.  It made the air tingle and vibrate with possibilities, an essence of pure distilled humanity that both of them found invigorating.  The market was packed with vendors offering everything from farm fresh produce and flowers to antiques and artisan-crafted jewelry to flea market oddities and kitsch.

“Scottish Fold,” Selina said as they passed a stall of antique buttons.

“The cats with the flat ears?” Bruce blinked.  “That’s random.”

“For the—you know—hm-hm,” she said, pointing to her ring finger.  “A code word isn’t supposed to be dripping with subtext, is it?  It should be like ‘apple butter’ or ‘Chinese calligraphy,’ not some ancient Aztec word meaning ‘We’re finally engaged but can’t tell anybody until we figure out how to do it without our crazy friends setting the world on fire.’”

Your crazy associates, they’re not mine and they’re not friends,” Bruce said, examining a box of expired, novelty, and out of state license plates.

“Our friends,” she repeated.  “One of yours can do more damage than all of mine put together, don’t pretend you don’t know who I’m talking about.”

Bruce’s lip twitched.

“You forget that he’s all in favor.”

“So was Pammy.  Given a choice between her ‘helping us’ again or him, I’d honestly have to think about —hey, stress ball.”

“Again: that’s random,” Bruce said, pretending he didn’t realize she was talking about merchandise at one of the novelty stalls.  There were bins of the palm-size rubber balls painted in different whimsical ways. 

“Check it out, the world is my stress ball,” she said, holding up one painted like a globe.

He smiled, though he didn’t think it was quite as clever as she evidently did—considering she had her purse open, her wallet out and was holding out a dollar to buy the thing.  Bruce shook his head, deciding he would never be able to predict what she would find amusing, but he thought no more about it until she was back at his side, the ball in a small brown bag in her hand and a smile on her face that could only be described as of the canary-eating variety.

“I’m obviously missing something,” he said as they walked along.

“Seriously, you don’t get it?  It’s for Ra’s, silly.”

“For… Do we know another Ra’s?”

“Al Ghul,” Selina laughed.  “The Cadaver, The Hairdo.  ‘Light of the East, Terror of the West…’ Ye that none born since Charlemagne can grasp how in love this guy is with his own manufactured image.”

“And you’re buying him a gift?” Bruce said, reaching unconsciously for his belt as if he were in costume and the air should be tested for hallucinogens.

“I am going to be handling him now,” Selina reminded him.  “It’s always good to have a few items like this picked out for when the situation arises.  You know, to send as a taunt.”

“To send as a…”

“That’s what villains do,” Selina said, leaning in and imparting the information confidentially. 

“I’m familiar,” Bruce grunted.

“And I’m a bad girl.  Always have been, always will be.  I think sometimes you’re apt to forget that.  I’m not a Cape, and even if I do something that’s, shall we say cape-adjacent, I’m going to do it my way.  Which is less like your way and more like, you know, their way.”

“Are you going to be sending him riddles?”

“For Bast’s sake, Bruce, I said MY way which is more like them than you.  I did not say ‘like them,’ flat out, as if I’m some outsider mimicking rogues without actually being one.  I have my own style.  You should know that better than anybody.  You know what it’s like going up against me from the other side.”

“You never bought me a stress ball,” Bruce pointed out.

“I had another idea for ways you could work off tension,” she said in her bedroom voice.  “You eventually admitted it was a very good one.”

Bruce grunted, and they talked of other things for the rest of the afternoon.  When they got home, however, she noticed him glaring at the brown paper bag.  Saw him following it with his eyes as it sat in the car seat next to her, as she picked it up, as she got out of the car, as they walked into the house, and as she set it on the table in the foyer with her purse.  There was no density shift, but she did see that his eyes had that low-browed square shape most often seen in the mask—and always meaning Batman had a grudge against something.

“You’re jealous,” she said.  “Bruce if you get jealous of me and Ra’s we’re going to be getting into some very weird territory.  Even by your standarreowrl—Hello, Gorgeous.  Where have you been all my life?”

She was looking down at a Gotham Times, and Bruce noted a headline with the word “Millions” and a picture of a diamond necklace.  He grunted, seeing that he no longer had her attention—which was fine with him.  He had no interest in prolonging a conversation about Ra’s al Ghul, and Selina obviously had great interest in the news story.  She walked off reading it without saying another word, and Bruce felt there couldn’t be a better cue to go up to bed and grab a few hours sleep.

He slept hard, not aware of any dreams until he felt himself on his back on a peculiarly malleable alley floor.  He was out of it.  Was it a fall?  An explosion?  Something unexpected.  Violent and unexpected.  And now, while his senses were still reeling, someone was bending over him… bending down, straddling his hips.  A warm someone.  A warm body, straddled on top of him, one hand on his chest, the other near his mask.  Instinct kicked in and his hand shot up to grab the wrist reaching for his mask.  In a rush his senses processed the smell of tearose shampoo, the fingers on his chest were soft and feminine, and the startled “Wha-?” was more than feminine, it was familiar.

“I can hold you like this... all n-night long,” he heard himself murmur, though the dream was already receding.  The Dream-Catwoman’s lips would hover achingly close to his, never making contact throughout the prolonged encounter.  The real one’s moved straight through the chimera to bestow a soft kiss.  A disappointingly chaste kiss considering the sexual tension of the dream it displaced, but with the undeniable trade-off that, with no identity to protect, his hands were free to release her wrists and move to more interesting locations...  When they came up for air, Selina purred.

“Good morning,” she said, resting her hand exactly where the dream-cat had done.

“It’s not really morning, is it?” Bruce asked, glancing at the window.

“No, I didn’t let you sleep that late.  You even have time for a bite before patrol.  But, I did get you up for a reason…” 

It might have been that he was just dreaming about a criminal cat in an alley, but Bruce thought he detected mischief—that feline lust for mischief—flash in her eyes as she moved.  She apparently brought the newspaper with her and had set it on the nightstand to wake him.  As she reached for it now, there was definitely a… whiff of something… that dream cat reaching for his mask, ready to expose his face.  What was she up to?

“I want to borrow one of the planes,” she said.  “Doesn’t have to be Wayne One, but something with a tank.  I’m going to Europe for a bit.”

Bruce glanced at the newspaper, then at her.

“Why?” he said, feeling he was taking Riddler-bait.

And she smiled—a smile he knew, from the rooftops—a smile that had a radius.  He would never understand it, and there were nights it infuriated him after the fact.  She had this way about her when she was excited about something, she just radiated happiness, and it made you happy too—even when the thing she was smiling about was wrong and criminal and the essence of what you’d sworn your life to oppose.  Yet there you were, forgetting to be angry, forgetting to hate, feeling inexplicably… good.

She handed him the newspaper, and he skimmed.  There had been an enormously successful diamond heist in Belgium.  Two vans with police markings had crashed through a fence at the Brussels airport, sped passed all security checks, lights flashing, and stopped a plane bound for Zurich.  Eight heavily armed men got out, their faces covered by police riot gear.  They broke into the plane’s cargo hold and seized approximately 40 million euros worth of uncut diamonds being transported from Antwerp.

“You know what they say: ‘Diamonds are for Stealing,’” she said breathlessly. 

“You should check this downstairs,” Bruce said, meaning the cave.  “There will be more evidence come to light since this went to press, and even more information they’re not releasing to the public.”

“Already done,” Selina grinned.  “The big change is the value of the take.  Estimates are all over the place, with a low of 37 million euros and going all the way up to more than 300 million.  120 packages of… well, more.  Point is, they didn’t get the whole shipment and which 120 packages they picked makes a big difference.  But even the lowest estimate divided by eight men isn’t too shabby for what was basically a five-minute smash and grab.”

“You want to take another vacation?” Bruce said, thinking of their last trip to Paris when a burglary at Cartier prompted a Bat/Cat team-up which they both enjoyed more than they would a crime-free getaway.  “I want to do it again too,” he said.  “Soon.  And I can see where this seems like an ideal case.  But Kitten, it’s not a good time for Batman to leave Gotham.  Any day now, the White House will be ready to announce Lawrence Muskelli’s appointment to the Justice Department.  It will be public knowledge that Gotham’s getting a new police commissioner.  And I still don’t know which way the Mayor is leaning.”

She smiled—a different smile, soft and a bit wistful.

“Oh,” he said, looking in her eyes.

He hadn’t realized, hadn’t remembered.  After the Cat-Tales stage show closed.  Before the mask came off.  Those early visits to her apartment after patrol, when their relationship had just started to change. The revolving door of interim commissioners after Jim Gordon retired.  It was one of the recurring topics in that strange new world where they talked regularly without a crime between them, without the Bat and Cat roles setting the tone.  On two occasions, she was the first person he told when he’d been met by a new face at the Bat-Signal.

“Just as well,” she said.  “I want a repeat of Paris too, but with this kind of thing, I’m better on my own.  We’d just get in each other’s way.”

“What?” Bruce said, the unexpected words pulling him from his reverie.  The kind of thing where she was better on her own?  If she wasn’t proposing another Bat/Cat team-up like Paris then… what was she talking about?

He asked, of course, and her reaction wrapped a new level of mystery around the original question.  She seemed surprised that he had to ask.  Whatever it was, she assumed he would know

Not only was she surprised that he didn’t know what she was planning, she seemed aroused by it. 

Which made the half day before she left very enjoyable, but left him with two layers of Cat-Mystery to unravel after she was gone.

Three weeks later, he had more than twenty variations on five core theories, none of which he liked. 

They were all… “Cape theories” she would call them.  They all had the flavor of scenarios he came up with when he was like he used to be… As he was right now: alone in the cave reading a bunch of reports written by policemen.  They all lacked that topsy turvy perspective Selina brought into his life, and which she always brought to a case.  The insider’s perspective, the thief’s perspective – even the rogue’s perspective.  The point of view that knew Edward Nigma as a pal and a charming dinner companion, not an unrepentant criminal. 

Bruce got up abruptly and relocated to the Data Well, an experimental hexagonal chamber where he could display complex arrays of information in different ways on the semi-transparent wall-screens.  With a few swift keystrokes, he set up the #2 side monitors to display the stolen artworks that had, presumably, been returned.  #3 cycled through photos and floor plans of the places they’d been taken from.  Screen #5 displayed 3D simulations of the robberies as investigators had reconstructed them.  The #1 screen directly in front of him listed the names of the suspected thieves, and in Shadow Thief’s case, a thumbnail photo from his Justice League file.

He focused on the names… And thought of Selina.

She didn’t look past criminal roles the way a detective might, considering personal motives in order to gauge relationships and deduce who did what and why.  She just saw people.  Not ‘personal motives’ but people who happened to be the planner, locksmith, electrician or muscle on a particular crew.  She didn’t dismiss their criminal roles, she just didn’t see it defining them.  Safecracker, fence, forger.  It’s what they did, not who they were

He looked at the names, looked at Shadow Thief’s name in particular, and his eyes narrowed.

She saw Edward Nigma as a pal and a charming dinner companion, not an unrepentant criminal.  It was one thing to say “Okay, it’s what they do, not who they are” when you were talking about a safecracker on the Turin crew.  It was another thing entirely talking about Rogues.  ‘The Riddler’ was not something Edward Nigma ‘did,’ it was, quite literally, who he was

Which meant Selina was wrong.  He was right and she was wrong.  His way of looking at things was right and hers was limited and murky, marred by the bias of a thief and criminal.

So why didn’t he like any of those twenty-odd hypotheses?  Why did the five core theories on which they were based all seem so contrived and forced and constipated?

Because they involved Selina.

Not in the sense that he loved her, just in the sense of… of a person.  Not a theoretical retired cat burglar and theme rogue with extensive ties in Europe.  Not a set of personal motives he could analyze and make deductions from.  Selina.  Selina Kyle, the Catwoman.  She was Catwoman just as much as Nigma was Riddler.  As much as Isley was Poison Ivy as much as… as much as he was Batman. 

Bruce found himself staring through the names, through the semi-transparent screen, to a stalactite that hung above the main cavern. 

As much as he was Batman.

Batman wasn’t something Bruce did, it’s who he was.  That didn’t negate the person.

And Selina had—Catwoman had—She… She’d done it even back then.  She’d looked right past the ‘role’ and saw the man.  Jesus, why hadn’t he ever seen it this way?  From the first encounter, she had never addressed the persona, had she?  She had always… she had always treated him as a man. 

Bruce let his head tilt back, looked up at the ceiling, and thought…  His imagination conjured her.  She stepped into the well beside him, looking as she had in the alley in that dream he had before she left.  She ran her clawed fingers along the side of his face as if to remind him, as if she were threatening to remove the mask he no longer wore.

“You’re not here for play.  This is work,” he graveled.

I’m always here to play, Stud.  You want to look at this the way I would, you’ve got to get with the program.  The world is my yarn toy.

“And Batman was your yarn toy.”

She meowed and brushed up against him, seductively. 

I did love teasing you.  God, how I love teasing you.  I don’t think there’s anything that brought me more satisfaction than getting a rise out of you.  You tried so hard not to show it, but I knew…  Now I have a new toy.  Poor Ra’s, he’s more uptight than you ever were.  Far more full of himself.  Genetically incapable of getting the joke.  It should be fun.  I mean, you know how I unsettle him just by existing.  Can you imagine what I can do to him if I actually tried?

“I want to talk about what you’re up to in Europe.  Not your plans for Ra’s al Ghul.”

Oh yes, that’s right. 

She winked.  Then looked at the different types of data flickering on the data screens. 

Why isn’t Igor here?  You remembered he lives in Brussels, he figures in four of your five core theories.  Why isn’t his picture here?

“Because your fence Igor is bothering the hell out of me, Selina.  He’s a glaring inconsistency at the heart of this mess—the riddle inside the mystery inside the great big headache.  His business is art, not jewels.  He was the first thing I thought of when the heist happened in Belgium, but there is no evidence, none at all, that he has the contacts to fence anything but artwork.  The social connections, the paper trails, the bank accounts, everything says that art is his sole business.  Legit and black market.”

And art is what’s being returned, Phantom-Selina pointed out.

“But before you left, you said ‘diamonds are for stealing.’  It was the diamond heist that set you off on whatever you’re doing.  So how can it involve him?”

I know him.

“Well, yes.  The personal angle.  What’s going on starts with you, and you know him.”

She nodded.

I steal diamonds.

“Could we use the past tense, please?”

No.  You brought me here from your dream, and the bad ass me in that alley was definitely the stealing-diamonds-in-the-present-tense Catwoman.

He grunted.

I steal diamonds and I steal art.  It’s not that uncommon, there’s a lot of overlap in the types of security.  Ergo…

“Other thieves that Igor deals with may steal diamonds as well as art, even if he only fences the latter.”

Meow.

“They might even include the perpetrators of the Brussels Airport heist.”

They might indeed. Even if they don’t, they might.  Put his picture up.

“VOX Control: Display Fabricant, Igor, file photo screen one, supplementary material screens five and six.”

A series of pictures appeared, one could have been taken on the street by police surveillance: a thin man in his late thirties in a winter coat on a pleasant residential street.  The others were all posed at a formal event: the man was in black tie, a pretty girl on each arm here, standing with a drink in his hand talking to another pretty girl over there.  While Bruce analyzed the image, Selina gave voice to his thoughts.

Nice looking guy, maybe a bit younger than you imagined.  Seems to have a very pleasant life, aka a lot to lose.  It’d be a shame to beat up that handsome face.  And look how thin he is, tall but thin.  The Jonathan Crane type; he’d break like a twig.  He knows he’d break like a twig.  It would be so easy to intimidate him.  If Batman paid him a visit, demanding answers, you wouldn’t have to touch him.  All you’d have to do is ask if he’d ever seen someone with their jaw wired shut. 

“There was another diamond robbery in Belgium, years ago,” Bruce said.  “The Antwerp diamond district, vault thought to be impregnable.  An Italian gang made off with more than $100 million worth of stones.”

They got the thieves, never recovered the stones.  That makes for quite the treasure hunt.  Other crooks, not to mention cops with noble and less-than-noble motives, all snooping around for somebody that might know something. 

“And this Igor was someone who might very well know something.  Say he had some close calls…”

Narrow escapes with the kinds of criminals people like him prefer not to deal with…

“He lives through it, but now with this new heist, he’s afraid it’s all going to start up again.”

They said the last words in unison, and Bruce looked at her appraisingly.

“You went there to protect him,” he said, a note of pride in his voice that the real Selina would have found infuriating.  His phantom cat just smiled knowingly.

You don’t imagine I’m doing it for free, she whispered. 

“He’s paying you in stolen art, which you return.  Either pieces he’s kept, because he liked them or simply because just couldn’t find a buyer...”

Pfft, that’s no fun.

“…Or he told you who he sold them to, and you stole them back.  The downside of buying stolen artwork is that it can’t be insured, and if someone does take it from you, you can’t report the theft.”

That does sound like more fun.  And you like this theory much more than your other ones.  It feels so much better, doesn’t it?  It feels right.  It feels like me.  But don’t get too cocky, Dark Knight.  You know there’s something you’re still missing.

“It’s good enough,” he said, assuming the instructor tone he used with Robin.  “It goes as far as it can, given the information I have.  Now we get more, because we have a better idea what we’re looking for. 

..:: Bonjour? ::… the sleepy voice said on the phone.

“Good morning, Kitten.  Hope I didn’t wake you.”

..:: No, it’s fine. I know you’re up late,::.. she said through a yawn.  Then after the electronic chirp that meant both parties had secured the line, she asked ..:: Did you have a good night? ::..

“Extremely productive.  Stopped a jumper.  Tied up some loose ends on the Cráneos Sangrientos in such a way that the lesson of their downfall will not escape notice.  And I cracked a case that’s been particularly frustrating.”

..:: Oh woof, and I missed it.  You know how I just love cooling you down when you’re all ‘frustrated.’::..

“You should come home and do just that, Kitten.  Or I do have to come over there and get you?”

..:: Beg pardon? ::..

“You’ve seen Igor through the initial gold rush of Eurotrash criminals coming after him to get a lead on where the diamonds are stashed from the airport heist.  You got him out of the last four scrapes in sufficiently dramatic cat-style that word’s gotten around: he’s not the lightweight pushover everyone assumed.  He’s as safe as he can be, given his line of work, and I don’t think you can realistically expect to get any more out of him, monetarily, for your war chest.”

She purred.  A rich, seductive purr that sent a quiver up Bruce’s spine, around his neck, across his shoulder and straight down his chest into his core. 

..:: Well now, ::.. he heard in the distance as he imagined himself pinning her—albeit not any pin recognized by any martial art—her arms behind her back, fingers intertwined with his, ass perched precariously on that thin railing around the alarm box…::…tell me more about this war chest, My Dark Knight..…::…  His hands releasing hers with a will of their own, moving down, brushing the small of her back on the way to cup the round softness beneath her hips.…::..because there’s still a thirty million-euro ball of yarn rolling around here somewhere.::..

“Not where you are,” he said, channeling the erotic thoughts into a gravelly whisper meant to reduce her to a quivering jelly.  “You were never looking to recover the diamonds yourself, Catwoman.  That’s why you’re already in Zurich.  With your friend Bernard Ducret consolidating your hidden holdings and the new finder’s fees into, I would guess, Nicht Meine Schleife Holdinggesellschaft, an international counterpart to NMK.”

..:: How did you know? ::.. Selina asked, that tremor her voice that meant, however much bluff and bluster she presented, the gravelly whisper hit the bullseye.  Catwoman wanted as much as he did, if not more—and the balance could now tip either way. 

“You told me.  You said you were going after Ra’s your way.  As a villain.  Now, what would that mean to you?  Not putting mold into the air filters of his cell in Atlantis.  No, to you, it meant being proactive.  Not waiting for him to make a move.  Picking the battlefield yourself and bringing the fight to him.

“You’ve suspended all the sales of NMK properties in Gotham and converted them to the business incubator and a new program you set up for other non-profits to use rent free.  That’s ingenious and I might have taken it at face value, except for a notation Gwen Chatham put in the file—something you should know about Gwen, there is no such thing as a casual aside in her office.  She takes copious notes at every meeting.  And when you made this change, you said the Foundation could ‘have the properties back when you were done with them.’  Now, I’m assuming ‘having them back’ means resuming the original distribution plan.  But ‘when you were done with them’ what did that mean?  So I checked.  You’ve used them as collateral for some whopping big loans.  Doesn’t matter what you’re actually charging in rent, the value of all that prime Gotham real estate is based on what you could charge.  So you’ve effectively quadrupled the buying power of NMK. 

“Why?  Either you’re building a Catitat on the moon or…”

..:: Or? ::..

“Or… You magnificently wicked woman, you unbelievably acquisitive thiefYou’re doing to Ra’s what I showed you with Falcone.  You’re buying up, pushing out or cannibalizing all the bits of Demon left splintered and vulnerable by Falstaff.”

..:: Something like that.  Falstaff’s entry into Gotham was a very expensive operation.  They had to have gutted a lot of Demon outfits to make it happen, and I wanted to grab as much as I can so they can’t salvage anything, and then use those resources to take out more of the crippled operations overseas. ::..

“And?”

..:: And… my dark knight, my dearest love.  You were bored.  All the Rogues are up the river except Oswald, and he certainly wasn’t going to give you any fun.  You needed something to do.  You needed a puzzle keeping you up at night.  So….::..

“Impossible woman.  Fine, now that I’ve solved your puzzle, come home.”

..:: As soon as we straighten out one thing.  ‘You’re doing to Ra’s what I showed you with Falcone.’  Did you actually imply that you TAUGHT ME to steal?::..

“This isn’t stealing.”

..:: It’s adorable that you think that, Bruce, but what we did to Falcone was absolutely stealing.  Justified, but stealing.  It was his stuff, now it’s my stuff.  Welcome to the party. ::..

To be continued…


 

 

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