Harvey Dent read the blurb twice more.
He couldn’t quite believe it was still going on.
It was four months since Selina mentioned a pair of cat pins were a gift
from Bruce Wayne. Four months!
In the years when they were friends, Bruce never stuck with a
relationship for four weeks, let alone four months.
Pussycat’s stringing him along good and proper, the Two-Face side of his personality sneered.
Not her style, the Harvey side defended
his friend. Selina can steal for herself anything Bruce could buy her.
If she’s seeing him, must be ‘cause she wants to.
No accounting for taste.
Two-Face was bitter.
He wasn’t capable of affectionate or romantic feelings, but it hadn’t escaped
his attention that Catwoman operated on both sides of the law and could play
both sides against the middle.
It would have made her a very suitable object for his attention, except
that Harvey seemed to think of her as some kind of kid sister.
He wouldn’t let the thought form clearly enough to even propose a flip of
Harvey, the canker of goodness that blocked his every idea and impulse. The goody-goody was now defending his other friend:
Bruce isn’t so bad.
Wayne’s a wuss. Should be fun when he screws up and the fur starts to fly.
Harvey considered this.
It was a valid point. Selina was a lot to handle as a friend, let alone (god forbid) as a girlfriend. And Bruce was used to bimbos that would put up with anything from a billionaire playboy…
He had a thought.
It was a good thought.
NO FUCKING WAY !
Bruce was a friend of his, after
all, and so was Selina. It’d be
nice if they made each other happy.
HARVEY, I SAID NO.
ARE YOU LISTENING YOU INSUFFERABLE DO-GOODER SACK OF SH-
Good side up.
Harvey smiled and Two-Face smashed the table
into the wall.
Though he was dressed casually as Bruce Wayne,
it was really Batman who sat at the workstation in the core of the Batcave,
typing his final comments into the file on Ra’s Al Ghul’s unprecedented
visit to Gotham City. His great enemy had left his seat of power and come
onto the Batman’s own turf, without a plan, without a hope, totally befuddled by
his infatuation with Black Canary.
With that, he saved and sealed the file, then
punched in a code to pull up a list of criminals currently at large.
“Sir,” Alfred began impassively.
(How long had he been standing
there, Bruce wondered, waiting for him to reach a stopping point?
) “There is a party of gentlemen wishing to see you upstairs.”
“Thank you, Alfred.”
“I had them wait in the study.”
“Thank you, Alfred.”
“I believe, sir, you should not keep them
Bruce turned with some annoyance, and Alfred
“A Mr. Tetch, A Mr. Nigma and a Mr. Dent,
Bruce looked back at the monitor:
He looked back at Alfred, who offered no
Bruce Wayne entered the study without, for
once, feeling the need to perform the role of Bruce Wayne in any way.
He was perplexed as to why this committee of rogues should pay a call on
him, and saw no reason to conceal it.
Harvey Dent, apparently elected spokesman of the group, smiled and shook his hand as if it had been days, rather than years, since they’d last spoken as friends.
“Hey Bruce, good to see you.
This is Jervis and Eddie.”
As they sat, Bruce acknowledged the
introduction with a quasi-smile that showed he was no less perplexed than
“We, uh, saw this bit in the paper about you
seeing Selina Kyle. Been going on
for a while now, hasn’t it.”
Oh. My. God.
Bruce thought, freezing his features as rigidly as if he was wearing the
cowl. Then realizing that was
perhaps an unwise face to present in this company, he relaxed it into the softer
but equally uncommunicative expression he put on at business meetings.
Harvey continued. “We’ve all known Selina
for quite some time and, well, since you and I are such old friends, we thought
we’d come by and just, you know, fill you in on some things you should
“Harvey, I already know she’s Catwoman.”
“Oh, that, yeah, we figured she’d told you
that, she sort of told the whole city… No, ah, we wanted to make sure you
understood what all that means.”
“Never mention that book,”
“That unauthorized biography a few years ago,
F. Miller, said she started out a hooker,” Jervis Tetch explained.
“Right,” Harvey completed the thought, “Don’t
make even a passing reference to that, even in fun.
No matter how trivial the remark, or how obvious you think it is that
you’re joking or that everybody knows it’s a pack of lies.
Don’t ever mention it.”
“I learned that one the hard way,” said Jervis,
wincing at the memory.
“No pussy jokes,” Harvey went on to the next
item on the list.
“If she ever uses a phrase like ‘Do that
again and I’ll set you on fire’—not an idle threat.”
The trio chuckled among themselves at some private joke.
“Scarecrow learned that the hard way,”
“2nd of the month through the 6th
is, ah, nature’s special time. If
you’re going to cross her—which I wouldn’t suggest under any
circumstances—don’t do it then unless you’ve got your affairs in order
and your insurance paid up.”
Batman would have to admit to a new respect
dawning for the niche Catwoman had carved for herself in the Rogues Gallery.
These were vicious, violent men.
They each had more than a hundred pounds on her, they were not adverse to
killing as she was. And yet she was
not only accepted as an equal among them, she had established (and evidently
enforced) ground rules for her acquaintance and friendship that they ignored at
their peril. They accepted this,
though god knows they wouldn’t tolerate this treatment from any man, because she
was… well, she was Catwoman. She’d
somehow leveraged the supposed weakness of her gender into a very palpable
Edward Nigma was the only one to notice a
wistful look flicker in Bruce’s eyes, but he misread it as fear.
This was, after all, a candy-ass rich boy and here they were giving him a
list of DOs & DOn’ts to avoid catastrophic injuries with his new girlfriend. He offered a word of comfort.
“Anyway, she’s a darling girl, a real
sweetie. And next time you go out, you bring her to the Iceberg, that’s
Penguin’s club downtown. I know
it’s not the sort of place a lot of respectable folks feel safe, but you’re with
Selina, you’re part of the family now.
Stop by the Iceberg, you won’t have any trouble.”
There was an uncomfortable silence.
Dent, Nigma and Tetch were all thinking of the
last time Catwoman was seen at the Iceberg and with whom.
It introduced a delicate subject, one they had discussed in the car, but
hadn’t reached a consensus about mentioning to Bruce.
Bruce was silent for a different reason. His mind froze up utterly on the phrase “you’re part of the family now.”
The silence went on as the trio of rogues looked at each other.
It went on too long to ignore.
They had to explain now what it was about.
To simply stop talking for four solid minutes and never say why was worse
than speaking the dreaded name…
“There is one more thing,” Harvey began,
looking to the others for last-minute inspiration.
“Don’t ever ask about—”
“Don’t ask what the deal is with her and—”
“-Batman,” the three said in unison.
It’s doubtful if even an actor of Bruce’s skill
would have been able to greet these words with the look of guileless confusion
he now wore. But his brain was
still firing on only one cylinder.
He only heard the speculation (and meticulous deconstruction) of
Batman’s are-they-or-aren’t-they relationship with Catwoman through a
stunned haze of “You’re part of the family now.”
“She just plays with his head.”
“You’re part of the family now.”
“He just wants to save her.”
“You’re part of the family now.”
“I’m not saying he doesn’t want some,
I’m saying he’s not getting any.”
“You’re part of the family now.”
THIS is what comes of lightening up,
Batman’s inner voice berated him. You smiled at her once.
THIS is what comes. Pretty soon you’re slipping notes into picnic
baskets, stopping by for coffee, talking to your reflection, cooking, and gaslighting the Joker instead of pummeling him—and THIS IS WHERE IT LEADS:
Mad Hatter, Riddler and Two-Face sitting in your house, debating your
chances of getting to second base.
The image of Ra’s Al Ghul humiliating himself
on a morning talk show came unbidden into Bruce’s mind.
This is what love could do to a formidable man’s image.
His own comments—dismissing Ra’s as his ultimate adversary—because of his performance in the throes of a romantic infatuation.
“you’re part of the family now…part
of the family now…part of the family now”
“If I go patrol with Robin and come back in, say, two hours, is there any chance of my seeing something other than the back of your head then?”
“I’m sorry, ‘Wing, Did you say
something?” Oracle’s eyes never
left the computer screen and she continued to type through their conversation.
“I just wondered if I left and went on
patrol, if you’d even notice before I blipped on your little tracking setup.”
Should’ve seen that was a trap going in.”
Dick paused and tried again.
“Helped a girl scout troupe change a tire,
and they gave me a box of cookies.”
“Cookies? On the counter next to the
And bring me a glass of milk.”
“So then I threw Poison Ivy down on the bed
and made passionate love to her right in front of the flytrap.”
“Oh hi, Barbara, hope I’m not interrupting.
I just thought I’d drop in and say hi before going on patrol.”
“I’m sorry, Dick. This is time-critical. Do
you mind coming back later.”
“Whacha doin’ anyway.” He looked over her
shoulder at the cluster of monitors.
She had four chat windows open on one screen, a bulletin board on another and
several websites on a third.
For a second Dick thought she was answering his
nonsense-speak about girl scouts and flytraps with a bit of her own, but then he
saw the bulletin board, the chatrooms and one of the websites were all labeled
“It’s a game, or it was, a promotion for the
movie AI. Dozens of websites,
hundreds of puzzles, that led you bit by bit through this very elaborate murder
mystery set in the world of the movie.”
“You’re using roughly half a million
dollars in computer equipment to play an Internet game.”
“I’m not, you basketcase, the Cloudmakers
are—or they were. See, this game and the puzzles were incredibly complex:
There were clues hidden in chemical formulas, dead languages, the html code on
the websites—live events in different cities going on at the same time.
No one person could begin to solve it alone.
This group, they formed a collective—called Cloudmakers—named for the
boat of the guy who’s murdered in the story.
That was the point of the game: ‘distributed biological processing,’ a
group of people working together, linked up like this over the internet, could
outperform any artificial intelligence.”
“Interesting, in an insanely geeky
beam-me-up-Scotty way, but what’s it got to do with you.”
“The game’s ended.
And these people—these amazingly creative, number-crunching,
puzzle-solving, hackers—are still linked up, have all their communication
lines in place, their bulletin boards and websites. Their brains all charged up and
no more puzzles to solve.” Barbara’s
eyes glowed with inspiration as she said “I want to put them to work for
Dick’s mouth fell open:
It was a fantastically clever idea.
“And that’s why I’ve gotta move now—get them onboard before they find something else to do or break up their little
Dick couldn’t help it.
He reached down and kissed her full on the mouth.
He had the most fiendishly brilliant girl on planet earth and wanted
every one in the universe to know it.
But that had to wait because she had no time for him now and had already turned
back to her monitors and there was the back of that brilliant, brilliant,
wonderful, inspired head.
“Oh, before I go. Where’s Bruce patrolling tonight?”
He was going to show off. He was to find Bruce and make it clear that Selina wasn’t the only significant other with two brain cells to rub together.
It was a darker bat that entered the cave than
had been seen there in many months.
I am… …in desperate need of a
personality transplant… in his mind’s ear, Catwoman’s voice sounded from the
stage of the Hijinx Playhouse nearly a year before.
Bruce looked down at the cowl in his hand as he
said “And that’s exactly what’s you gave me, isn’t it, Kitten.”
“And is it so terrible,” he imagined
her asking, “having a personality?”
“That’s not the point.”
“Let’s make it the point,”
the imaginary Selina insisted. “Is it so terrible being a real person when
you’re not wearing that mask.”
Bruce sat the mask on the table and looked at
it—reminded of a painting at Gotham Museum—Aristotle contemplating
the Bust of Homer, one great mind deconstructing another.
Bruce was reacting emotionally to the scene in
the study with the rogues. Changing
into Batman meant putting emotion on hold and thinking it through rationally.
Emotions are a natural part of being human.
Excessive Emotion, on the other hand, is
Emotions are a tool.
Theirs and mine too.
That was the answer!
He needed his emotions to do what he did.
Bruce was so focused on this sudden insight, he
didn’t notice there was a part of him thinking of both Bruce Wayne and Batman
simultaneously as “I.”
I need my emotions to do what I do and that
means I don’t get to squander them in a tantrum before leaving the house.
Like a hypnotist regressing a subject, he
allowed his subconscious to introduce, little by little, his emotional reaction
to the scene in the study.
They don’t fear me.
But the changes…
I don’t understand.
I don’t understand.
I still want to unleash holy hell on them .
They’re going down tonight.
Riddler first—extra kick in the ribs
for “part of the family now.”
It still hurts.
Outside the Stonybrook Warehouse, Nightwing
caught up with Batman -or rather with the ragged, singed, bruised and bloodied
mass of Ouch formerly known as Batman.
His cowl was missing an ear, there were scorch marks on the chest plate, he
limped, and the costume was torn and oozing blood in a way that could only mean
the flesh beneath was torn and oozing blood.
No one but the former Robin could have beheld this sight and realized: this was a happy man.
He had unleashed holy hell, first against
Riddler, then against Two-Face, and he had won.
Nightwing greeted his former partner in a way that would have been unthinkable six months before.
“Big-B! You started without me.
Looks like I missed all the action.”
Whoa, thought Dick, it’s been a while since
Bruce was monosyllabic.
“Looks like you’ll have to completely
replace the costume.”
“Okeydokey… I was over at Oracle’s just
now and she’s got this great idea to–”
“Anybody watching over your city while
you’re chasing Barbara’s skirts?”
Dick reacted as though to a physical slap. What
the hell? He started to reply that he didn’t answer to Batman, that
Bruce wouldn’t let him be his own man, etc. etc. …when one of those
sudden flashes of insight that strike between the eyes, struck between the eyes. He remembered, a few days earlier, Bruce and Selina playfully
reenacting the exchanges they’d had a hundred times as Batman and Catwoman—and
he realized, just like them, he had been a hamster on a wheel.
He wasn’t going to have this same fight again.
He wasn’t going to wail about Bruce being a dictatorial bully. He
wasn’t going to storm off yet again because Bruce wouldn’t let him be his own
It wasn’t like Bruce was completely wrong.
He was in Gotham instead of Bludhaven.
He was in Gotham yet again, because of Barbara.
And Barbara was busy—doing her job.
He had a job too. He should
go home and do it.
he said frankly, “And
I have to be getting back.”
Batman didn’t react visibly to the
unprecedented maturity of this response, but he noted it.
In a year that saw Batman smile, Bruce Wayne cook, and Ra’s Al Ghul
appear on morning talk shows with his dog, what was one more miracle?
“Can I borrow the Cessna?”
“Aw, c’mon, Dad, I’ll fill the tank and
wash it before I bring it back.”
Batman watched from the roof of Selina Kyle’s
apartment as a sleek plane rose on the horizon near Wayne Manor, followed the
river south, then veered east towards Bludhaven.
If Dick was finally growing beyond the adolescent notion that manhood
means you don’t answer to anyone, he deserved the gesture.
He glanced down at Selina’s terrace.
Speaking of gestures… it was a long time since Catwoman had faced him in
dark and dangerous mode… a very long time.
It might be interesting to see how she’d react if…
“My god, you look like hell!”
Batman spun around, unused to be the one who’s
snuck up on. Catwoman surveyed him from head to toe, taking in the
bloodied lip, the burn marks, the tears in the arms and legs of his costume.
He attempted to turn on the intense, brooding
She cocked her head quizzically then
pronounced: “And you’re missing an ear.”
She walked up to examine the peak of the cowl
that was severed off.
He looked down at her, pouring on more brooding
She purred in his ear.
Then he remembered, this is why Psychobat never worked with her. All of a sudden, the silence isn’t a dangerous silence. It’s an I don’t know what to say cause there’s a Catwoman purring in my ear silence, and that’s just not intimidating. Needing to say something, anything, he did what he’d always done: murmured the first thing that came into his head. “What time do I pick you up for the ribbon cutting tomorrow night?”
To be continued…