awoke to three very specific sounds:
it must be important if Lucius would be calling him on cel, Bruce answered the
beeping box without realizing…
what? Lushy? Who is this?::
wasn’t his phone.
Wayne. Who is this?”
It’s Harvey Dent.::
half-beat of alarm that Harvey was using Lucius’s phone dissolved the moment
Bruce looked at the small silver box in his hand. It was he who was using
Selina’s phone. She must have the
same ring for Harvey that he used for Lucius.
Bruce, why are you answering Selina’s phone?::
in the shower,” Bruce answered without thinking.
was a moment’s silence on the other end of the line.
::Oh.:: Another pause, then… ::well::
and another pause. And
::Wait, maybe this is better. Could
you come see us this afternoon? We need some expert advice about something.::
with curiosity as to what topic Harvey could possibly want ‘expert advice’
for from Bruce Wayne, Bruce agreed to the appointment.
This agreement immediately scored a bonus for Batman: the location of
Harvey Dent’s new hideout in the old Flick Theatre.
to the cave to log this while Selina was still in the shower. Not that he was avoiding her or anything.
He simply wanted to research this building and pull the original
blueprints, just in case, as he would before entering any known rogue hideout if
he had the luxury of time.
Logging in to the system, Bruce was immediately met by an alert. The analysis of last night’s autodownloads detected a pattern that, cross-referenced with the Rogues At Large list, generated a flag:
Three days before, Harold Morton, of the Morton Trust, cancelled all his appointments.
He returned to work the next day. Yesterday, Charles Fitzwallace, of Fitzwallace Tech, cancelled his appearance at
a panel discussion on emerging technologies.
He and his wife were also a no-show at Mrs. Ashton-Larraby’s benefit,
where Fitzwallace Tech had bought two tables. There was both a Morton Building and a Fitzwallace Lab at Hudson University,
favorite target of the Scarecrow.
wasn’t much, it wasn’t anything yet, it was merely something to keep an eye
made a mental note of this information and went on to research the Flick Theatre…
Two hours later, standing in the lobby of the empty and derelict theatre, Bruce Wayne felt a fool. Harvey Dent himself was giving him a history of the edifice far more detailed than the public records had provided. Harvey told, with pride of ownership, how this building was once The Cathom, a vaudeville house, run by one Roddy McMurphy - who refused to sell out when the great impresarios began organizing theatres into touring circuits, who refused to acknowledge vaudeville was dying, and who refused to kowtow to the mob bosses then becoming a force in Gotham City. It was this last that proved to be the fatal mistake, and McMurphy was killed, accidentally or not, in the gang wars of 1935. His theatre fell into disuse, but was eventually purchased and converted into a lush movie house by Santo Valenz. Valenz passed the theatre on to his son and his wife, who made a decent living with it - but in the age of multiplexes and DVDs, the era of great movie palaces was over. Rather than borrow to convert the theatre to something more competitive, the Valenzes continued as an art house until their recent retirement to Florida. The move was financed, it now turned out, by the sale of the theatre to a mysterious holding company. The Valenzes assumed the company was fronting for a family-friendly SuperCorp that was known to be buying up strategic patches of Gotham real estate. This despite the fact, Harvey observed caustically, that the downtown location was anything but strategic. No, the mysterious holding company was a front for none other than “us,” Harvey Dent and Two-Face.
Bruce started at the way Harvey so easily referred to Two-Face as a separate
entity, as if they were business partners.
There was a disquieting similarity to his own habit of referring to Bruce
Wayne and Batman in the third person to people who knew they were one and the
reason for Two-Face and Harvey’s interest in the building, while not evident
from the paperwork, was clear enough now that Bruce had seen the edifice. Giant concrete Comedy-Tragedy masks decorated the façade
like gargoyles, and here in the lobby, the floor beneath the grand staircase was
picked out with an elaborate mosaic of the same image:
two masks, one laughing and one
Selina would say: Poor Harvey.
the pleasantries of viewing the new building were over, Harvey proceeded to the
business of the visit with the directness of a lawyer with an agenda.
Bruce, the thing with you and Selina, we can’t quite figure it out.”
was the thought concealed behind the business exec’s poker face.
mean, we love the girl, we really do, but we do believe you’re the
first man ever whose face wasn’t a scratching post within the first month of
The neck muscles that supported Bruce’s poker face tensed in a way Harvey did not
notice, but Dick or Tim would have. He
had been a scratching post on that first meeting.
Harvey had no way of knowing it was as Batman and occurred years before
was generally known, but still… he had been a scratching post within a month,
indeed within an hour, of knowing her. Harvey went on with his musings.
why when you picked up this morning and said ‘in the shower’ (heh, heh), we thought
‘Hey, anybody who can go the distance with Hurricane Selina, might just
have a plan.’”
gotten ourself into an awkward situation with Pammy, er, Pamela.
Isley. I mean, that’s Poison Ivy. We, er, know each other slightly. Well, actually, we know each other quite well… in fact, uh, intimately, you
might even say. And ah, well to be
honest, um, it seems… she seems to have decided—and I don’t know how this
could have happened frankly—but she seems to have decided that we’re a
couple. Now, I have never thought of
that woman as what you might call ‘girlfriend material,’ and god knows I
never asked her on a date or anything. The only time I gave her anything but the back of my hand, it was a corsage at
Christmas (and boy was that a bad idea). So
I don’t know how it is I now find myself on the hook to take care of her
plants while she’s up the river, but the point is, I AM. On the hook. I don’t know how it
happened, but here I am: the boyfriend, taking care of the plants.
And the thing of it is, I seem to have accidentally, uh, killed her pet
ah, um and well was in response to a stare Harvey had interpreted as
civilian Bruce Wayne, ordinary guy and his old friend, shocked and horrified at the
revelation that Harvey was intimately involved with a woman who had once seduced him for
the purpose of killing him. Bruce’s
expression was indeed shocked horror, but not at the news that Two-Face and Ivy
were lovers (they deserve each other, was Batman’s response), but at
that curious bit about “I don’t know how this could have happened… I never
asked her… I don’t know how it is I now find myself on the hook… but here
before Bruce could begin to process his reaction to these utterly random phrases in
Harvey’s rant, they were pushed from his head by the glorious revelation that
that flytrap was dead!
hated that flytrap. As much as he hated anything in this world, he hated that
damn oversized weed with its steel grip, its vine-like tentacles, and that
nauseatingly sweet odor it put out when it had something struggling in those
tentacles that it thought would be its next meal.
flytrap was dead! Batman’s disciplined reflexes held the poker face, barely. And Harvey went on to explain his predicament—as if
explanations were necessary. He’d
killed one of Ivy’s plants, her babies, possibly her favorite.
Bruce didn’t know what he could say.
Even Batman didn’t even know what to say.
He was looking at a dead man, that’s really all there was to it.
if I got her another one, replace it before she gets back.”
Bruce answered too quickly, then made up a reason, “She’d probably know the
difference, and then on top of killing it, you tried to fool her.”
Plus, he thought, give us some time to enjoy the new flytrap-free Gotham.
what do I do?” Harvey asked pitifully.
phrase “move to Metropolis” hovered on Bruce’s lips, but he knew he
couldn’t actually say that.
smashed his utility belt onto its shelf in the costume vault with a force
far from prudent for an object that contained explosives, gas pellets and
capsules of unstable chemicals.
first time Harvey contacted Bruce Wayne for a tête-à-tête about his seeing
Selina, it had set off a Psychobat episode the likes of which were seldom seen
outside of Hell Month. Today, contacted as some kind of expert in the romantic handling of the women of
the rogues gallery, Bruce heard his voice dispensing advice he would be loathe
to follow himself: “Talk to her,
Harvey,” he had said, “Tell her the truth.” It was the Batman part of
his psyche, the strategic thinker, who added “And do it now, while she’s
safely in Arkham and can be medicated if necessary.”
Harvey’s reaction had not been pleased.
Arkham. Yeah. Well.
Harley Quinn was just sent up, you know. You know what happens when those two get together, it’s
bad for the men. They work each
thought back to the foursome at the wedding:
Selina, Harley, Lois and Dinah, and shuddered.
The drinking buddies. Who knew what all was said? Well, Clark knew
more than he was saying, but you couldn’t make the Boy Scout talk.
They work each other up.
words had hung in the air as once, on that earlier visit, you’re part of
the family now had hung in the air. The
effect was similar: Psychobat.
was the ultimate embodiment of the principle: we teach best what we most need to
So far from taking his own advice and talking with Selina, calmly, rationally, and above all truthfully,
he dealt with his uncertainties about her as he always had:
by denying anything at all was going on and pouring himself into the
Batman mindset with every fiber of his being.
first thing the Batman mindset had to offer in re the day’s events was that
Scarecrow was active. And there was a Wayne building at Hudson
University, let’s not forget that… The last thing he needed right now was to be blindsided by some lurking,
unspoken fear. It was time to be proactive, a preemptory strike; get
Scarecrow and her fear toxins off the table…
led to tonight’s campaign to locate and apprehend (read: beat the snot out of)
one Jonathan Crane a.k.a. Scarecrow. That
led to a series of none-too-satisfying interrogations of petrified snitches.
And THAT led to a second-floor apartment above a pharmacy where he’d
discovered… no Scarecrow. But he
did set off that booby-trap like a rank amateur.
Knowing a trap was likely, Batman had taken the precaution of wearing a
gas mask… he hadn’t figured on the blowdart.
He felt the blow on his neck, like a wasp-sting, and knowing he had only
seconds before his judgment and perceptions were worthless, he fumbled in his
belt for the antidote. He popped it
to his mouth, only to find his mouth still covered by the gas mask. The gunman stood before him and he stumbled back into the
alley, tripping over their bodies, he fell backwards.
“Hey, careful there, Stud.”
Catwoman’s arm, strong and firm, materialized behind
him, supporting him at the waist, keeping him from falling.
The alley was gone, he was still in the apartment.
No gunman, no nothing. Except
happened?” he asked, confused, drawn into those extraordinary pools of green.
She drew a single claw down his cheek, following the seam where the mask
met is face, then continued down, slicing the mask at his throat. She continued
to claw down his chest, the armor was no protection, then plunged its
needlelike tip into his flesh without a word.
He didn’t react, didn’t fight, didn’t move.
Blood was gushing from his face, from his throat, from his chest, and he
stood there staring into her eyes.
mad at you,” she said simply, licking the blood from her claw. “You didn’t come to bed last night.
I was bored.”
“I’m sorry,” he answered numbly.
Then she reached inside the now gaping hole in his chest,
like a safe, and pulled out a string of pearls.
She turned, lifting them to her throat.
me with this clasp.”
She walked away, out the door, without a word. He followed her onto the street—it was different somehow. Cleaner. Brighter. Safer. It was the middle of the night, but the gleaming streetlights lit it up like day. There were kids on rollerblades and bicycles, boy scouts helping seniors across the street, it was… wrong. It was all wrong.
“See, baby, Gotham doesn’t need you anymore.”
Catwoman standing behind him again, except when he turned, she wasn’t in costume, and neither was he.
guess it never did,”
happened?” he asked again.
corporation bought up the whole thing. The
whole city is theirs now, so it’s all like Gotham Plaza: clean, efficient,
sanitized for your protection. A
postcard of a Gotham City that never was and always will be. Ironic, isn’t
it, all it took was corporate money. You had that. You had the solution all
along. Like the Wizard of Oz. You just didn’t think to use it. You’d rather dress up like a flying rat and beat people up.
Jason’s dead; that’s why a lot of people are dead. That’s why Barbara was
shot. Because you never thought to do this.”
no this isn’t real. This is
Disney World, this is Stepford. A
couple blocks, sure, but the whole city like this? It isn’t possible.”
laughed, mockingly, and turned into an alley that immediately went black as
pitch, swallowing her up. He heard
two gunshots in the nothingness, then nothing at all.
awoke on the floor of that apartment, pulled the useless gas mask off his face
and the blowdart from his neck. He
stood on shaky legs and summoned the car.
This wasn’t the first time a miscalculation with the Scarecrow led to one of those nightmare visions. It wasn’t the first time an indulgence in being Psychobat led to a miscalculation.
But it was the last time Psychobat was going to appear because of the Selina situation, that much he vowed.
And Bruce Wayne should hit the showers as well, he wasn’t doing so hot lately.
No, it was time this matter was dealt with once and for all, and Batman was the
man to do it.
To be continued…