It wasn’t my fault. Everyone
says I blame myself when there’s no cause to.
Well, let’s lay that theory to rest once and for all.
This was not my fault, and I am saying so, out loud, in language so clear
and plain it cannot be misunderstood: this was NOT BATMAN’s FAULT.
The fact is, between D’Annunzio’s and society gossips and
and the wedding, everybody—including Bruce and Selina—everybody
lost sight of the fact that Selina Kyle did not hook up with Bruce Wayne.
She fell for Batman. And
it was high time he, I, started acting like it and took control of the
That’s not a judgment about the
Bruce-method; it’s just the way it is. Bruce
Wayne was out of his league. Selina
some bimbo; she was Catwoman. It
takes Batman to handle her. We
wanted—Christ, I sound like Two-Face—I wanted to find out just
where this relationship was headed. Where
did she think we were, and where did she think we were going.
The situation required subtlety, ruthlessness, focus, discipline, and
expertise in the art of interrogation, not to mention a knack for cat-handling.
The first objective was to tire her
out. I decided a morning of
shopping, a light lunch somewhere it was a chore—like Lalique’s, and an
afternoon at the museum should do the trick.
The last part, I knew, would be tricky.
Actually taking Selina to a museum, particularly THAT
museum, there was no denying it was going to be tricky.
But Batman has never been afraid of a challenge.
The objective was tired feet, and sources were unanimous that the Gotham
Metropolitan was absolutely guaranteed to produce tired feet.
before, I cut patrol short
and kept her up late. It was hardly
an unpleasant task. I knew I needed
to get her up early the next morning without it seeming planned. I set the alarm on my phone, set the ringer to vibrate and
hid it in the bed. When it went
off, I thrashed around like I was having a nightmare and swung an arm onto her
side of the bed—I hit cold sheet. My
eyes popped open and I sat up.
“You’re up early,” she purred. God, that voice, no wonder Bruce was floundering.
He never stood a chance.
She was already dressed, pulling
boots over riding pants, a look that suggested her Catwoman costume ever so
subtly (Bruce never stood a chance, I could see that now. I should have stepped
The addition of a flannel shirt—my flannel shirt—while not remotely
evocative of Catwoman, was still unspeakably sexy.
“This is going to be harder
than I thought,” is what
flashed through my head a split-second before remembering not to ever, ever use
that word with her. The Catwoman in
my mind didn’t miss a beat:
I realized then
that I was out of
practice. I’d forgotten what
it’s like trying to deal with her while still ignoring her, ignoring what
she does to meand
—oh god, then she bent over to pick her costume off the
floor. What a body. All I could think was “Kitten, that was uncalled
I slapped the thought away. Calling her Kitten, even thinking of her as Kitten, was not
the way to go about this. I needed
to be as I used to be: lock it all
out of my mind and do what needed to be done.
“I thought maybe go into the city today,” I said casually, “shopping or
“Can’t. I’m going for a
A snag. Already there was a
snag. But upstate rang a bell.
“Upstate” and her rustic outfit, I hazarded a guess:
“Right, you were going to show me that sometime.”
I learned this from Glori Smyth. (I don’t remember all the bimbos names, but Glori with an
“i” Smyth with a “y,” who could forget? The things I do for Gotham.) Where most girls subtly hint for an invitation, Glori went right past that and
simply reminded you it had already been extended, whether it had or not.
Selina had never actually said she’d show me her preserve, nor even told
me its name. But she shrugged now,
As I dressed, it occurred to me this was far better than my original plan.
Spending the day together away from crowds and public places was a
definite advantage, the preserve was sure to be physically taxing and, best of
all, she’s never more at ease than when she’s with her cats.
It was perfect. A day with
them, a day with me, and then… it was perfect.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy the preserve. I’m not a great
nature-lover as a rule (let us pause in remembrance of the lately-departed
flytrap and cheer at the miserable weed’s passing).
But a day out of the city was pleasant enough.
There was a Siberian tiger, called Shimbala, that was—even for Siberian
tigers—huge. I was glad I never
had to deal with him as Batman. I
said as much. And Selina stared at me
like I’d said it in German.
“This animal has a three-acre wooded pen with a marsh and a spring-fed lake. You figure it’s gonna drive into the city and rob a bank or something?”
It sounded silly when she said it like that, so I explained—and I realize
now that was a mistake—I explained my reasoning:
this was her tiger and perhaps she might have used it as a
weapon against me. I still don’t understand what was so objectionable about
But I’m a little piqued that the core of the objection was entirely
about the TIGER. It had
nothing to do with not wanting to see my flesh torn to ribbons by nine
hundred pounds of nature’s most efficient killing machine.
It was all about: wild cats
aren’t attack dogs, they hunt for food, they don’t kill for a biscuit, and
why would anyone bring one into a city anyway where there’s no space for it to
run, besides which these were pets and not weapons…
I held my tongue about Ivy’s flytrap and Joker’s hyenas.
This wasn’t about winning an argument; this was about setting a tone. Today, I needed to blur the line between Bruce and Batman.
Too much talk of the rogues would be counter-productive.
There were four lions, two African and two Barbary, and six leopards, all but invisible in their various corners of the preserve, but we focused binoculars on them all the same. There wasn’t much to see. Nocturnal animals sleep during the day. That’s what they were doing. It was like a stakeout, without the possibility of anything interesting happening.
Then came the “small wildcats.” There were several lynx, which acted almost like dogs the way they jumped up on us, pranced, played, and generally reveled in the attention they were receiving. (That observation, I need hardly add, was almost as unpopular as the one about the tiger.)
There was a pair of servals that wanted nothing to do with us. Then there was a family of caracals that possibly wanted to make up for the
servals and restore our faith in
feline hospitality. It had been a
warm day. There was a kind of bench from a fallen tree. We sat.
The largest caracal hopped up next to me and began licking the sweat from
my hair. Selina was charmed by
this: it’s grooming, it’s what he would do for another cat.
(And I thought the museum would be weird!)
Then came the real object of the visit: the ocelot. Its name was Nirvana, and the way I was introduced, I got the idea that I was expected to make a good impression—or else. I’ve never been in the position of having to meet “the family.” It just never came up. With debutantes, I already knew their families and they knew me. With bimbos, I never let it go on long enough. And as for Talia…
But I suspect what I experienced being “presented” to Nirvana is what it feels like to meet the future in-laws. There’s this sense of “this is the one I’ve told you about” hanging over your head like a neon sign.
And the cat didn’t seem to like me. It
“Put your hand out,” Selina said, “so she can sniff you.”
And I did it. I felt like an
idiot, but I let the growling ocelot sniff my hand.
I could have offered to drive back to the city, but didn’t—better to
make her keep those boots on a little longer.
When we reached her apartment, I expected her to kick them off first
thing. When she didn’t
immediately, I improvised, removing my own shoes and rubbing my ankles as though
they ached. The suggestion was
enough; she decided to “get comfortable.”
She returned a few minutes later in a cool looking cotton dress, short,
no stockings and no shoes. Purrfect.
She curled next to me on the sofa, and I continued rubbing my leg.
“That terrain up there takes a toll on the ankles,” she remarked sympathetically. (Gotcha!)
“Aw,” I said, pretending to think she meant her own feet hurt, “Poor
kitten,” and drew her leg into my
lap. After rubbing for just a
moment, I said “Wait, better idea. Hold
that thought,” and disappeared into her bedroom. When I returned, I popped a soothing CD into her
machine, and lit some candles. “Get
comfortable,” I said, dimming the lights and returning to her room. I found what I was looking for…
scented, too… lavender.
“Close your eyes,” I said.
“Why?” she asked, smiling.
“Just close your eyes. It’s a
surprise. No peeking.”
I rubbed a little of the lavender-scented massage oil into my fingertips and
started behind her left knee. She cooed. Down the thighs then, kneading them, in long strokes, in line parallel to the
“That feels wonderful,” she said.
I went behind the other knee, making small, brisk circles… Then the thighs
again in those long firm strokes… I felt the tension start to ease out of the
“You’ve got great hands.”
“Shh. No talking.”
I moved up her sides, working very, very slowly.
By the time I reached her shoulders, I was stroking in time to her
breathing. By the time I finished
on her neck, she’d adapted her breathing to match me.
“I learned this in a temple…” I mentioned casually, stroking up her
jawline. “…in the East…” at her temples now, little circles, “…done
correctly, it clears the mind…” little circles, little circles, “…eases
“’ts very r’laxing”
I could tell from her voice that we were almost there.
I did her neck again, then return to the temples.
Little circles, little circles.
“I want to ask you something.”
The moment was here. I opened my
mouth and… realized I had absolutely no idea what to say.
What exactly was it I wanted to know?
Where do you see us going?
It was too general. Something more specific…
The night of the wedding, what happened, what do you think happened? Mrs. Wayne… not so terrible… what do you think was said there? What WAS said?
There were a thousand questions tied up in there, and at the same time, there
wasn’t even one.
What exactly was it I wanted to know?
I was mad at Bruce more than anything. I had done my part: here we were. The moment had arrived. Was it too much to have the question ready? Was it too much to have this thought through?
The Bruce part of me (and if I don’t want to sound like Two-Face, I must
finally admit it isn’t “Bruce Wayne” but “the Bruce part of me”) pointed out that Batman took over, sending everyone else to the showers, so if the
finger of blame was going to be pointed…
But it wasn’t my fault.
I bent and kissed her neck. She sighed again, and those gorgeous eyes fluttered open.
“You give a great massage,” she said, smiling up at me.
“You deserve it,” I told her, feeling like a heel. “It was very nice of you to show me the preserve.”
If she knew what I’d done, or thought about doing, she’d kill me. Hack me into bite size pieces and feed me to Shimbala. I’d deserve it too. I know what her cats mean to her. That preserve, it’s her special place, and I used it against her.
The Catwoman in my head was strangely silent.
I would have preferred accusations. Frankly,
I would have preferred claws.
“Of course you would,” the imaginary Selina
noted. “You’re great as an
enemy. It’s only as a friend, an
ally, or a lover that you suck.”
“Now that’s not fair.”
“You want the whole list of friends you’ve screwed over in ways
never dream of attacking Joker or Two-Face?
Or will just the top 10 suffice?”
“I’m not having this conversation.”
“’Course not. That’s why
you’re trying to make this all about me.”
“I just want to know what you’re thinking.”
“THEN ASK ME, YOU STUPID SCHMUCK!”
Ask me, you stupid schmuck. That’s what the Selina in my head was saying while the real one was in my arms, kissing me. Her soft, strong hands caressed my back, pulling me in closer, and I was hearing Ask me, you stupid schmuck.
It’s just possible Joker is right. It’s just possible I’m crazier than any of them.
“NOW, GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE NOW!”
“What happened?” I asked, then the still aching stomach seemed to lurch and I realized what it must have been: I talked in my sleep. I must have said something about—oh god. She’d turned away from me, but I could tell that she was crying—oh god, oh god. I tried to get out of the bed, my leg tangled in the damn sheet and my foot hit the floor with some force. There was a sickly sounding yeowlp and I prayed that lump under my foot was a furry slipper and not a dead cat.
As I ran to Selina, I caught just a glimpse of my reflection in the mirror. It was split down the center. Like Two-Face. I’d killed her cat. Oh god.
She was still turned away from me. I
put my hand on her shoulders… “Don’t touch me,” she sobbed. I turned her towards me only to find myself looking at
Scarecrow’s triumphant grin…
“Nightmare,” I said sheepishly.
“5:00 already?” she asked sleepily, and
“No,” I answered, “this was a different one.”
(The disapproval Alfred can pack into a single syllable is frightening, truly
“I came across these objects while cleaning the master bath.”
He deposited three small, metallic pellets onto the desk.
Each was embossed with a bat silhouette inside a small oval.
I made no comment.
“They appear to be yours, sir.”
What did he
expect, an explanation?
“They appear to be recording devices, sir.”
I wasn’t explaining. I didn’t have to explain, and I
was not going to.
“Might I ask, sir, why you are endeavoring to bug your own bathroom?”
“No, Alfred, you may not.”
“I see, sir. Then I must
regretfully give my notice.”
“My notice, sir. I am
resigning my position in your employ.”
“Alfred, this is insane. You can’t leave.”
“Sir, I have endeavored to overlook the emergence of various garments and
behaviors above stairs that would, prior to Ms. Kyle’s arrival, most certainly
have been confined to below stairs. I
have done this, sir, because, in my profession, what occurs within the confines of
a gentleman’s bedroom is guarded with as much confidentiality as what occurs,
in this household, -cough- below stairs.
Do you take my meaning, sir?”
“I shall take that as a ‘yes,’ sir, and continue.
While there has never before been cause for discretion about that aspect
of your private life, sir, I have, I believe, demonstrated a discretion about
other matters far beyond that which ordinary servants are ever called upon to
“Alfred, you know you’re part of the family, please don’t keep calling
yourself a servant that wa—”
“As I was saying, sir, I should have
thought I had exhibited a
discretion at least equal to that of ordinary servants who are trusted to
maintain the secrets of their employers’ bedrooms. In short, I thought I
had proven myself loyal and trustworthy. But as you evidently feel that
whatever it is you and Ms. Kyle do with these bat-shaped objects must be hidden
from my eyes—”
“OH, FOR GOD’S SAKE, ALFRED, STOP IT.
My God, what are you thinking? Look, she talks to herself in the mirror, okay?
And in the shower. And
I thought if I could listen in, maybe I could find out what the hell is going on
in her head.”
“I see, sir.”
“You understand? It’s not—God, I can’t believe I have to say this—they’re not props for some weird…
whatever it was you were implying before.”
“I understand, sir.”
“So you see, it wasn’t that I didn’t trust you and was hiding those
things behind the mirror and in the shower. They were simply… placed
“I understand, sir.”
“Thank God. So you’re not
“I would venture to point out, sir…”
Here it comes
“… that this episode would have been far less painful for you,
you had simply told me what was going on at once.”
“Yes, Alfred, I see that now.”
“Do you, sir?”
“Yes, Alfred, I get the message. And if I’d just go to Selina and ask her directly, that
would be a lot less painful as well.”
“What a profoundly insightful observation, sir.”
To be continued…