“Another night,” Dick said, pulling the van into the turnaround behind Rabe Memorial Hospital, “Expect the unexpected.”
His peripheral vision caught the
twitch before Bruce answered: “Always.”
night. Always expect the unexpected. It was the formula of words Batman repeated every
night, once they were suited up and seated in the Batmobile, right before they pulled out of
the cave as Batman and Robin.
The foursome had dropped off their bags at Nightwing’s safe house near Rabe Memorial, then headed to Mario’s, his favorite restaurant near his old apartment on Parkthorne Avenue. He missed the old place, Number 1013, Apartment 3A. But it would have been foolish to keep up the lease once Dick Grayson was known to have gotten married and moved back to Gotham.
The safe house was better. Anonymous. Nondescript.
Like the Caernaervon Garage they were headed for now.
After dinner, Barbara was so anxious
to set up her laptop system and get to work, the men dropped her and Selina back
at the safe house. Now they were on
their own, and Dick knew the corner of Bludhaven he most wanted Bruce to see.
Speeding under the Woolridge Overpass into the Caernaervon Section of industrial parks by the waterfront, Dick finally came to a dark carport, parked the van, and nodded for Bruce to follow on foot. He punched a code into a security panel beneath a sign reading: Caernaervon Garage, Storage by Week/Month/Year.
“A rental place,” Bruce said
flatly as they entered.
“You taught me better than
that,” Dick said, “I own the building - through a dummy corporation.
On the books, there are nineteen tenants. All deceased, mostly BPD Police
Officers killed in the line.”
touch,” Bruce murmured. “So this is where you store all your gear too big to be
carried with the costume?”
Dick beamed. It was approval. It was pride and approval. Bruce expressed it the only way he could, letting an appreciative eye linger over the surveillance equipment, weights, exercise mats, scuba gear, metal detectors, and assorted weaponry.
And of course…
the car: The Nightbird.
alloy McLaren engine - modified, 6,064 cc, 672 horsepower at 7,400 RPM, 0 to 60 in 5 seconds; 0
to 100 in 9.”
“Nice,” Bruce conceded,
caressing the front bumper, “This is an old Camaro body?”
“It’s a shell.
I have four interchangeable bodies: muscle car, taxi, police cruiser,
and a truck cab. Sort of urban camouflage.”
Oblique glass. Onboard CPU. Video, sat, and com links. OraCom, of course.
“You ever consider a theme chassis
just for you—no camouflage, black, insignia on the grille, headlights and
hubcaps tinted to match?”
“The Tim Allen caveman grunt,
that’s what they’re doing right now, Selina, I’ll bet my life on it.”
But Barbara insisted:
“Really! I will bet you anything;
what do you want to bet? They’re
circling the car, making happy man-grunts.”
Around hot cars, it’s what guys do.”
“I can’t picture it.
It’s too normal.”
Barbara smirked. “Aren’t you the one who wrote the book on ‘underneath the
mask and the bat-bluster, he’s a man like any other man.’”
“Guilty,” Selina admitted.
“And the best part
is, if you ask,
they’ll say it’s for us: ‘Chicks love the car.’ But, c’mon, who cares?
It’s a car. Four wheels, takes you
from A to B. Big whoop.
They want to think we love the cars, because that gives them a grown up
reason for having the silly things, instead of admitting they’re nothing but
toys for big
Nope, now you’re stretching. It’s
shoe shopping. It’s the flipside
of shoe shopping.”
“What’s wrong with shoe shopping?” Barbara asked with arched brows.
Selina rolled her eyes.
“Okay, your laptop is hooked up to
the portable generator,” she said. “I still
don’t understand why you needed this thing.”
“Oracle is accustomed to a certain
degree of untraceable anonymity.”
“So is Catwoman.
Which is why I wore a mask when I removed this from the hospital’s
storage closet. Nevertheless, when
the boys get back and see this thing, they’re going to have a pretty good idea
who brought it here. And when they ask why, I’d like to have a better answer
than ‘Oracle is accustomed to anonymity.’”
“You do get worked into a lather,
don’t you? Dinah never wants to
hear this stuff. All right, I’ll
explain, but you don’t get to roll your eyes and say ‘technobabble.’
To keep my logins anonymous, I go through several satellites, most of
which are operated by government agencies that don’t like hackers hitchhiking
on their data streams. So every now
and then, they’ll send a pulse that will cause connected computers to draw
more power. It would drain my
laptop battery in minutes.”
Selina’s eyes glazed slightly.
“Did we just slip into a Tom
Clancy novel,” she asked.
“Remember,” Barbara retorted,
“You may not say ‘technobabble.’ So, to stay online, I need current. But
if I just plug into the outlets, I’ll draw more power in the precise pattern
of the satellite pulse. It’s like
a signature, and they could trace it.”
Selina held up a weary hand. “Tell you what, when Bruce and Dick get back and they ask what the
generator is doing here, you take it from there.”
As long as you make the tea.”
“When I work as Oracle,” Barbara
said, happily completing her untraceable login, “I always drink tea.”
“When I work as Catwoman,”
Selina called from the kitchen, “I always get paid, but you don’t hear me
“You could have taken Bruce’s
check,” Barbara joked, “To - what was it? - enlarge your preserve?
What was that about anyway?”
“The return of the control
freak,” Selina hissed. “I’m not sure what’s behind it. But
if he doesn’t lay off about my tiger…”
That tiger-as-bodyguard was too much.
I mean, look, you’re not going to be running into Blockbuster face
to face, but if you did, Roland considers himself a ladies’ man.”
can’t be serious.”
“He flirted with Black Canary.”
cannot be serious!
He looks like Ra’s.”
“He’s a sharp dresser,
“He looks like Ra’s al
Ghul crossed with a mutant Viking.”
“No desire at all to be on the
receiving end of the ol’ Blockbuster charm?”
“He looks like Ra’s al
crossed with a mutant Viking… sucking on a lemon.”
“So any interaction would
definitely have to be kept at the ‘wanting each other dead’ level.”
I have standards.”
“Besides,” a deep-throated growl
sounded behind her, “you’re taken.”
As always, Selina and Barbara gave
no indication that the trademark Bat-appearance from the silent shadows was in
any way remarkable.
“Why is there a stolen generator
in my living room?” Dick asked.
“A little more care with our
adjectives,” Barbara chided. “It’s
not stolen; it’s been re-localized.”
“Ah, okay, what’s the bullshit
euphemism for a stolen generator doing in my living room?”
“Enabling Oracle to complete Phase
One—Finding Blockbuster faster than any of you thought possible,”
“You… Finding Block…You
FOUND HIM?” Dick stammered, “Already?”
“Selina, I think I’d like
another cup of tea,” Barbara remarked with exaggerated casualness.
“Would you be a
dear and heat up the water?”
“Already?” Dick repeated.
Bruce stood back and watched. This was one of those occasions where the older, more
experienced crimefighter would have liked to warn his partner. Bruce had made this very same mistake once. He’d chanted his incredulous request for confirmation five
times on learning that Selina Kyle could cook.
found him already?” Dick repeated, “I mean - already?”
“Richard,” Selina cut in,
“your expression of wondering awe is noted.
But if you don’t stop repeating ‘already,’ we’ll never get to the ‘how.’”
thought it sounded like a
cue. They were to ask how Barbara
had done it.
Clearly they were expected to ask. Dick,
it’s your cue, Bruce thought. Bruce was
still on his best behavior, making an effort to respect Nightwing’s position
as head of the team… And it was clearly the team leader’s prerogative to ask
for the report… But if Dick didn’t get it together and ask the question soon,
there was a limit to how long Bruce could restrain himself…
Selina could feel it building. In her mind’s eye she drew on the mask—she could see
it. He was ready to blow.
It was quite sexy.
It was quite sexy.
At the last second, Dick cleared his throat, Bat-style, and spoke.
“Um, okay then. Yes.
How did you locate him so quickly?”
Walgreens,” Barbara announced happily.
The men looked at each other.
Barbara waited a full minute for some expression of something,
then when nobody said a word, she went on to explain…
“Blockbuster has a gorilla heart. He had an organ from another species transplanted into his body. Bodies can reject organ transplants. And to minimize the risk of that, they give you anti-rejection drugs.”
“For a few weeks after the
operation,” Bruce interrupted.
“Normally, yes, a patient only
takes those drugs for a few weeks. But,
at the risk of repeating myself, this is a freakin’ gorilla heart.
And he weights 825 pounds. So I hacked into the local pharmacies and
“Prescriptions for a
hippopotamus dose of anti-rejection drugs,” Dick completed her sentence and
“He’s still on Cyclosporin and
Tacrolimus. He’s due for a refill
in ten days, the Stark Avenue Pharmacy. Plant
a homing device in the bottle or follow whoever picks it up, and there’s your
“That is so
F-ing slick,” Dick
whispered in awe.
“Which gives the three of you exactly ten days to lay the groundwork for Phase
To be continued…