I’m the first to admit, I’ve had some odd
visits to the Iceberg Lounge. There was the New Year’s Eve that Harley
Quinn lost a bet with Catman, drugged my champagne, and delivered me to his
table trussed up in wrapping paper with a bow on my ear. There
was the famous Grand Reopening after an especially festive brawl took out
the icicle chandelier. There was Joker and Harley’s anniversary… the
first slumming visit with Bruce… and who could ever forget Jervis’s Aunt
Maud. But even by Iceberg standards, this was a very peculiar episode.
First, it was raining; I got caught in the
rain. And Oswald, the umbrella king, is always just a little snooty if
he catches you running in out of the rain holding a newspaper over your
head. It’s like you’ve let him down.
Not to mention, the place was a ghost town.
No Eddie, no Harvey—my preferred informants, being as close to sane as you
can find in an establishment run by Oswald Cobblepot. It was still
early, so I sat at my usual table in the big dining room and waited.
Finally, an alternate news source arrived. No one will ever call The
Mad Hatter sane (if they did, I suppose Jervis would have to find himself a
new handle), but mad as he may be, he is an eerily reliable fount of
information on just about everybody.
Jervis. Buy a lady a drink?”
wish you wouldn’t keep appearing and vanishing so suddenly; you make one
is the usual shtick when Jervis sees me, Alice to the Cheshire Cat. Then I
always smile, he sits and spouts a little more nonsense about seeing a cat
without a grin or a grin without a cat, and we can get down to business.
“The place seems pretty empty tonight,” I
“Leaving ever so much tea and crumpets for the
rest of us,” he twittered, tucking a napkin into his collar.
“Absolutely,” I answered, because with Jervis, as with Joker, you have to pick your battles.
where has the Cheshire Cat been these many a day?” he asked pointedly. And
I could just tell he was making the transition from Mad Hatter to Gossip Gertie. “Out of town for Hell Month?”
“Yes,” I answered, truthfully enough.
After a long pause—once he figured out I wasn’t
going to offer details no matter how long he sat there waiting—he moved on to a
more promising subject.
I hadn’t. While Jervis told the whole
sordid story, I twisted to see into the bar. And sure enough, there was the man I’d come to snoop about:
“So Two-Face has gone off with Joker, Riddler
and Catman to bring our boy home—by any means necessary. And the worst of
it is, he’s missed that delicious bit about Ivy and Nightwing in the Tattler.
So now we are all deprived of seeing his reaction firsthand. We
shall be dependent on his traveling companions for a report.”
“By any means necessary” sounded ominous,
particularly from that foursome.
just out of curiosity, if it’s that important to get Sly back, why didn’t
you go?” He knew what I was getting at. His mind-control chips
are a hell of a lot more persuasive than an ex-prosecutor with a duality
complex, a killer clown, an anagram freak, and Mr. Magic Cape.
cannot train a ‘hatted’ individual to mix a proper martini,” Jervis
stated, “I’ve tried.”
looked at the empty novelty glass in front of him, and I could just tell he was
about to go off on one of his mad tea party episodes…
should like a fresh drink,” he said, “your glass is full. Let’s change
The thing about Jervis is: as mad as he gets,
the opportunity to spread some gossip will usually bring him around.
twinkle, little bat. How I wonder where you’re at…” he recited.
Jervis, what do we know about the new guy?”
above the world you fly, like a teatray in the sky…Hm?
He’s a most interesting dormouse. Joker’s henchman he was, a go-getter, a
fine Knave of Hearts. Always first into the fray. No mousy lookout
duty for him. Always volunteered for the muscle work. A bruiser.”
I looked back into the bar. The chap
being described as the Joe Louis of the Gotham underworld was polishing a
hurricane glass. I decided to have a closer look.
“Why don’t I get us some fresh drinks,” I said
with a twinkle.
Cassie put the finishing touches on her
disguise and regarded herself in the mirror. She had forsaken the advice
Barbara and the others thrust upon her when she asked about a new look to
attract Azrael. She learned much from that. Their advice was
useless. She was seventeen, after all. She needed to be her own
woman. She needed her own look, one to reflect today, not the outdated
modes of the first Batgirl, Black Canary, and Catwoman.
Of course, Spoiler was nearer her age and
likely to understand. Under normal circumstances, Cassie would have turned
to her. But lately, all Stephanie wanted to do was whine about Tim seeing Cecily.
Cassie avoided her.
It didn’t matter anyway. She
didn’t need advice. She could manage well enough on her own. Batgirl had seen enough of the Goths and groupies that hung out at the Iceberg
to realize an extreme look patterned after some themed criminal was the perfect
in. She could infiltrate the club and be accepted as one of the transient
groupies that hung around hoping to be picked up as a henchwench. Then she could be near him, her adored one, Gregory Brady.
“Greg Brady?” I sputtered, nearly choking on my martini. “Your name is really Greg Brady?”
was an awkward pause in which the bartender said nothing, just looked out with a
hangdog expression. I realized he must get that all the time.
“No wonder you turned to crime,” I smiled,
sipping my drink.
“Also why I got out,” he said casually. “Mr. Joker said he was going to start grooming me, said I should set off on my own
one of these days as THE BRADY, said he’d have a big 70s theme crime spree to
I confess the statement caused me to down that
martini just a bit faster than was wise. I couldn’t help it. The
mental image of Joker in bell-bottoms and platform shoes, of Harley Quinn
spouting phrases like ‘Foxy,’ ‘Dyn-o-mite’ and ‘10-4 good buddy.’
I chugged my martini, okay? I couldn’t take it, and I chugged my martini.
Bruce strode from the stalactite to the costume
vault and flung the cowl into the wall. The exertion did nothing to lessen
his frustration so he punched the shelf meant for Selina’s Catwoman costume.
It splintered into bits, embedding slivers of wood in his unprotected hand, but
again, did nothing to alleviate his frustration.
He couldn’t meditate. Three days to
the anniversary, and the ritual cycle had begun:
when he was not out as Batman, he was in the cave:
working out, meditating, reading the logs that recorded each night’s progress of
his mission since it began, more working out, more meditation. He would
take only water and vitamin tablets in this time. The monks taught that
three days was a suitable period for a fast in the cause of purification. He would not
sleep, for natural sleep would only interfere with the directed focus of his
meditations, the meditations that would intensify his focus on the mission until
he became one with it: his parents, the murders, the mission, Justice. The
concentration must be absolute, to become an avatar of the mission, to become
Justice incarnate… except… his fist clenched, forcing drops of blood
through the creases where the splinters pierced his skin… except he couldn’t do
He couldn’t meditate. He’d focused
on the one-point, the chakra, his center of gravity. He focused on his
breathing. He focused on the stalactite, the nothingness of pure air
between his eye and the stalactite, the sound of condensed moisture dripping off
the stalactite to land with a damp squelch against the stone floor.
Nothing. He couldn’t clear his mind.
So he’d gone to the costume vault and took down
the cowl, placed it before him, and used it as a focus. The face of
Batman. The mission incarnate.
And still… Nothing… He couldn’t still his
Not since the Harley-Catman incident have I
come out of the Iceberg with such a beastly hangover. After that first
martini gulped in reaction to the Joker-70s horror, I stayed at the bar, nursing
another. I didn’t especially want another drink, but it let me chat a
while longer with Giggles and I learned a surprising amount.
far from the bloodthirsty zealot Jervis had described:
He did volunteer for muscle work, but not for love of ramming his fist into
Batman’s face. It was survival strategy. Giggles had noticed that
most henchmen prefer lookout duty: find a nice quiet spot, keep an eye out for
Bats, and let the other guy get his ass kicked. What they didn’t realize is it’s always the lookout that gets stuck
bringing Joker the bad news: The Batmobile is out front. Ergo,
Batman is coming. Ergo, Batman escaped the deathtrap. Then SPLAT,
flat lookout. Or BANG, lookout’s chest gushes blood. Or Pfffffft and
HA-HaHa-HAHAHAHAAAA! Lookout gasps, spasms and stiffens into one of those
hideous deathsmiles. So Greg “Giggles” Brady decided he was a muscleman,
not a lookout.
“I heard you’re always first into the fray,” I
That too, he said, was strategy. Joker
might blame the last guy to go down, the one who actually lets the Bat get past
him to wring Joker’s own neck. And the last man left standing can
sometimes get used as a human shield. No, it was better to lead the
charge. First in, first out.
It made sense. The only problem was that
Oswald overheard my question and thought Catwoman was poaching. Was I trying to steal away his new help?
Now I never went in much for henchmen, and
Oswald knows that as well as anybody. Now and then, if I was setting up a
new lair or stealing something heavy like a big stone antiquity, then maybe I’d
pick up a few guys to do the lifting. But to employ men for the purpose of
fighting with Batman? No. That is, to put it mildly, not my style.
Catwoman has always known how to handle the Bat and Greg Brady doesn’t enter
into it. Not in any way.
But Oswald is a little paranoid these days, and
one has to make allowances.
By way of assuring him, Giggles demonstrated
how I was just teaching him to make my special martini: Drink #3.
With the third drink, I did get to hear why he
was such a terror with the hyenas. The file Barbara showed me did mention that Joker’s snarling pets would
often attack alongside this particular henchman. Why? The Batfile
theorized it was his fierceness. Nope. Giggles survived by flying
under the radar. He kept quiet, watched and listened. When he saw Joker becoming pensive, he didn’t stick around
to see if it was one of those “it’s Thursday, let’s kill all the
henchmen” moods. He made himself scarce. He took the hyenas out for a run!
They liked him, so when he charged into battle, they ran alongside him.
It was really quite funny. I would have
thought so even without that third martini.
Cassie turned off the television in horror.
She hadn’t understood what was so funny about the name Greg Brady, but some of
the comments in his police file made her curious. She never watched
television, except for Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The show was silly for
most of the hour, but at least once in every episode, there would be an exciting
display of imaginative fighting techniques.
It took her a while to find TVLand, but once
she did, she understood. Greg Brady… “Groovy”… what a terrible handicap
for a great warrior.
So I had the information I came for. It
cost me three martinis on top of jetlag to get it, but I had the 411:
Cassie’s new amour a.k.a. Joker’s former henchman Giggles was Greg Brady,
strategic hyena-walker and avoider of lookout duty. Groovy. Now I JUST
wanted to go home, have a hot bath, and climb into bed.
But no. There was still an obstacle
between me and the exit sign, and that obstacle was leafy, lonely, and fresh out
“Come sit with me, Catty.”
You had to know Pam to recognize who was
talking. To the outside observer, it would have looked like the wall of
ivy and clematis around the booth was speaking. The
outside observer might wonder about this, because foliage isn’t supposed to
talk. But then it’s not supposed to move either. Yet here it was, parting like a theatre curtain and holding out a chair
for me. In other words: Drink #4.
There really is no other way to deal with
Poison Ivy, you have to humor her. I honestly don’t know why she bothers
with the pheromones and mind control. She can mostly get
her way just being a royal pain in the ass if she doesn’t. Like the plant
from which she takes her name, she is exactly as persistent as a deep-rooted sub
dermal itch. You can try to ignore it, but you’re kidding yourself.
Sooner or later you’ve got to scratch, so you may as well do it now and get it
sat down for Drink #4 - Humoring Pamela: Her
skin is alabaster, not green. She is a natural redhead. Paper is
murder. Harvey Dent is a loathsome two-timing skunk.
that brought us to Drink #5: The stories in Gotham Post and the Tattler.
“Where do they get this stuff, huh? Tell me
that, Catty. You’ve had ‘sperience with these papers b’fore. So tell me, where would they get an idea like that?
NIGHTWING, he’s so… tall.”
Not a characteristic I personally find
displeasing in a man, but if you think I would say that, you’re not grasping The
Humoring Pam Principle.
blue,” she went on, making a face, “his costume, it’s so BLUE.”
Again, I’m not entirely clear on what’s
objectionable about blue, but again I let this pass.
those pictures—I have leaf hair! Leaves are for adornment, not coiffeur. The
leaves of the living vine make becoming gilding for the body, and on mine they—like everything - are irresistible, but in the hair!”
you look fine,” I reassured her, “at least they didn’t take you down three
OF HOLLYWOOD! WILL YOU TWO GIVE IT A REST!”
Pam and I looked at each other and the vine
curtains parted to reveal—a thoroughly pissed Roxy Rocket.
“Ivy, you looked hot in those pictures. I
would give everything I have if my worst problem was that the COVER STORY on me
in a national paper didn’t have me looking hot in the way I prefer to look
hot. And Catty, take a reality pill. Everybody who’s actually
had sex can see what they’re doing. The affected virgin lemmings carp
that breasts are sexist. Fine, so they reshape the T&A to downplay the T
and punch up the A. The undersexed pundits don’t have a clue what’s
happening, and right under their noses all the normal, healthy red-blooded guys
get an even better show. Meanwhile, while you
two sit here whining about your coverage, SLY IS GONE!
The only bit of identity I ever had around here was ‘cause he noticed me
and now HE’S GONE!”
I looked at Pam.
Pam looked at me.
I threw a twenty on the table and stood to
leave. Pam did the same. Once you’ve been publicly spanked by Roxy
Rocket, there’s nothing more to say. It’s time to go home.
To be continued…