Bruce took a slim, leather bound volume off the bookshelf and let it fall open automatically to an often-read page.
“To gain the friendship of a cat is a difficult thing. The cat is a philosophical, methodical, quiet animal, tenacious of its own habits, and it does not lightly confer its friendship. If you are worthy of its affection, a cat will be your friend, but never your slave. He keeps his free will, though he loves, and he will not do for you what he thinks is unreasonable. But if he once gives himself to you it is with absolute confidence and affection!” -Theophile Gautier, 1850.
He closed the book and returned it to the shelf.
Technically, the Egyptian Sekhmet was stolen property in that Catwoman had broken into the museum, disabled their security, and left with it in her possession although it didn’t belong to her…
…although technically, it didn’t belong to the museum either. It was on loan. It was on permanent loan from a private collector, facilitated by the Wayne Foundation. He owned it. And now it was back in his house.
So it was stolen, and yet, in a way, it wasn’t. He couldn’t say that was feline logic either, since Selina didn’t know. If she hadn’t noted the inscription on the sapphire cat, he reasoned, she certainly wouldn’t pay attention to the “on loan from…” plaque. Even if she had, it was so long ago it’s unlikely she’d remember.
So it wasn’t feline logic. It was, like she said, a compromise.
Renee Montoya cursed her coffee maker. It had, yet again, overflowed the basket somehow, spilling more liquid onto the counter than it dripped into the pot. She picked up the impoverished coffeepot anyway and poured, salvaging almost three quarters of a mug.
“Madre De la Cocina,” she asked aloud of the kitchen ceiling, “how is it that appliances know when to break?”
Cars knew. They invariably chose to break down when you had extra money. And appliances, it seemed, when you had an unexpected windfall of time.
This afternoon would have been her first real free time since her election to the council. No more backlog from Everwood’s resignation, no late meetings, no date with Lawrence, no family visits for once (She loved her family dearly but there were times she would prefer a Sunday to herself) and no reading ahead for upcoming meetings. She’d planned to take off at 4, maybe even 3:30. Free time. Me time. Every girl’s most precious indulgence!
She had planned a sauna after her workout at the gym, then a stop at the video store, those empanadas her mother sent over while she watched her movie, and then some Rocky Road with a book. The movie she had already decided: SWAT if it was out on tape by now (she’d missed it in the theatres, and she loved watching cop movies and noting all the mistakes) and Seven if it wasn’t. The book would depend on her mood. She’d started Dark Symphony, a cheesy but enjoyable romance novel, and The Count of Monte Cristo before her free time dried up.
But now all bets were off because she’d have to schlep across town to get a coffee machine after work, and then no doubt she’d hit rush hour coming home.
She poured extra milk and sugar into the mug, making a beverage closer to cocoa than coffee, and sipped. Then she laid out the morning papers. She knew she should begin with the real news in the Times, but since the scandal, she’d developed a morbid fascination with the Gotham Post. They’d torpedoed her life with their tawdry fictions:
They upset her parents—who found out about the scandal when they set the Post out in their store the morning the story broke…
They upset her brother—who had a Latin sense of machismo and no political savvy. Poor Benny was so hurt when Renee wouldn’t let him go down to the Post offices to defend his sister’s honor…
And they upset her relationship with Lawrence. It wasn’t that he was unsupportive, quite the opposite. He’d stuck with her through a scandal. That suddenly made the relationship more serious than it should be. At this stage, after only a month… Renee had spent so much of her life pushing people away, afraid they would get hurt if they got too close; a cop in Gotham, it could happen all too easily. But simple dating, especially now that she’d left the force, what was the harm in that? She gave it a try, and then thanks to that cheap tabloid and their shameful stunt, “simple dating” exploded into this very personal issue…
And after they did all that, she was still reading the Post? Why? Madre de toda la verdad, why, when she knew they were slandering her week after week, did she keep reading this scandal rag? Renee opened the glossy pages and looked down… A gurgling chuckle rumbled in her mouth, threatening to rain cocoa-coffee all over the tabloid:
sources inside Gotham City Hall hint that Jade
They… They did it? Her quote to the Times about the nonsense being printed… “Next week we’ll hear that…” It was a JOKE!
Aquaman threatens Louisiana with Hurricane
Isadora in feud over fishing boats.
It was over! They’d gone on to something else, as she predicted. Her scandal was literally “yesterday’s news.”
Penguin’s Brothel: The notorious Iceberg
Cocoa-coffee rained over the pages of the Gotham Post.
Dios Mio, it was good to laugh at this stuff again! God’s blessing on you, Renee thought, looking down at the byline, Slott and Templeton, God’s blessing on you and your noble efforts.
The Flick Theatre, one time vaudeville showcase then movie palace then Two-Face hideout, appeared dark. Within its vacant lobby, no lights shown. In the house, the eerie stillness of an empty theatre was made eerier by a single pinlight shining from above. The rows of unoccupied seats looked on the scene: that single ray of godlight shining down on a Lucite case. Within, two perfect ruby necklaces, matching bracelets, and two sets of earrings sparkled in the ghostly beam of light.
In the lobby, two swift forms slipped through the darkness. The one pointed a kind of crossbow at the ceiling; the other aimed a similar devise at the far wall. They shot simultaneously, and arrows trailing a web of reinforced cable wrapped in easy-grip gauze shot past electric eyes to bite securely into their targets. The first figure turned to her sister:
“This is more fun than that twerpy little guy that just opened his front door to us.”
Margot shrugged, and Akiki climbed the first cable as if it were the flimsy ladder to the circus trapeze. When she’d ascended to eight feet, well above the beams that activated Two-Face’s defense system, she took a small but heavy disc, an inch and a half in diameter, and telescoped it out into a three-foot-long bar. This she fastened to twin ropes hanging from the ceiling…
Margot was already in position atop the first rope by the time the dangling trapeze swung back for her. Soon, she had joined her sister at the far side of the lobby before the entrance to the main theatre.
They peered inside… and looked at each other, confused by the spotlight and what it might mean. Then they looked back into the theatre.
“Only one way to find out,” Akiki said philosophically.
“After you,” Margot answered.
They walked, cautiously, down the right aisle of the orchestra towards the spotlight and the gleaming case it illuminated. As they got closer, they could see the stunning gems inside.
“Kiki, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore,” Margot said, circling the case.
“It’ll be a nice haul, though, once we get it open.”
“Open! It’s a trap, obviously. I say we split. Take this guy on later, on our terms and not—”
She got no further when Akiki touched a fingertip to the case and the room abruptly changed: the pinspot flicked out and, in its place, the art deco sconces glowed a warm pinkish glow. The curtains that hid the movie screen scrolled open and two men in tuxedoes emerged, one played a violin while the other lit candles at a small table laid for three.
Akiki turned to her sister. “Nope, not in Kansas anymore.”
“Good evening, ladies,” a deep voice oozed from the shadows, “We are so glad you could join us.” The figure stepped from the shadows into the light, revealing a well-built man in… one half James Bondish white dinner jacket with brass buttons, and one half Hugh Hefner smoking jacket with velvet collar.
“Hellllloooo!” drawled Akiki, appreciatively.
The sisters looked at each other in shock.
“Eww?” Akiki queried. “He’s
Two-Face and Harvey, unable to actually “look” at each other as the sisters did, expressed their mutual shock in a series of sharp internal remarks.
YOU GET THE MOUTHY BITCH.
“Oh, ladies,” Two-Face called, racing up the aisle, “We understand how these little differences of opinion can arise in the closest of relationships… LADIES! Come back! May we suggest a coin toss?”
Huntress squatted atop Jiffy Drive-thru Drycleaners, ostensibly keeping an eye out for Alvin Kenay, a fool who’d reached rock bottom and started to dig. But as the slimewad was nowhere to be seen, she passed the time wondering how a drycleaners could be drive-thru.
She was right and as usual NO ONE recognized that fact. She couldn’t even convince a bunch of stupid criminals that something was wrong when one of them—stupid ass that doesn’t know who his friends are—gets into bed with a black widow.
How would that work, anyway? You drive up and drop off your clothes and get a claim ticket? Okay, so far so good, but then how would you pick them up…?
Alvin Kenay was another one that didn’t know who his friends were. Smart kid, but fell in with a bad crowd. Okay, that happens in those neighborhoods; it happened to students of hers who were a lot brighter than Alvin. But then he wises up and turns snitch. Good deal. Not smart enough to avoid getting mixed up with that scum in the first place, but smart enough to realize and get out. Right? Except he wasn’t out! He was still inside and he didn’t have the sense to let her protect him. No judgment, that kind. No clue who his friends were. Going to wind up as dead as Cobblepot—left by the wayside, Pal, and won’t be missed. Nobody’ll cry for you.
…The thing is, when the clothes were dirty, you could bunch them up any which way to pass them through a drive-thru window. But once they were clean, you wouldn’t want to fold them up to fit through a car window, would you?
“A COIN TOSS!” a familiar voice boomed behind her and Huntress spun to peer into the street.
A woman in yellow was alternately running and somersaulting away from… Two-Face! That was the voice alright, waving his coin. And behind him… a third figure, in yellow like the first, also waving something…
“Beautiful jewels, Margot, at least take a look!”
“LET US EXPLAIN THE PRINCIPLE! FATE DECIDES! IT’S A FIFTY-FIFTY PROPOSITION!”
Huntress rolled her eyes, fired a line, and swung down into the street.
Lawrence Muskelli skimmed the overnight reports from the downtown precincts. Renee was right about the vigilantes, they certainly did their bit. Look at this: Huntress alone, in one night, single-handedly captured Two-Face, Double Dare, and recovered a half-million in jewelry taken from Tiffany’s only hours before.