Batman and Catwoman in Cat-Tales by Chris DeeCat-Tales 61: Electron 29

Electron 29
by Chris Dee


As a working cat burglar, I had my own set of identities and disguises long before getting sucked into Team Batman.  I prefer those ladies to Georgina Barnes and Angelica Laperm, the identities I took on to help Bruce against Eddie and Ra’s respectively.  But this morning, Angelica was the best choice.  She was already known at Hudson University, already established as a Wayne Foundation suit who had some role in deciding what types of research got funding.  She might not have the final say on individual grants, but she would be recognized from the energy symposium: a half-remembered face and a vague association that she had something to do with the research grants.  That alone was a point in her favor, even without the wardrobe issue.  It had been a few years since I’d posed as Genevieve, Janis or Catherine and not only were their clothes a little snug here and there thanks to Alfred’s cooking, they were also out of date.  All in all, it was easier to take Angelica’s wig out of the closet and tape myself down into that Victor/Victoria body. 

There’s a food court under the Student Union.  Matt and I had agreed to meet there, and since neither of us knew what the other looked like today, I snapped a picture of myself with my phone and sent it to him.  I looked around, saw a few people texting or talking on their phones, but only one looked old enough to be Dr. Vries.  He didn’t seem to be looking around for me though.  There was a sub place behind him, and I decided their coffee must be as good as the donut stand everyone was queued for.  So Angelica walked past him on her way to get her morning jolt, and sure enough, just as I passed, I heard “Angelina?  I thought that was you.”

Hookup achieved, I corrected him on my name and we found our way to the Endicott Building.  A lot of the science departments at Hudson are headquartered in newer buildings that… well, let’s say eschew the architectural style of an Ivy League campus in favor of that found in a 1950s cafeteria.  Endicott was not one of those buildings: prestige lobby, dark woods, marble and terrazzo, a geometric pattern on the floor that formed a sunburst around the reception desk.  The woman seated there could have stepped out of central casting for a prim, delicate, overly-refined librarian.   

We asked for the research department, and she asked who in particular we wanted to see.  I knew from Barbara’s research that there was a Dr. Underwood, but I pretended to search for the name in my papers in order to flash the Wayne Foundation letterhead a few times.  The hiatus gave Matt a few minutes to chat with the woman, and he was wonderfully charming.  By the time I found the right papers with Dr. Underwood’s name and office number, he had learned that the very pretty brooch she was wearing was a gift from her daughter (“She has very good taste.”) for her fiftieth birthday (“No! You’re kidding me.”).  Since he flatly refused to believe her, because she didn’t look a day over forty-five, and since the birthday was five years ago, she was quite pleased by this Phillip Vries, Ph.D.  (“Have you got a mad scientist around here developing an anti-aging potion?  You must allow me to get some for my wife.”) and apt to remember his name as she wrote it on his visitor’s badge. 

She gave us directions to Dr. Underwood’s office, and we went on our way.  At least we started too.  We passed a maintenance man in the corridor and Matt told me to wait as he headed back towards the front entrance.

Edward Nigma had never been sensitive to slights from the Gotham Post.  He didn’t like it when they made him over as a GenX Metrosexual with skin paler than Joker’s, but on the whole he didn’t care what the tabloid said since no one with six functioning brain cells would stoop to reading it.  If it was in the Times or the Gothamite maybe, but the Post?  No.  It stung for a day and was forgotten—usually.  The one exception was the time they intimated that he built one of his most complex schemes based on Jonathan Crane’s psychological profiling of the participants.  Jonathan Crane!  A fear fetishist with a chemistry set who liked Miley Cyrus.  Puh-lease.

It was true Eddie had never wasted his time or money getting his knowledge sanctified with an advanced degree, but he could read.  That was the only skill he needed to acquire a doctoral-level understanding of psychology, sociology and behavioral science—and to understand that, of the advanced degrees at his disposal, Crane was the least useful unless you were staking everything on Pavlovian avoidance.  (And did anyone really need an expert to anticipate a lab rat’s response to the orange panel that had already shocked its little white feet 187 times?) 

If Eddie did feel himself in need of an expert, either Harley Quinn or Hugo Strange would be better sources—but Eddie knew he had a better understanding than either of them.  He knew, for example, that the Smeks would keep him waiting this morning.  They knew it was to be an important day.  They knew it was going to be a full day.  And yet, that alpha dog mentality would compel Marcus Smek to keep him waiting almost half an hour past the appointed time.

He knew it was going to happen, but still he was annoyed. 

Carlotta was still glowing from the encounter with Dr. Vries when Felipe came into the lobby.  The facilities boys were supposed to stay out of the reception areas at this time of day, and he obviously knew he was bending the rules by the sprint in his walk.  He was trying to get this over with as quickly as he could.

“Bad news,” he said hurriedly.  “Safety inspector on the campus today.  Ordered a spot check on a few smoke detectors.  Picked this building, sorry.”

Carlotta’s face fell.  She started to complain about the inconvenience.  They just had a fire drill last week, and there was always days of fallout afterwards whenever these professors had to leave their laboratories unlocked, even for a few minutes.  They went around for a week insisting chemicals were missing, test papers stolen, laptops compromised…

Felipe was quick to calm her down.  It didn’t need to be like that.  They just needed to test one smoke detector in each building the inspector picked.  If a lab was empty—if someone had called in sick, for instance, or if anybody was on vacation this week, they wouldn’t have to disturb anybody at all.  Avoid all the noise and interrupting a class…

Eddie also knew when the Smeks finally showed, Paula would make the apologies while Marcus acted like it was a guy thing.  Like a dog apologizing for lifting his leg on a tree.  Only a woman would think to make excuses.    Men are men, and men run late. 

Eddie tried anagramming the phrase while he was waiting, just in case Marcus happened to say it.  But with this wretched curse hanging over him, he couldn’t come up with anything pithy.  And if he had, the curse would probably prevent Marcus saying anything and giving Eddie the opening to use it. 

When the Smeks finally did arrive, they behaved exactly as expected.  Paula apologized first thing, and then looked at his car like it didn’t quite measure up to her standards.  She covered it (late and poorly) with a plastic smile, and got into the passenger seat leaving a little trail of some fruity perfume in Eddie’s face as he held the door for her. 

“Laboratory 6 on the third floor,” Matt said when he got back.  “We’ll set everything up in there, have it all to ourselves.”

We found the lab easily enough.  I took care of the locks (drawers and cabinets as well as the door) while Matt unpacked the set dressing he’d smuggled in inside his...  clay.  Barbara had outdone herself, taking pictures of the inside of her computer and running them through enough Photoshop filters to make them look interesting, like some kind of time-lapse heat-imaging study.  Matt had also stopped in the book store and got himself a coffee mug with the university seal.  He sent me to find a coffee machine and fill it with an inch of liquid.  When I returned, he produced a bottle of Wild Turkey and added a good helping to the mug, then hid the bottle behind the Merck Index on the bookshelf behind the desk. 

Once his stage was set, I stopped by reception on my way out and told the nice woman that I had to get back to the office—but things were certainly looking promising for the renewal of Dr. Underwood’s grant.  Dr. Vries would still be some time going over the data, of course, and he would have a few colleagues coming by later. 

I called Eddie with directions to the lab and, since I had time to kill, dropped by the library’s Rare Book Room.  They have a first edition of The Jungle Book with a few hand-written pages of the manuscript—including an early draft from the chapter entitled “Tiger! Tiger!”  I’d always kept it in reserve, in case I was really stuck for a cat-crime.  It was a decent prize, but the security for the rare book room at a university library isn’t exactly catworthy.   Still, since I had some time on my hands, I figured I may as well go see it again.  And, to satisfy a cat’s curiosity, I’d see if they had improved its security at all.

Eddie led the Smeks across the Hudson Campus like a man who’d been making the trek daily for a month.  He presented himself at the reception desk, and as soon as he mentioned Dr. Vries, the receptionist handed him a visitor’s pass.  He was expected, and as long as the Smeks would be staying with him, they wouldn’t have to bother with additional badges. 

It was all quite impressive until they actually reached the lab.  There was a faint odor in the room.  At first it just seemed like a laboratory smell, but something about Phillip Vries set Marcus’s mind tiptoeing in another direction.  It wasn’t a conscious process.  Consciously, he was giving the man his full attention:

“The Wayne process for creating a micro-barrier between copper circuitry and the device layer in a microchip is naturally protected by international patents, but patents are a construct of the economic world.  They have nothing to do with science.  For example, let’s say you have a nuclear reactor.  Put it under water…”

He should have been impressive, but somehow he wasn’t. 

“Water goes in one end, steam comes out the other side….  pshshsht, it’s a submarine.  Or: you have a nuclear reactor.  Air comes rushing in the front, it’s heated by the nuclear reaction and goes out the back… vrrrrooom, it’s an airplane.  Or: you have a nuclear reactor…

He had information, understanding, even a trace of passion, but somehow, it wasn’t going anywhere… 

“Hydrogen goes through it… Zoom!  It’s a rocket.  To a patent office, these are all different things requiring individual patents.  To a scientist, they are different applications for the same basic thing…”

Marcus didn’t think it was inertia.  He detected traces of real ambition in the man.  The slides and photographs proliferating the room all hinted at purpose and desire, and a cursory web search had unearthed more than a dozen academic papers with the most bewilderingly impressive titles. 

“The flipside is also true.  There can be different ways of achieving the same effect.  Wayne has one particular method of creating a barrier inside a microchip, that isn’t to say it is the only way.  There are any number of methods to affix copper to atoms to other substances.”

It was almost as if there was a vacuum inside the guy, something holding him in place despite all the drive and ability.  All his attempts at forward motion had to fight against it—

“But nobody is going to be interested in a new process if they’re happy with the old one,” Nigma interjected.  “Which brings us to the Mote-Erode.  Without that as step one, there’s no point in step two.”

Vries obviously didn’t like that.  He shot Nigma a look of palpable contempt.

“There is always a point in discovery,” he said emphatically.  “It is, for its own sake.  The purpose is to learn.  To understand.  Regardless of whether there is an immediate practical application, regardless of commercial uses…”

Marcus’s attention wandered, and as he surveyed the room, his nostrils flared as he stifled the urge to sigh.  Ivory tower types, they never came to the point quickly.  Not really their fault, since they didn’t know what the point was.  Ultimately, that’s just the way Marcus wanted it: it meant they didn’t recognize the dollar and cents value of what they had.  But it also meant that, in order to get your hands on it without tipping them off, you had to sit through an awful lot of bullshit. 

Again his nostrils flared—and like an electron of some particularly conductive material, he experienced a sudden leap of understanding connecting a current of related thoughts.  That smell in the lab, there was (Could he be imagining it?  No, there was) a very faint trace of bourbon….  And the mystery of Phillip Vries was solved.

“The device Mr. Nigma has named ‘The Mote-Erode’ will, in fact, dissolve the Wayne barrier separating the copper and device layers within a microcircuit,” Vries was saying as he stood up, walked to one of the long work tables, and while his body blocked the view of his hand, he subtly extended the tip of his finger and thumb to resemble a gold metal key.  He slid this into the lock on the worktable drawer and opened it.  If you’d like to see the prototype,” he said, taking a small black box out of the drawer and bringing it back to the desk.  “Oh don’t worry, it’s not turned on.  Any electronics you have with you now are perfectly safe.  It takes approximately four hours to charge for roughly ten minutes use.  Has a radius of 120 centimeters or just under four feet.”

“It’s going to be hard to do much damage with that,” Marcus noted.

“We don’t want to do much damage,” Nigma reminded him.  “Just enough.”

“I was told these parameters were sufficient,” Dr. Vries said, looking from one to the other.

“They are,” Nigma said emphatically.  “Can we see a demonstration?”

Dr. Vries smiled and suggested Mr. Nigma and Mr. and Mrs. Smek step back at least four feet to protect any electronics they had with them.  He then “unlocked” a deep drawer in the lower half of the desk.  When his hand was completely out of sight, it sprouted a three-layered object that resembled a thin ice cream sandwich made from orange and silver metal separated by a filling of clear semi-gelatinous lucite.  He set it on the desk and placed the black box beside it.

“This is obviously much larger than a real chip,” Vries explained.  “It’s made so you can clearly see the circuitry layer,” he pointed to the very thin sheet of orange metal on the top.   “The Wayne barrier in the center—even this size, it’s not to scale; the barrier is much thinner—and the device layer.  Now…”  He used both thumbs to activate something on the back side of the black box.  “We wait.”

Ten minutes is a long time for people like Marcus and Paula Smek to stand in silence watching two inanimate objects do nothing.  Their attention was apt to wander… and since there was nothing particularly interesting in the room for it to wander to, their minds drifted elsewhere—and both started as a very soft –clpt pulled their attention back to the desk.  There, the copper had fallen through the vanished Lucite-gelatin and came into contact –clpt– with the silver.

“Voila,” Dr. Vries said proudly.   He felt a soft vibration in the fold of his clay that he used as a breastpocket.  It was his phone—which the black box obviously would have corrupted if it did what he claimed.  Whatever it was would have to wait. 

It didn’t have to wait long, for the Smeks had seen all there was to see.  Eddie hurried them along, sounding a little like a tour guide as they went.  When they were gone, Matt reached out and sucked the remains of the copper/silver block back into his fingers.   At the same time, he turned his left foot around in his shoe, and it broke off into a small, white lab rat.  The rat ran along the wall and out the door, silently following Nigma and the Smeks as they left the building. 

Matt then took out his phone to see what the vibration had been about.  It was only an incoming text:  Checked in.  Airport Hilton.  Rm.  403.  Meow. 

Good girl.  At least one of his partners was… Uh oh, the beady pink rat-eyes couldn’t help but notice Paula Smek was making her excuses rather than getting in the elevator with the others and she was… she was… coming back to the lab!  Matt hurriedly replaced his phone and picked up the black box, pretending to be putting it away as Paula reached the door. 

“Oh excuse me, I thought maybe I’d left my coat in here,” she said, looking around theatrically.

“You weren’t wearing one,” Vries said coolly. 

“Oh.  How silly of me.  I guess I left it in the car.”

Selina had no actual part to play in the Smeks’ next meeting.  It wasn’t necessary to con their way into the Airport Hilton, all they had to do was book a room like anyone else.  Even that wasn’t strictly necessary when they just needed the use of the lobby.  But there was a limit as to how long she could look at The Jungle Book pages in the Rare Book Room and think her way through a robbery that was never going to occur.  “Angelica” couldn’t very well drop in at WE to see if Bruce was free for lunch, and it was pointless to change back to Selina when Georgina Barnes was needed that afternoon.  So it was either go back to the cat lair and wait, or go to the airport and make herself useful.  She opted for useful.

Matt’s next identity was Dan Ramos, the pilot who would take the black box to a half dozen airports across the country and let it zap out the laptops, phones and iPods of whoever was waiting in Gate 23 at LAX, grabbing a latte at the Starbucks in Dulles, or waiting at the baggage carousel in Akron.  While Matt’s original idea was to meet the Smeks in the Pilot’s Lounge, Eddie didn’t want to fight the airport parking, crowds and security checks.  So they compromised with the Airport Hilton. 

Selina started at the airport itself—she didn’t find the parking or the crowds that daunting—and made her way to the Delta Lounge.  She picked up a folder with a logo and enough paperwork to look authentic, and headed out to the Hilton.  She checked Dan Ramos into his room, then left his keycard and the Delta file as “his mail” with the front desk. 

She was heading back into Gotham by the time Eddie and the Smeks were turning onto the expressway… 

..::Turn left in .025 miles::..

Eddie didn’t know what was worse: Paula saying “Tech is obviously where the money’s at nowadays,” Marcus agreeing by reminding her of that “highly lucrative cell-phone business we bought a while back” or the wretched example of their cutting edge technology…

..:: Turn left now::...

The blasted GPS Paula got out of her purse to help them find their way to the airport.

..::You missed your turn .001 miles back.::..

Much as he wanted to whip out his useless phone, strap it to the end of his cane, and give Marcus Smek a colon scrub with it…

..::You missed your turn .002 miles back.::..

He was rapidly deciding the GPS was more offensive than either of the Smeks. 

..::You missed your turn .003 miles back.::..

Not only did it have that unnervingly calm voice of the supercomputer run amok from any number of science fiction flicks…

..::You missed your turn .004 miles back.::..

 It had no comprehension of a cloverleaf.

BankLink International occupied the top thirty floors of the building that bore its name.  The rest it rented to investment bankers, commodities brokers, venture capitalists and pretty much anyone having to do with money.  Their security was what Selina expected: dynamite in the lobby, nonexistent once a visitor had run the gauntlet between the front door and the elevators.  Getting in one had to present ID, pass through a metal detector, and present the proper pass to the guard at the last checkpoint at the elevator bay.  But once you’d got that far, there was a blanket assumption that if you’d been through the process, you must be legit.

Selina could have reactivated Georgina Barnes’s BankLink ID and entered the building the usual way, but it offended Catwoman’s sensibilities to go that far down the con artist path when there was a perfectly good 12th floor window.  What self-respecting cat burglar would bother with the front door with a fat ledge like that waiting for her that she could practically stroll onto from the roof of the Pingleigh Building?  So she did.

Once inside, at about the same time Eddie was introducing the Smeks to Dan Ramos, she was changing into Georgina’s brassy red hair and trademark blue suit.  She found a house phone and called the rental office.  Putting on her best Staten Island twang, she identified herself as “Terry in Maintenance.”  Terry was “running a phone check and drawing a few blanks.  Who was empty right now?”  She smiled.  Paulson at CashPulse was on leave until Monday… but better still, Harris Holdings weren’t moving in ‘til the following Wednesday.  Meow.  She called Tech Services next, about the mix-up.   “Helen Harris, Harris Holdings.  Somehow or other the rental office screwed up the dates.  Could you get some equipment up here a-sap for a presentation I’m having this afternoon?” 

That covered the basics, but once again, the cat burglar rebelled at all these confidence tricks.  The basics might be covered, but Catwoman would supply something more than basic.  Right now, the office had white walls, an uncluttered desk, and one simple monitor/flat screen TV that would display the feed from the trading floor.  It all looked very meager.  It needed one more thing—one little touch that would catapult it from meager to minimalist.  She made her way up to BankLink, who she remembered had some remarkably good artwork in and around their boardroom.  She helped herself to a nice Rothko and hung it prominently in Helen Harris’s—soon to be Dwight Evans’s—office.  Purrfect. 

Now all she had to do was plug in those USBs from Barbara.

Eddie knew he couldn’t get through the day without sharing a meal with these people.  Three meetings scattered all over town, it was inevitable that they stop for lunch at some point. 

..::There are… forty-nine restaurants in the vicinity.  Please select one or narrow search by… Price… Cuisine… Michelin stars…::..

Since it wasn’t pertinent to any aspect of the con, Eddie hadn’t bothered with a plan.  It didn’t matter to him.  He would just as soon give up eating until the con was over and this curse was lifted.  Food and drink—particularly ordered in a bar or restaurant—seemed like goading the curse unnecessarily.

..::There are… two 3-star Mexican restaurants in the vicinity.  Please select one or narrow search.::..

He should have made a plan.  With a plan, it wouldn’t have been left to Paula Smek to show him the wonderful restaurant app in her phone and how smoothly it interfaced with the GPS.

..:: Turn left in .5 miles.::..

Once Dan Ramos left the Smeks in the lobby of the Airport Hilton, Matt had several options to beat them back to the city.  He could become a hawk and fly that way, but since he was so close to the airport, he had a more fitting mode of transportation in mind for one who would be departing Gotham International Airport as an airline pilot and arriving at the Wall Street Heliport as a financier. 

Dan Ramos made his way through the airport, enjoying the status his pilot’s uniform gave him.  He made his way past the check in for the helicopter shuttle, and went all the way out to the boarding area before stopping, checking his watch, and ducking into the men’s room.  A minute later, a handsome black executive in a custom Armani raced out waving his boarding pass.  He just made it, boarding mere seconds before the helicopter took off for Gotham.  Nine minutes later, it was approaching the heliport for the landing, but Dwight slipped the pilot a C-note to put him down on BankLink’s rooftop helipad.  As he disembarked, he noticed the brassy redhead in the striking blue suit waiting for him.

“Gretchen?” he asked over the roar of the propellers.

“Georgina,” she answered—Selina’s voice though.  Even at that volume, he could recognize the voice.  He didn’t much care for her as a redhead, but no matter the look, that purr in her voice always rippled the mud. 

“You’re looking mighty sharp,” she noted once they were inside. 

“Aren’t I though?” he said, running a hand over his shaved head.  “A last minute improvisation, to match the guy at the airport.  I was thinking African American, mind you, but older, touch of gray in the hair, like that Lucius Fox guy at Wayne Enterprises.  This is more James Lesure on Vegas.”

“It’s good.   Keep it,” Selina enthused.

She escorted him down to the ninth floor and showed him around his office. 

“Stock prices are there and there,” she said, pointing to the large flat screen and the monitor on his desk.  Each had one of Barbara’s USB drives plugged discreetly into the base. 

“Functional,” he said.  “Little sparse though.”

“Elegant,” Selina said.  “Simplicity is elegant.  Simplicity is confident.  Secure.  Sexy,” she winked. 

He swallowed.  He really didn’t care for her as a redhead, but… damn.  Since Clayface, Matt was no longer capable of sexual urges, but he had memories of what it was like.  Being around beautiful women allowed him to relive those memories as best he could.  With a free-spirited flirt like Selina, a memory could sometimes, for a few fleeting seconds, feel like something more—like an amputee’s phantom pain. 

Simplicity is confident.  It didn’t quite fit the character Matt had crafted for Dwight Evans, but he decided that Dwight was successful enough to have hired a decorator, and if a woman like Selina gave him an office like this and told him “Simplicity is confident, secure and sexy,” Dwight would revise his opinions on the fly.  It might not be to his taste when he first saw it, but within a week, it would be like he’d never wanted to work anywhere else.

Georgina left.  As the elevator doors opened, she was sifting through items in her purse, and as she passed out of the lobby, she tossed a Kleenex and a few papers into the trash can.   A few minutes later, the trash can started to smoke.  An alert receptionist noticed and drew the guard’s attention.  He ran for the fire extinguisher and was able to put it out before any alarms sounded.

Several minutes later, Catwoman took up her position on a gargoyle atop the Lassiter Building.  She had an excellent view of the street, and when she saw Eddie’s car coming down Broadway, she texted Matt.  Dwight Evans soon appeared in the lobby. 

“Heard there was a bit of excitement,” he told the guard.  “A fire, wasn’t it—put it out single-handed before any alarms went off?  That’s exceptionally good work.”  The guard beamed and admitted he was the one who had acted so quickly.  “Do you know that saves the building a $10,000 fine, if the fire department had come out for nothing,” Dwight told him.   The guard tried to look modest until Dwight added “You really should get a bonus—You know, I think I’ll have a word with personnel about that.”  He took a paper and pencil from his pocket and scrutinized the guard’s name tag as he said “Peter, is it?” 

“Peter Smith,” the guard said quickly—looking like he would happily spell it if there was any question. 

At that moment, Nigma and the Smeks had just passed through the metal detectors and Dwight said “Ah, here’s my party now.  Get the elevator for us, would you, Peter?” 

Even Eddie did a doubletake as the guard sprang to do Dwight’s bidding with a “Sir, yes, sir.”  He was reasonably sure the guy shaking his hand must be Matt Hagen, but how he managed to become such a respected fixture in the building in under an hour, that was quite a riddle.

“So this pilot, Captain Ramos, will be taking Dr. Vries’s little black box to various cities, activating it for a few minutes, causing a few devices in the vicinity to malfunction and precipitating a widespread crisis of confidence in the Wayne Tech process,” Marcus Smek said, his fingers interlaced thoughtfully as he leaned back in the comfortable client’s chair.

“Correct.  Wayne stock plummets—you’ll certainly want to rid your portfolios of any shares you’re currently holding,” Dwight advised.  “Nigma Solutions then emerges with a new process—a reliable process—to fill the void.”

“I can see where it’s not exactly the sort of scheme you can put into a business plan,” Paula said, turning towards Eddie with a predatory smile that made him feel he was the roast pig at a luau. 

“Which is why I’ve come to you,” he said confidentially.  “I do need investors.  Start-up capital to form the corporation and of course pay off Dr. Vries.”

Paula and Marcus traded glances, then looked to Dwight Evans.

“How much?” Marcus asked bluntly.

Dwight wrote on a slip of paper and slid it across the desk.

“Three hundred and fifty K,” Marcus noted. 

“Normally I wouldn’t involve myself in an enterprise requiring such a small sum,” Dwight said smoothly, “but in this case, the profit potential is so great, I thought it proper to make an exception.”

“How great?” Paula asked curtly.

“Unlimited,” Dwight said without a trace of excitement in his tone.  “Getting in on the ground floor of a WayneTech, IBM or Xerox is, after all, a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

Eddie’s chair made a rude, leathery squeak as he leaned back too far and then bolted upright, but the Smeks were too absorbed to notice.  They said they would transfer funds in the morning and Dwight suggested a time tomorrow when they could all meet to sign the papers and hand over a check. 

Goodbyes were said, hands shaken, and if Nigma hadn’t tripped over his own shoelace walking to the door and banged his head on the doorframe, the exits couldn’t have gone more smoothly.  As the workday was nearly over, Dwight was shutting down his computer when he heard the door open.  He looked up, and there stood Paula Smek.

“Oh excuse me, I thought maybe I’d left my coat in here.”

I reached the lair first.  I had resisted the idea of using the Cat Lair, initially.  But Eddie, Matt and I needed somewhere private to meet at the end of the day—someplace more private than the Iceberg had been since the recent upshift.  We had to meet, Eddie was still on the East End, Matt didn’t even have a hideout as far as I knew, so it had to be a Cat Lair. 

I’d given the place a onceover that morning, just to make sure there were no scalloped gloves or batarangs laying around.  When I got back that afternoon, I decided to check again.  Call it roleplay.   Rather than looking to see if Bruce left anything Batty where they shouldn’t be, I was making sure Batman didn’t.  I was having two A-level Rogues over, after all, to discuss an ongoing criminal operation.  Giving the place the onceover was the smart thing to do.

I’d just finished checking the light fixtures (he loves hiding those bat-shaped bugs behind the light fixtures) when Eddie arrived.

“A once in a lifetime opportunity,” he quoted happily.  “Which anagrams into a staggeringly appropriate ‘Pointy-ear Policemen: OUT.  Fit: In.’”

“And who is ‘fit?’” I laughed. 

“We are.  Feline-Intelligence Team.  F.I.T.  That’s you and me, Kitty.”

“What about Matt? He doesn’t get a letter?”

“I needed the ‘C’ for ‘Policemen.’  He’ll just have to morph into a cat if he wants in on the anagram.”

“I take it from the happy anagramming that all the meetings went well?” I asked, and he gave me the rundown while we waited for Matt.   He’d got as far as the Airport Hilton when the doorbell rang.   Matt was posing as a pizza delivery girl on the doorstep, but he started morphing into clay as  soon as he stepped through the door.  He stalked passed me, becoming fully clay in three long strides and making a beeline for Eddie.  When he reached him, without a second’s warning, he formed a Bat-fist and punched Eddie in the mouth.

To be continued…


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