Selina stood in the MoMA before the De Groupil that
only she recognized as a series of joyous cat-scratches.
“You’re the only one who’s going to be any fun
tonight,” she confided to the streaks of amber, and then she turned to
leave. There was a glass insert in the middle of the floor, and she’d
already spotted Ford Dormont downstairs waiting to intercept her. She
could only hope the presumptuous society writer didn’t think she was
modifying her plans for him. She bypassed the stairs as she always
meant to and took the elevator up. It was less than a half-hour to
closing time and the rooftop café was already shut down for the day.
She stowed her overcoat in a crevice behind one of the rooftop sculptures
that was so convenient she had, catlike, assumed it was put there just for
her and claimed it as her property. She went to the edge of the roof,
spread out her arms and leapt, and then pulled a mini-chute and glided to a
Après was the hot rooftop lounge of eight months ago,
themed like a chalet on a Swiss mountainside: Adirondack chairs around a
central fire and an astonishing menu of hot rum drinks. It no longer
had the monopoly it enjoyed when the evenings were cold, but it was still
trendy. Or rather, in a few hours it would be trendy. Right now
the crowd was thin apart from the trio she was meeting.
“Evening all!” she said, and then looked at their
drinks with mock disapproval. “Hope you’re not spoiling your palates.
Did I not mention tonight’s misadventure is being sponsored by Veuve
Clicquot, one of the champagnes courting me to be the official bubbly of the
The news was met with excited squeals from Doris and
Harley and relief from Pam who set down her drink a little too quickly and
with a sour glance at Harley. It was easy to imagine the coaxing to
try a specialty drink; less easy to imagine Pam politely hiding her disgust
when she found it revoltingly sweet.
After a quick toast to their host, Selina
signaled for the check and announced their next stop was— when she
broke off, seeing Ford Dormont
toddle in. He looked around and gave Selina’s party an oily nod before
settling on the far side of the fire.
“Hell,” she murmured. She briefly explained who
he was: a novelist obsessed with crime among the super-rich, who had
returned to Gotham with Bruce Wayne’s wedding in his sights. Doris who
had once worked in a bookstore knew the name and had read his books, but she
had never seen the man. She said he was shorter and older than she
expected. Harley hadn’t read his novels but she’d seen excepts in
Mayfair magazine along with the gossipier essays. She said he was
creepier than she expected and Red should green him. He could be their
butler for the night and that would teach him a lesson.
Pam finished her champagne in a gulp.
Doris was nodding and looking at her expectantly. It seemed like the
ideal solution, she could see that. She looked at her empty glass,
which of course offered no solutions. She looked uncomfortably at
Selina, who offered a sympathetic nod and, unexpectedly, reached out and
gave her arm an encouraging pat. She considered refilling her empty
glass, but pride intervened. There was no other way forward, there was
no way back, and there was no plant metaphor offering an alternative.
downing a second glass of champagne in an instantaneous gulp, opened her
mouth and let the words come in a rush: She said she’d used Dormont’s badly
written but terribly useful novels to find weaknesses and avenues of
approach for many of the rich men she targeted over the years… (There.
That wasn’t so bad.) And then, after the warm-up, she revealed the
horrible price she’d had to pay to reverse the transformation she underwent
after the polo match. She hadn’t only lost her green complexion, she’d
lost her connection to plants and her herbaceous-sympathetic metabolism—her
pheromones and her immunity to toxins—so she couldn’t green anybody.
Harley’s reaction was immediate and quite touching:
“Oh, Red,” a sad smile, arms open for a hug. It broke the last
filaments holding Pamela Isley together and she burst into quiet tears on
Selina looked warily at the staff: the tilt of the
waiter’s tray, the bartender’s angle and the way he held a bottle of Caroni,
at least one of them was concealing a phone. There was no way the
image wasn’t going to make it into the Gotham Post in one form or another,
and experience said any attempt to buy them off would only make it worse.
Doris may have reached the same conclusion about the
Post, but she apparently had a different form of damage control on her mind.
She was heading over to Ford Dormont. Without reading lips, it was
clear she’d introduced herself and sat next to him, maybe just to pull his
attention from Harley and Ivy. It was all warm smiles for a minute,
almost like she was flirting, until she reached into his jacket and pulled
out a small notebook. She tossed it into the fire with the
definitely-not-flirting look of a woman who’d won the heart of the Riddler
and reinvented herself as Game Theory to be with a man who’d led the theme
criminals of Gotham in a war against the mobs.
Whatever riddling threat she delivered, it concluded
with a pinching twist of his chin followed by a theatrical fluttering of
fingers as if ridding herself of icky civilian residue that might have
By the time the magnificent sideshow concluded,
Selina had paid the check and Harley and Ivy were strolling to the door with
their arms around each others’ waists.
Kyle Rayner laughed.
“The times they are a-changing,” he said, shaking his
head and considering a corner of the sketch he was working on. “I saw
that bit in the Post. Usual nonsense, I figured: Harley Quinn
consoling a tearful Poison Ivy. Now you’re telling me it’s real?
The normal skin wasn’t even photoshopped?”
“I know; it’s weird,” Selina said, frozen in her pose
but given leave to move her mouth while Kyle worked on the details of her
dress. “It’s the one thing you and I always agreed on: the Gotham Post
is a pack of lying bastards.”
“Not only are they amazingly consistent,” Kyle said,
seamlessly picking up her thought, “they will find the most insulting,
inane, degrading crap to superimpose on whatever really happened. Now
they’re getting a few right?”
“A little,” Selina said. “Maybe twenty-five,
“Pull that off in baseball, it gets you into the hall
“On Second Avenue, it gets you flattened by a bus,”
Selina countered, and Kyle laughed.
He said nothing for a minute, focused on the curve of
her waist where the corset met the skirt. Then he said “That is some
beautiful lace, by the way… So tell me more about this hotel.”
“You really want to hear about this?”
“I do,” he said, speaking in spurts as he sketched.
“Because right now, I’m working on the dress. But there will come a
time… I am going to work on your face… and your eyes… which Bruce first saw
behind a mask. And he focused on… because that… is what we do… with a
beautiful woman with eyes behind a mask… And this is your bridal
portrait, and I want a certain look on your face… a certain look in those
big green eyes of yours… and to get that, I am going to ask you to talk…
about him… And if that’s going to work, I need you comfortable talking
to me… Not that Kyray character we invented, but the actual me… So for
right now, I just want you to talk… about anything that isn’t Bruce… May as
well start with your bachelorette at this cat burglar hotel.”
“Alright, well, the Mark is a luxury hotel
located smack in the middle of seven major museums and galleries, so it was
always a good place for out-of-towners come to Gotham with art on their
mind. The Mark has its own line of toiletries exclusive to the hotel,
and in 2003 a smudge of their hair gel was found inside the duct of a museum
the morning after Haustenberg’s Girl in
Pink Ribbons went missing, leading to a
very short list of suspects and a chap called Falco getting hauled into a
GPD interrogation room…”
“…Yadda, yadda, yadda, the Mark became hotel of
choice for the discerning art thief visiting Gotham.”
“I don’t get it,” Harley squawked.
“I don’t either,” Pam whispered. “But go along.
She invited us. Be a polite guest.”
“Cat burglars as a class having an odd sense of humor
and a wicked sense of irony,” Selina concluded, giving up on the story that
nobody but art thieves seemed to appreciate. “Make yourselves at
She had booked the largest Garden Suite and had
it equipped with a bigger TV for a screening of heist films, an activity
that seemed rather tame but was certainly sweetened by the magnums of Veuve
Clicquot, chef Jean-Georges’s gourmet pizzas, popcorn, and homemade
marshmallows with flavors like champagne-and-strawberries, Bailey’s Irish
cream, and Kentucky Bourbon.
It was pleasant enough for about half an hour.
Brad Pitt’s features were compared to Francois de Poulignac… Matt Damon’s
were compared to Francois de Poulignac… Matt Damon’s were compared to Edward
Nigma’s… Pam looked curiously at Harley, who was clearly as well-informed
about Francois as Selina, Doris looked curiously at Pam, who seemed as
well-informed about Eddie… And Selina looked curiously at the screen.
“This movie is stupid,” she declared.
They all nodded, of course it was, who didn’t know
that? Selina reached innocently for Ocean’s Twelve, to a chorus of
panicked NOs and the universal derision that apparently she knew less about
heist films than anybody on the planet.
“Fine, screw the movies,” she announced. “Let’s
finish off the popcorn and go downstairs to the safe. We’ll see who
shows who how it’s done.”
“Um, Catty?” Pam said.
“Are you sure that’s a good idea?” Harley said.
“It is the cat burglar hotel,” Doris reminded her.
“Because we’re surrounded by world-class
museums and galleries. Nobody ever bothers with
Selina pointed out.
“Selina, honey, it’s your bachelorette,” Pammy said
like she was trying to talk a drunk off a ledge.
“Exactly! Last fling, have some fun.
C’mon, what’s wrong with you people? Who’s been taking Batman pills?”
Pam checked out the label of Selina’s bottle, which
was certainly identical to everyone else’s.
You cannot have
bachelorette at the cat burglar hotel
and then burgle the place.”
“Pamela. Your least favorite tabloid and
mine implied I would blow up the floor
of a dress shop and steal
the one-of-a-kind garment I’ll be
photographed getting married in—which by
the way, would somehow be fit to be worn after being dragged through a
sewer. Let’s not pretend we live in a world where actions have
“Oh for pity’s sake, that same column said
Pam exploded. “You don’t see me trying to jump off a building because
Superman eats vegetables!”
Doris, who did not read the Post, looked confused and
Harley said “Don’t ask.” Pamela started to sniff.
“I… I was God,” she whimpered. “And I
could… I knew everything and I could control everybody… (And my hair looked
But in real life I can’t even, I can’t even…
I can’t get Ivan to talk to me!”
And just like that she was crying again. She
turned to Harley, who was right there with the hug and back-patting but this
time brought her champagne, which she continued to sip with her free hand.
“Well I’m a Wayne now, right down to the knack for
throwing parties,” Selina murmured. Then she looked around the room,
at Pamela weeping and Doris inspecting a marshmallow, and she snapped.
“No. No, I refuse to become that punchline. Come on, bad girls!
We’re going out and we’re having fun no matter who has to die. None
of you like the vault here, we’ll just find something else.”
“Hey, what about the Sherry-Netherland,” Doris said
brightly. “If you want a hotel, it’s not far. They have a
wonderful old-fashioned vault for the residents, modern safes in the rooms
and a whole shop full of priceless antiques on the corner.”
The party spirit revived when Selina vetoed the
the Sherry-Netherland was one of those special locations with a history.
She’d hit the Sherry-Netherland with someone called
Tommy who none of
them had ever heard a whisper of before, and who sounded quite yummy.
After twenty minutes of interrogation and speculation, each woman took her
own magnum of Veuve and a bag of marshmallows and set out.
Special Agents Stanton and Hughes sat in the
notoriously drab and aromatic confines of an FBI surveillance van debating
the foursome under the awning of the Mark Hotel. They had identified
Selina Kyle when she came in that afternoon to check-in, though it sparked
only a brief exchange about Bruce Wayne being a lucky man, a bachelor party
in Dubai, and whether it would be preferable to get a Ferrari or an Aston
Martin if you had money like that. They noted only the time when
Selina left, but when she returned with a party, they IDed Harleen Quinzel
on sight and ran facial rec on the other two. The redhead
did turn out to
be Pamela Isley even though she was no longer green (winning Agent Hughes
twenty dollars), though the other blonde turned out not to be Taylor Swift
or Kylie Minogue (losing him ten).
The foursome had disappeared into the hotel and
that was the last the agents thought of them, until now. The presumed
bachelorette party had nothing to do with their surveillance… But now the
four of them had come out of the hotel again and they were standing there
under the front awning, facing the van. Could have been nothing, they
could have been waiting for a taxi—except they really seemed to be looking
right at the van.
And then moments after not-Taylor Swift started fiddling with her phone,
their supposed-to-be-phantom wi-fi started pinging login attempts—and then
went silent. Before Hughes could even check if they’d been hacked,
Harley went back inside and an argument ensued. Stanton thought he
should check it out while Hughes maintained the women were not their
concern, even if three of them were known theme criminals.
Stanton said he could go along with that if
not-Taylor-Swift didn’t hack their wi-fi, but that really seemed like the
precursor to something that might—and now there were four of them again,
look! Harley Quinn had come back and now they were on the move again.
They were all
on the move and—they were coming over.
All four of them were coming right towards
There was a knock.
“Open up, we bring goodies!” a merry voice called.
Hughes and Stanton looked at each other.
“You decided to mess with an FBI van,” Kyle said, and
it was the first time Selina heard him actually sound like a judgmental
“It was a party. We were looking for
something to do, and there they were,”
“Federal law enforcement.”
“Have we met? I
like playing with
law enforcement, they’re my favorite cat toy. Feds are mice with bad
“No wonder they hate coming to Gotham,” Kyle said
under his breath.
“Hey, it’s not like we sent Harley as a diversion:
make them chase the psycho down the street, buildings catch fire, people
start shooting at each other, all so we can break into the van and read
what’s on the screen. That would be a reason to hate Gotham. We
were nice! We knocked, we brought food—an untouched Jean-Georges black
truffle pizza and two slices of prosciutto and rosemary. No champagne
since they were on duty, but there was cherry yuzu and ginger ale.”
Kyle flashed back to the weeks posing as the jetsetting
installation artist Kyray.
“To make virgin bellinis,” he said flatly, and then
added, “You people are seriously strange.”
“Rogues or UES party girls?”
“Yes,” Kyle said emphatically.
“Well anyway, it turned out they were surveilling
Myasnik Kiyeva, ‘The Butcher of Kiev.’ He was staying at the hotel, he
had to be in town to kill somebody, and… well, the truth is they were afraid
they’d missed critical intel because of my little party. First they
spent time trying to ID Pammy and Doris, and then there had been this
reporter from the Daily News snooping around. They didn’t know he was
a reporter at first, he was just a suspicious character trying to get in the
service door, then going through the lobby, not subtle with the camera work.
Exactly the kind of thing that sets off bells and whistles when you’re
tracking the Butcher of Kiev.”
“And by the time they figured out he was a tabloid
hack following the bachelor girls, something slipped by on the Butcher,”
Kyle guessed. He’d been there many times, following what he thought
was a valid lead and finding he’d wasted valuable time. The ring could
do nothing about false starts and dead ends.
“So we decided to help,” Selina said. “With
Clayface after us, Ivy and I could both use the Karma, and it would probably
produce a better story than that weepy picture at Après.”
“The knife fight in the hotel kitchen?” Kyle said
“Apparently room service is a very popular way to
approach a hotel room when you don’t know if the target is home. Doris
and I would have been happy to use the window like normal people—”
Kyle knitted his brow but said nothing.
“—but Harley, Ivy, Fat Mickey and Gaspipe O’Roarke
all went the room service route. So yeah, the hotel kitchen was the
crossroads of the world, and there were knives.”
“It was a better picture than weepy Poison Ivy,” he
noted, and Selina shrugged.
“Well anyway, the Butcher wasn’t in his room and all
we accomplished was taking out his competition from Bludhaven. We
still had no idea who his target was, so we searched his room and got a lead
on this bare knuckles fight club…”
“Gaia, mother of all,” Pamela said, wide-eyed.
“What is she doing to him?” Doris said, appalled.
Harley tilted, not just her head but her whole body
bent to the side to survey the scene from a full 90-degrees. She
gestured, grabbing her right forearm in her left and jamming her thumb into
the side. “I think she broke his wrist and is just pulling him around
by it,” she said.
“It looks painful,” Pam noted.
“Well that would be your fault,” Doris said, and then
broke into an unflattering impersonation: “Catty, I think you should let one
of us do the honors. You do have a history crushing on your opponents,
and I don’t mean the respectable way crushing a windpipe. We don’t
want you getting flirty tonight of all nights.”
Harley snorted. “One look at
that guy, NOT
gonna be a problem.”
“It was a joke, sort of,” Pam said feebly.
“Not a funny one, and you gave her something to
prove,” Doris concluded.
“She just likes showing off,” Pam grumbled. “I
mean look at that. You’d think she’d been working out with Batman a
couple of times a week.”
On cue, Selina flung Braden ‘Mercy Stroke’ Carver out
of the sankyo she’d used to lead him around the ring, and then she flipped
forward as he stumbled back and finished him with a high kick to the chin.
“And that gets us into the V-Room!” she announced,
rejoining the party.
The Victors’ Room at a Gotham bare-knuckles fight
club looks less like the backroom at a grungy gym and more like the VIP of
an upscale nightclub themed like a grungy gym. There was an improbable
number of Zegna blazers and Cole Haan shoes, and an unlikely amount of
chit-chat about the joint syndicate team’s recommendation of
LIBOR-plus-twenty BP price guidance (with the hope of getting to eighteen,
But in among the Wall Street bruisers, there
was Mejia from a Bogata drug cartel, Feng who could arrange an introduction
to King Snake, and Moroz who only a few hours ago met with the Butcher of
Kiev and delivered the name of the man he’d been hired to kill.
The bachelorette party kicked into gear. As
bride-to-be, Selina could assign the roles or claim one for herself.
“No reason to make this more complicated than it has
to be,” she announced. “Pammy, time to get back on that horse.
Get over there and charm it out of him.”
“I- I can’t. I can’t do it,” she stammered.
“You know I can’t.”
“Without your pheromones? Get past it.
It’s not like you have to seduce him, just be pleasant—”
“I can’t be
pleasant,” she interrupted.
“Flirt a little,” Doris said.
“C’mon, Red, you can do it,” Harley encouraged.
“Have a drink together,” Selina concluded. “And
before the glass is empty he’ll show you where the button is. You push
it and he’ll spit out the name.”
“The line-up was Pammy would charm, Doris would
bribe, Harley would threaten,” Selina said. “If all three failed, I’d
intercept him as he tried to leave. You know that thing where you just
stand there, no words, no introduction. Just block their path and look
at them like a bug you’ve been sent to swat.”
“And out comes the name,” Kyle said, chuckling.
“I’ve seen Batman do it a few times.”
“Oh, I do it better,” Selina said and Kyle gulped.
She continued. “But yes, we got the name: Pete Ignazio—who none of us
had ever heard of. Not that that would have stopped us for long
but… Well the fact is, I caught a lucky break.”
She looked at him critically, the way she once
considered a piece of jewelry that might or might not be worth the effort
planning a heist.
“Kyle, we’re confiding in each other, right?”
He turned his sketch pad around.
“I’ve seen the dress,” he said brightly.
“Right. Okay. Look, I haven’t told Bruce
about this because it’s ‘respect the timeline’ stuff and I don’t think I’m
supposed to. But you set up the time bubble when he proposed, right?
I mean, there was a dress from 1930 encased in ‘temporal stabilizers’ made
from lantern energy, so I’m assuming…”
“Yes, that was me,” Kyle nodded.
“Then you’re probably the
best person for
me to talk to about this…”
Selina couldn’t understand what was happening when
her phone buzzed and Bruce’s smiling, handsome face appeared on the ID
screen. The Bruce of today was six months in the future patrolling as
Batman. The Future Bat here in the present would be avoiding her.
He didn’t want her teasing, he didn’t want her playing around trying to get
information from him about what was going to happen, and he absolutely
should not be making contact. If he was—if there was an emergency or
some pressing reason—he would be patching a call through the Batmobile.
It would be the OraCom initiating the call, not Bruce’s cell. But only
Bruce’s cell should produce that glib playboy photo on the caller ID.
She answered cautiously… And he said “Oh good,
you’re up” and referenced the time
..::Kitten, I know it’s early and I hate to bother
you with something like this before breakfast, but remember when we built
Tommy Pearl’s resume. There was a Rubens taken from the board room of
Odawara Electric in Otemachi, remember?::..
She did and she said so (without mentioning that
wherever and whenever he was, he was more than twelve hours off thinking it
was early morning for her).
..:: Good. Suppose I really had come into town
to do a job like that, who might it honk off?::..
“Honk off? As in...”
..:: Might the local yakuza be pissed and come
after me?::.. he said.
“That’s oddly specific,” she stalled as she made it
out of the club and into an alley. She opted for a quick climb to the
roof before she continued. “Look, I know you hate answers like this,
but it depends. A solo job for your own profit, like the Rubens, you’d
be out of range before they knew anything happened. And these are
rough edge gangsters; they don’t have the resources or the inclination to
hunt you across the globe to get a piece.”
..:: Under what circumstances would they act?
You said ‘it depends.’ Give me a scenario.::..
“Um, okay,” she stammered, thinking out loud.
“There’s no way somebody on your level is sticking around for shopping and
sightseeing, so they’d have to find out about you before you pulled the
..:: Maybe even before I hit town? Be waiting
at the hotel when I check in? ::..
“Maybe. Doesn’t happen the way I work: when
it’s a solo gig for your own profit, we keep our own counsel, bring in our
equipment, we don’t waste time or risk exposure with local suppliers, you
know all this.”
..::You’re saying the thief was hired by a third
“You asked for a scenario, that’s the most likely.
Comes down to who’s doing the hiring. If it’s someone in the yakuza’s
backyard on a more or less permanent basis, someone they consider in their
sphere of influence, they might be pissed. A neighbor bringing in
serious out of town talent for a job and they weren’t advised.”
..:: The equipment,::..
Bruce said. ..:: Suppose the
‘neighbor’ didn’t tell our thief the target in advance. Suppose he
only found out when he got here?::..
“It’s a possibility,” Selina agreed. “If he
comes to town with a basic kit, then finds out what he’s up against and
needs specialty equipment, it could put him on their radar. Bruce,
what’s this about?”
..:: I don’t know yet. Thanks.::..
“Wait, before you go. Tit for tat. Pete
Ignazio, name ring a bell?”
..:: Absolutely. Falcone capo busted at the end
of the Rogue War. Unique in that he held onto his money; the Feds
couldn’t find it at the time. As of the Pearl case, we know why.
It was in the Caymans in his wife’s name. He’s been out for a month,
managed to appeal his conviction…::…
“And being the first released from the sweeps that
decimated the Falcone crime family, he’s been trying to rebuild. He
was in one of Falcone’s old brownstones in Brooklyn. B had clocked
four armed guards, security system is a Lykkva, Israeli-made. Not
hackable but it’s easy enough to get past using old-fashioned hands and
Kyle paused the feathery strokes he was making to
capture the edge of Selina’s hair, and he looked over the top of his sketch
“I’m going to get in trouble for saying this,
but you sitting there in your wedding dress
reeling that off is incredibly hot.”
“Thank you,” Selina said, taking it in stride.
“You will not get in trouble because I will not tell—as long as you can
advise me about the phone call out of time.”
“Sounds like something’s gone kerflooey,” Kyle said.
“Gee, Green Lantern of Sector 2814, thank you for
distilling the delicate mechanisms of space/time across the cosmos into an
explanation a simple being like myself can understand. That was very
“Selina, I have no idea. There’s stuff in
the Justice League communicators to allow for magic teleportation, alien
energy fields, gravity distortion, heat distortion, speed force distortion.
I don’t know how any of it works but I know I can go surfing on a black hole
and the thing adapts. Bruce has one of those comm units
in his phone.
If he’s going through a time portal twice a day to change places with
himself for every patrol, something went kerflooey.”
“So your expert opinion as a Lantern is as much of a
wild guess as mine,” Selina said.
“Correct. My completely non-expert half-assed
shot in the dark is don’t worry about it.”
Selina bit her lip.
Neither Selina nor Doris had the gear with them to
get around a Lykkva Urban Security Suite. Riddler’s hideout was more
convenient than any of the cat lairs, so they went there for Doris to
collect her gear. They found several large puddles outside which
Harley found fascinating and it was nothing but stories of “Puddin’s dry ice
experiments” until Doris disarmed the perimeter defenses.
Seeing Pamela’s nerves fraying with each mention of
Mistah J, Selina suggested they split up. It didn’t take four people
to pack a burglar’s kit. She and Harley would hit the nearest Hacienda
for explosives, a butcher shop for blood, and they could all meet on the
Brooklyn side of the bridge.
As soon as they were alone, Doris and Pam went
inside. Pam took in the crossword puzzle carpeting, the Rubik’s cube side
tables, and the jigsaw art on the wall. She shrugged, it was what
you’d expect… until you looked a little closer. Her eyes were suddenly
drawn to the coffee table. Between each pair of side tables, two
Riddler-green loveseats faced each other, and in between was a coffee table
with a chess board, a decanter with two glasses, and two framed photographs:
One was Doris from many years ago, with a different hair style and a suntan
at a seaside resort. In the other she was Game Theory, smiling arm in
arm with Riddler at the Iceberg. Indentations on the carpet showed how
both loveseats were now closer to the table than they had been. The
chess set that had originally been placed there for show was now played.
It was homey.
that were nothing but a stage set to flaunt “I AM RIDDLER” in Batman’s face
when he burst in here to fight were now… they were now…
Pamela turned away from the disgustingly domestic
scene and caught up with Doris. She’d gone to a green door that looked
like a closet or a bathroom until you opened it and saw a life size copy of
René Magritte’s Son of Man with a question mark rather than an apple
blocking the anonymous businessman’s face. Doris reached forward and
straightened the knot of his tie, touched the top button of his jacket and
then the dot of the question mark. The panel slid away, revealing the
contents of the closet.
“Puddin’s experiments with dry ice, can you believe
it?” Pam said sourly. “Only Harley would ‘There-there, Red’ me, feed
me a bourbon marshmallow and tell me everything is going to be fine, and
then turn right around and start a story about Puddin’.”
Doris glanced at Pamela, then went on taking black
cases from the closet and setting them out across the floor.
“She’s not doing it to hurt you, you know. It’s
obvious she adores you. She just doesn’t see either thing having
anything to do with the other.”
“Tell me something I don’t know,” Pam grumbled.
“Okay,” Doris said as if accepting a dare.
“You’re someone to be reckoned with. Or you would be if y—”
“If I still had my powers, I know,” Pam lamented.
“I was going to say if you’d pull your head out of
your ass,” Doris said, handing her a backpack to hold. “You took one
in the teeth, I get it. Get up off the dirt. It’s what winners
“I know what… winners? I was Poison Ivy, the
“—threat, world-class criminal, irresistible
seductress, crusading protector of the plant kingdom—”
“Now I’m a mad scientist at best! No powers, no
bond linking me to the plant world, no mind control over half the
population. You call that ‘taking one in the teeth?!’”
“Yeah, that’s what I call it,” Doris said, looking
over cases she’d opened, each presenting an assortment of silver tools
wedged into custom-cut foam. As they talked, she’d repeatedly pick up
a tool and examine it like produce at a fruit stand, and if she judged it
worthy, it went into the backpack.
“When Ed and I got together, I was still at the
bookstore. Started devouring prison memoirs. One of those Watergate
guys talked about the strip search and immediately after, the paperwork.
There’s a line for education—a single line—and as he’s reeling off prep
school, bachelors, officer’s candidate training, law school, FBI Academy at
Quantico… he sees fear in the guards’ faces. Because he’s bringing in
a weapon they can’t take away.
“Pamela, you have two Ph.Ds, don’t you? And
unlike ‘Doctor’ Quinzel, you didn’t bed any professors to get them. So
you lost some powers. You’re still Poison Ivy, aren’t you?”
“Am I? How? How am I supposed to change
anything if I can’t even—”
“Mind control half the planet?” Doris cut her
off. “Do it the way everybody else does that wants something to
change. With two Ph.Ds, you can’t be afraid of work. You
obviously care about plants enough to fight for them. I
really don’t see
“That is very clear.”
Nothing about Pete Ignazio fit the picture of a
Falcone crime boss. At 42, he was young for the heights he had
reached. His light brown hair had the bare minimum of styling gel to
create a natural but conservative look. He favored light blue button
down shirts with jeans or khakis, light tan sports coats when he bothered,
and he rarely wore a tie. His house was light and airy, a plethora of
creams and throw pillows, comfortable boxy armchairs and modern geometric
tables uncluttered by antiques and knick-knacks. There were more
plants than you’d expect. No religious pictures or table-top shrines
to obscure Italian saints. And neat angular blinds in place of heavy
draperies and curtains.
The office might have the carved heavy-burl desk
you’d expect of a mob boss, but instead of the leather blotter pad, there
was a pair of computer monitors. The one was filled with a
spreadsheet, the other displayed a humble notepad with a simple list:
Not a lot of options. Pete considered the list
on the sad little txt document and the massive—and massively
complicated—spreadsheet he’d spent the evening staring at. He got up
from his desk and poured a bourbon, then returned to the spreadsheet.
Seven tabs. He spent most of his time on two,
and most of that time on one. Tonight he’d done little more than
delete a few rows and rearrange the order of others although it did nothing
to change the realities: no guns, no drugs, no whores, no tax schemes
involving gas or cigarettes. In short, no serious money. With
the personnel he had available, the contacts, the resources—and the
stranglehold the Russians had on money laundering and women—this was all he
had to build with.
Men had done more with less, but it was a long
time ago. His father masterminded a string of bank robberies,
selecting the banks and supplying street and floor plans—and sharing the
proceeds. Not a single job scored more than thirty grand. A
thirty grand and that was a scale of criminality worthy of a fifty-year
sentence—federal time—the summer Pete turned eighteen.
The boss took Pete under his wing then; Ignazio
Senior was his underboss and it was the least he could do for the kid. He
introduced Pete around, and everybody told him the same thing: “If you don’t
help your father out, he’ll die in prison.”
What was he to do? He flushed college (kept the
accounting and management textbooks), went to see his father in Blackgate,
and told him what he planned to do. Two weeks later, Pete got a visit
from the boss, introducing him to the Life.
At the Ignazio brownstone, Selina and Harley again
broke away to eliminate the guards while Doris and Pam waited until the
sightlines were clear. Then they would advance and disarm the security
system, allowing Selina or Harley to advance to the next guard. Pam
had been quiet, but the sight of that cozy living room was still with her.
“Doris, what you were saying earlier, about my
situation,” she said at last, “It’s not just the plants. I mean, I
started out believing I didn’t need people, that my babies were enough.
Then Harvey came along and that was… complicated. You’ve heard how we
started out when he was D.A. and I sort of… poisoned him. And then
Harley came along and…” She sighed. “That was complicated too.
Her idiotic fixation on that toxic clown.”
She sighed again.
“It’s people. People are so
they’re—those two at least—they’re sort of… better than plants. In
their way. When it works. But better or not they weren’t
available, and then suddenly during the war
they both were.
And now—Now I’ve lost all three. Harley is back with Joker.
Harvey is off the grid and that’s my fault more than anybody’s. And my
babies treat me like… like anyone else. If I still had any one of the
three, it would mitigate the loss of the other two (maybe) but—BUT IF THIS
IS JUST TAKING ONE IN THE TEETH TO YOU PEOPLE, I’D HATE TO SEE WHAT RANKS AS
THE GAME-ENDER YOU WON’T RECOVER FROM!”
She gasped and panted, as if expecting another
round of tears with no Harley around to comfort her. But no tears
came. Instead an inner voice she had never heard before…
When your head’s no longer attached to your
shoulders, the game’s over. Anything short of that…
It sounded a little like ‘Poison Ivy’ but calmer
somehow, less angry, more tolerant and faintly amused.
“Look, you’re new here,” Pam said, collecting
herself. “You don’t see the problem. I’m alone, I’m anonymous,
I’m ordinary. I can’t possibly do the things that need doing. I
can’t be Poison Ivy—”
You’re saying this to an ordinary woman who invented
herself as Game Theory.
“And I’m sure you’re going to say you had no special
powers and it didn’t stop you from becoming Game Theory, and that Harley
doesn’t have powers and Selina doesn’t have powers, but it’s not the same.
Poison Ivy isn’t ‘me’ or the best part of me or the passionate part.
It’s— she’s—it’s what she can do. What I could do then and I can’t
now. So I’m not Poison Ivy, you see?”
“I don’t,” Doris said. “But you do and I
“You do?” Pam exclaimed, expecting a fight.
“Like you said I’m new here; you’re the expert.
And Pamela, you’re the only one
whose opinion matters about Poison Ivy.”
Pete never expected to be the Don. He
never wanted to be, it was a crap job. He was happy being Carmine’s
top earner and letting that move him up to where he got to keep most of it.
Mortgage fraud had been good to him. Lax due diligence during the
housing bubble, and then the Internet, the wonderful Internet, enabling
gamblers to bleed money into his pocket through offshore websites.
There was plenty of money to pay Carmine his cut, a salary for doing the
crap job wearing the target on his back. The Feds, Batman, other
families, who needed that headache? To say nothing of the
the Family, constant disputes to settle, constant sit downs, who needed it?
He did. Yesterday when Carmine was available,
it was worth paying him a percentage to do a job Pete didn’t want. Now
that Carmine was gone—half the organization gone and the brand lying fallow,
it wasn’t so much a job as an opportunity. It was like getting in on
the ground floor of a major crime family, an opportunity no one had since
his great grandfather’s day, and not something to igno— The door burst open.
—and Catwoman, Harley Quinn, an... extremely
hot blonde in an unknown costume and… and an
redhead too cool to play dress up stormed into the room before he could
react. Catwoman’s whip cracked just shy of his desk and all thoughts
of opportunity were abruptly silenced.
“Don’t go for the gun in the desk,” she warned,
“because if I have to use this, it’s going to take out at least one of those
very expensive monitors and that would be a pity.”
“Yeah, okay, no gun,” he said, holding his hands up
warily. “Can I ask—”
“You have a lot of plants,” Pam said, eying the
potted tree behind him. “Is that a Norfolk Island Pine? Unusual
to see one thriving as a house plant. You must be misting it through
the summer so your a/c doesn’t overdry the air…”
“Holy shit, you’re Poison Ivy!” Pete blurted.
“Close enough to the window, no draft, soil slightly
“I thought you were green—Don’t get me wrong, you
look great like this.”
“She does, doesn’t she?” Harley said. “I been
trying to tell her all night but she won’t listen ta me. See, Red, I
“Could we get to the point and get this over with,”
said Pam, sounding for the first time like the irate-is-my-resting-pulse
Poison Ivy of old.
“We are on the clock,” Catwoman noted, and nodded at
“Question, Pete. How did four dangerous broads
like us get this far into your townhouse where we can reach out and whip,
green, smilex, or kidnap you without any of your well-armed guards in
“Yeah it really wasn’t hard,” Harley complained.
“Ya notice how you didn’t hear any thunks when they were going down?
It was that quick. Didn’t make a peep!”
“They’re new,” Pete winced. “I mean, they’re
not my regular guys. There’s a job in Bludhaven tonight that needed
some extra muscle so—”
“They were pulled off for a hit, Pete.”
Catwoman had walked to the bourbon and brought the bottle to Pete’s desk.
She paused over his glass and when he nodded, added an ample inch of liquid.
“Who?” he asked after a belt.
“The Butcher of Kiev,” Selina said dryly. “But eh…”
“But my men being in Bludhaven means it’s an inside
job,” Pete said flatly. “Somebody in the family ordered the hit,
somebody who knew the bait to dangle to pull them away from the house
tonight. Left me a crew that, Christ, the Pastry Chef of Kiev could
“Hey!” Harley squawked. “Catty, he’s insulting
“We can take it,” Selina said while Pete finished his
“So what happens now?” he asked.
The women looked at each other, until Pam finally
said it out loud.
“We kill you ourselves.”
The neighbors heard gunshots and saw muzzle flashes,
but in a neighborhood so recently run by Falcone, nobody called the cops.
Then the car blew up and that stretched anyone’s notion of what they could
plausibly fail to notice.
By the time the police arrived to find Pete Ignazio
missing (and a worrying amount of blood in his study) the foursome landed
triumphantly at the Iceberg bar, party girls in full tilt. Harley
ordered a “Bloody Pete,” which she informed Sly was a Bloody Mary made with
Pete’s Wicked Ale instead of vodka. She urged everyone to join her but
couldn’t get any takers. Selina had hopped on the bar, crossed her
legs and proceeded to flirt with Sly while Doris played with his hair and
Pam stood with her hip cocked in an awkward muscle-memory approximation of
the seductive pose she’d use to greet a freshly-greened slave.
Oswald was cooed over. (He always appeared
promptly when alpha rogues arrived in his bar and Sly was abandoned for his
boss.) Harley ba-beeped his nose, Pam asked if he’d lost weight while
Doris admired his vest—and Selina whispered an apology that she hadn’t
thanked him at the house when he offered to give her away. It really
was a sweet gesture… He turned pink. Glances were
exchanged, and while no money changed hands in front of him, the astute may
have guessed that there was a wager, either who could get him to blush or
how long it would take the four of them to get the reaction.
There was a few minutes small talk about the crowd:
no Riddler tonight and no Joker. The dining room was thick with
unfamiliar Demons (no cooing), a party from one of the Triads was giving the
Ghost Dragons a wide berth. And there were several henchmen whose
athletic, combat and decorative potential was discussed (though Oswald sat
quietly and studied the scratches on the tabletop after the conversation
took that particular turn). Social niceties observed, Selina got down
“We want an alibi package, all four of us.
The premium golden egg one with the timestamp security footage, all of us
here in the bar, corroborated by witnesses. We want Sly.”
“I see. And you’re aware how much the Sly
package goes for?” Oswald asked. “You understand you’ll be buying four
packages. We do not split the bill four ways.”
“Oh we understand,” Selina purred. “And
we actually want something more, Oswald. We want
“I… do not testify,” Oswald said haughtily.
“You mean you never have,” Pam said coolly.
“Because nobody’s ever pointed out that your fee
would be five times Sly’s,” Doris added.
“If we were talking about ordinary police I
might consider it,” he said firmly. “But the four of you—Selina most
who’ll come asking. He is every bit as skeptical as the police, but
unlike them he’s apt to hoist me up on a bat-line and I am not as young as I
used to be. Did—did you say you’d be prepared to pay five times Sly’s
Doris nodded and smiled.
Harley nodded and smiled.
Selina nodded and smiled.
“All four of you?”
“All four of us.”
“M-might one ask w-what you d-did?”
“Now Oswald, why should that matter?” Selina asked,
using a Grey Goose martini to clean a clawtip that Oswald couldn’t help but
notice left a tarry red substance on the napkin. “If we were here,
what possible difference could it make what was going on at Pete Ignazio’s
townhouse 106 to 90 minutes ago.”
“Uhuh,” Oswald said warily. “You will pay in
cash of course.”
“In about fifteen minutes if all goes well,” Selina
said, checking her watch, after which Pam added “You might want to wait in
“Quite,” he said, happy for the dismissal.
A few minutes later, a woman walked into the lounge
with a metal briefcase. Raven sat her at the table Selina had
specified. Harley and Ivy posed and Doris pretended to take their
picture, shooting past them and zooming to capture a nice headshot of the
new arrival ordering a dirty martini. She compared the photo to a
small collection culled from a social network and then murmured “Well I’ll
be damned.” She flashed the screen at Selina. “Meet Mrs. Peter
“That should make the end game easier,” she said.
“So who wants to be the hitter?”
Harley’s hand shot up like an eager sixth grader’s,
but as Selina started shaking her head, Harley said “I volunteer Red.
Red should do it,” and pointed her raised hand downward to indicate the top
of her friend’s head.
“Not a bad idea. You do stone cold really
well,” said Selina.
“Better than crushing on crimefighters,” Pam said
under her breath, then looked over at Mrs. Ignazio. “But yeah, I’ll do
it. The man bred a Norfolk Island Pine, that deserves some respect.”
She approached the table with the coldly appraising
eye of a professional killer, sat in the chair across from Mrs. Ignazio and
introduced herself as the person come to collect the money.
“Don’t tell me you’re the butcher,” the woman said
“A competitor. I’ve taken over a number of his
contracts,” Pam said.
“How does he feel about that?” the woman scoffed.
“He’s not feeling anything anymore. But what do
you care, your job’s done.” She slid a phone across the table,
displaying a photo of the blood-spattered chair in Ignazio’s study, a
burning Mercedes in front of the townhouse, and finally she picked up the
phone and replaced it with a plain gold wedding band. “I’ll take my
money now,” she said.
Pam returned to the table with the suitcase, where
Selina picked it up and delivered it to Oswald, extracting three bundles of
cash before she left. One she handed to Sly on her way out, one she
left on the table for Dove and one she handed to Raven.
Tips and alibis covered, she joined the other ladies
in the Maserati Quattroporte they’d borrowed in Brooklyn. Half an hour
later, they stopped beside the FBI van and, once again, knocked.
“Open up, we bring goodies!” Selina called just as
she had the first time.
This time the van opened promptly, an
uncomfortable-looking Pete Ignazio sat with Special Agents Stanton and
Hughes and all three filed out to see what was making that noise from the
“Gentlemen, allow me to introduce Myasnik Kiyeva, the
Butcher of Kiev,” Selina said proudly, engaging the trunk release to reveal
the bruised and duct taped hitman. “We intercepted him, um, blowing up
your Mercedes. Sorry, Pete. Also your townhouse isn’t exactly
habitable at the moment, but Myasnik does have a room here that he’s not
going to be using.” She produced his keycard with a flourish.
“You can just stay there as long as you need. He won’t mind, will you,
“Thank you,” Agent Stanton mouthed.
Selina’s eyes met Doris’s, the most imperceptible of
nods were exchanged, and Selina escorted Pete inside.
“C’mon, these halls are confusing. I’ll help you
find the room,” she said as Doris stayed with the others, yet remained a
little apart. While they gave their statements, Doris crept closer to
the van while toying absently with the phone she’d used earlier to hack
their wi-fi. She ducked inside just in time to capture the audio as
Selina and Ignazio opened the door to the Butcher’s room. She heard
Selina tell him it was his wife who ordered the hit, show him the photo from
the Iceberg, and offer sympathy. Then Selina left, and after a noise
that might have been a sob and another that was definitely a curse, she
heard “Yeah, yeah, I need all new codes for Cayman Bank and Trust account
number 9147931762. The verification code is Clemens 354 ERA 3.12 4672
Strike All-Star 11…”
“Oh you’re kidding me,” Kyle laughed. “He had
to change all the passwords ‘cause the bank accounts are in his wife’s name.
And you heard the whole thing.”
“We got the whole thing,” Selina beamed. “The
agents knew right away they weren’t going to get Harley Quinn and Pamela
Isley to come to the office in the morning and make formal statements, the
future Mrs. Wayne wasn’t coming back and realistically there wasn’t much
they could do about it. They had to get what they could there and
then, and hope it would be enough make the case. They were completely
focused on that, and Doris was reasonable, personable, acted like a
civilian. They didn’t worry about her. She could do as she
“And this is Riddler’s girlfriend?”
“Lucky guy. She sounds like something special.”
“He’s aware. On both counts.”
“Well, on that note,” Kyle said, closing his sketch
pad. “I say we call it a day. Next time we paint.”
Faust quietly processed logs from the Batcomputer,
room service at the Mark Hotel, a year’s worth of field reports and memos
generated by the FBI in Gotham, the traffic cameras in the vicinity of the
Iceberg Lounge, Pete Ignazio’s brownstone, known Haciendas and suspected
Riddler lairs… It analyzed ninety-four paragraphs from Bradford Dormont
novels relating to women of Doris Ingerson’s physical type, factored in
editorial and submission deadlines for Mayfair Magazine, and overlaid six
hundred thirteen mentions of Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy from Batman’s logs…
Factored in the likelihood of a crude rally if OPEC didn’t adjust its output
to cover falling Venezuelan oil production, and made its way hurriedly to
catch up to the figure crossing the Great Hall.
“Green Lantern of Sector 2814, if I might have a
moment of your time.”
To be continued…