A Detailed History of
The name of Wemyss is derived from the Gaelic ‘uaimh’, meaning ‘cave’, and is believed to be taken from the caves and cliffs of the Firth of Forth in that part of Fife. Indeed below the ruins of the old castle at East Wemyss known as MacDuff Castle can be found caves containing drawings dating from Pictish times. Wemyss in Fife has been the seat of the chiefs since the twelfth century. They are one of the few Lowland families directly descended from the Celtic nobility through the Macduff Earls of Fife.
Within the cave below Wayne Manor, a curious phenomenon occurred in an ordinary alcove between the main cavern and the gymnasium. The bats had gone. Over the course of an hour, something about the air felt off, their echoed squeaks sounded just a little strange, and even their sonar felt peculiarly agitated. One by one, the bats decided the main cavern with the humming warmth of the dark man’s computers made a more welcoming perch for a nap and they took up residence under the rock balcony that overlooked his chemistry lab.
The abandoned alcove took on a foreboding air. The squeaks hadn’t become any softer now that they echoed only from the distant cavern, and the sonar, were there bats still around to sense it, became muddled. Rather than an unnatural stillness, there was a prescience of expectation.
Something was about to happen.
From the Wayne Family History:
What is now Gotham City, was first called Ganono by the Mohawk. Ganono meaning “reeds,” no doubt in reference the reedy marshes that encircled the great "hilly island" called Manados by the Delaware. When the Dutch arrived, they ignored these descriptive titles. They saw a natural site for a new colony – a large, defensible territory at the mouth of the most vital river on the North American coast, a way station for traffic from the fur-trading areas to the north – the ingredients for a great city, a capital city. They bought it, lock, stock and riverbed in exchange for “certain quantities of duffels, axes, knifes, and wampum,” and they called it Nieuw Nederland. It would only become Gotham City when it became a British colony, and the first Wayne in America would be instrumental in that transformation.
Robert Wayne was born in Scotland to a highland branch of Clan Wemyss. The family had distinguished themselves as warriors, defending not just their own but any of their neighbors, regardless of clan affiliations. They were rewarded with land and leadership positions. They were prosperous, until Joseph Wayne, called Joseph ‘the Uncompromising’(1), took exception to the new English King. It was said Charles II was a Papist, and it was said further that he held a grudge for the lowland branch of the family’s action against his father. Joseph the Uncompromising refused to sign the Oath of Allegiance to him, and the family was stripped of its wealth as a result. Some members remained in the highlands, some went into exile, and Robert went to America to seek his fortune.
Described as “tall, muscular, and rugged of countenance,” Robert Wayne was an adventurer. Having seen what refusal to compromise did to his family, Robert made a resolution: he would adapt himself to suit whatever he encountered in the world, and he would cultivate a wealth that couldn’t be taken at a monarch’s whim: a wealth of abilities, knowledge, and cunning...
(1) Among other things.
On this, the eve of your son’s marriage, I find I am somewhat “at odds and ends” as Grandmother Pennyworth used to say. Merely writing in this journal as I have on so many nights seems inadequate to the occasion, so I am writing to you, my absent friend. This is not an ordinary evening in this great house, after all. It is a last night for the way it has been. Tomorrow brings not a new day but a new life for this family of yours. A family that endures change like no other known to me. So many changes since I came into your employ. Yet so often, the last hours of what was are unknown to us.
Certainly, tragically, I never dreamt the night you and madam took Master Bruce into town that the lunch I had prepared that day would be the last I would serve you as a family. Nor could I have imagined the night Master Bruce attended the circus, expected to be a tedious affair benefiting one of the Foundation’s pet causes, that another pair of senseless deaths would bring young Master Dick into our lives. You would take such pride in your grandson, Doctor Wayne, for the values you instilled in Master Bruce are ever apparent in the way he raised his son.
You would take pride too in the woman he has chosen, for his choice reflects the seeds you planted. Miss Selina (the last time I shall refer to her as such, for one has been rehearsing in one’s thoughts, mindful that the first time addressed as ‘madam’ or ‘Mrs. Wayne’ may well be remembered and it is important one’s delivery be natural) is an admirable woman. The change in Master Bruce’s outlook since he brought her into his life cannot be understated. He is as he ever was in essentials, of course, but where once there was only grim resolve, there is now an ever-present spark of possibility. There is hope, Doctor Wayne. An idea of tomorrow that is better, and more than that, a tomorrow that is more than a nebulous idea of “Gotham.” A hope that is personal, that is life-sized, and that is most important of all, your son Bruce. There was a time I feared I had lost him in that vocation called Batman, but he wasn’t gone, it turned out. And wherever he was hidden, however deeply submerged he was beneath that mask, he could not hide from her.
From their first meeting, it seems, the woman destined to be Mrs. Wayne sensed the real man behind that invented persona, addressed him (often infuriating the bat mask in the process) and reached him in ways he refused to admit. He is a stubborn man, Dr. Wayne. He was a stubborn boy and it is a characteristic that was only reinforced as he grew. He is so intelligent, so sensitive and so insightful, I’m afraid the unfortunate result was that he was proven right more often than was good for him. I wish I had done better countering the tendency, but if there was a means to do so, I never found it. He is a stubborn man. And he did not want to acknowledge that he was, underneath the persona and expertise, under all that training and discipline, a man.
Refusing to admit even that he was a man attracted to a woman, you can imagine the depth of denial when ‘attraction’ turned into something more. We are fortunate that madam found her way into that part of his life, that she did so as an adversary, and that she is made of the same splendid if infuriating steel, for I can envision no other way the Batman’s stubborn determination to deny Bruce Wayne life could have been overcome.
We are so fortunate, Dr. Wayne. Fortunate that she found him, fortunate that she loved him and fortunate she is his equal.
His equal in need, I should add, as much as in strength of will. That was clear the day I met her. This creature I had known only as a masked persona—and that related by Master Bruce, as unreliable a narrator as ever existed, “The Catwoman” as he described her. You would have laughed, Dr. Wayne. I who was so aware of Master Bruce’s vulnerabilities was utterly shocked to see similar qualities hidden by the Catwoman’s mask. This temptress, this vixen, this thieving seductress so skilled she could defeat the Batman’s iron will was quite… Within hours of meeting her, I knew I had two charges in place of one. I have strived to communicate that to her, that she had a home here and was a part of the family.
At this juncture, I should introduce the companion of my writing. Miss Nutmeg is here, a Bengal cat of discerning taste and remarkable disposition. She is one of two cats madam brought with her when she moved in, and I dare say the dear little thing found the house very large and daunting. One night she found her way to my pantry in such distress, I cannot convey the pity evoked by her silent cries. She has been a regular visitor ever since, and I must say it is pleasant to have company in my solitude.
I should say it was, for the routine of the house has been suspended in these days leading up to the wedding. Both cats are put out by the change, and Miss Nutmeg has been absent for several nights. There is staff in the house once again, to begin with. Szczenae Orlan and Ahalkea are here, two guardsmen of Atlantis who come as a kind of honorary accessory when the King of Atlantis sends a gift of salt. Ordinarily the intrusion would not be welcome, but with the gardeners and other day workers on the property, to say nothing of the members of the press attempting to snoop, it is convenient to have an extra set of eyes constantly on duty. One has relocated the gifts to madam’s morning room, so a guardsman stationed outside her door has a clear view of the door to Bruce’s study.
In addition, madam has a personal assistant in the form of an AI drone which remains in the house for the duration. While the object requires no bedroom and can be ignored when it comes to meals, I believe it is best to regard it as human staff on the level of a social secretary or governess. That is: a servant to be addressed as ‘Mister’ (were it a person and not an AI, of course) and given an upstairs bedroom (again, were it a person), but which remains a functionary that must never be allowed to forget its place in the household.
Under normal circumstances, this intrusion would be even less welcome than the Atlantians, but normal circumstances are a luxury we do not enjoy. The shapeshifter Clayface has returned from the grave, quite deranged and blaming Catwoman for his ersatz demise. The prospect of a shapeshifter with murderous intent stalking the bride at such a high profile wedding was deemed a sufficient threat for the master to put scruples aside and accept a nearly omniscient AI from the future with the appellation “Faust.”
While the cats were fine with the upheaval thus far, Master Bruce’s departure appears to have been the last straw. Like most couples cohabitating before their marriage, Master Bruce and his bride are living apart in these last days before the ceremony. A bride’s dressing requirements being considerably more complicated than a groom’s, it was decided that Master Bruce would be the one to relocate. He has moved into the penthouse and has been using the “satellite cave” under the Wayne Tower as his base for these time travel patrols of his (an extraordinary business where he commutes, essentially, to six months in the future, changing places with his future self. In this way, he protects himself from the risk of “last flight syndrome” while insuring the marriage is not haunted by the knowledge that tragedies may have occurred which Batman’s presence would have prevented.)
I naturally volunteered to install myself in the penthouse in order to valet him and see to his needs, but he declined. He understands the enormity of the preparations underway here at the manor, and as I said, the needs of the bride are greater. It would be a peculiar business to leave madam in sole possession of the manor, tonight of all nights to be alone with her cats, left to set an alarm clock and make breakfast herself in the morning. On such a day, it would be most peculiar… But it feels equally wrong to have abandoned Master Bruce. One has, after all, looked after him from the beginning.
In any case, one made sure one was at the penthouse to receive the gentlemen on their return from Tokyo…
Clark Kent didn’t recognize his reflection in the doors of the penthouse terrace. The dark glasses concealing a bachelor night hangover might be the last, defiant hurrah of Bruce’s playboy pose. It could never be his own authentic attempt to signal the world that the best man was still feeling the effects of the big sendoff. The guilty frown too, as he considered the morning pick-me-up the butler just brought him “Recommended for gentlemen after a late evening, sir.” It simply wasn’t him.
A hangover was one of those episodes in a human life that he would never know, that’s what he always assumed—but then he never expected to become inebriated from the solar flares of the sun goddess Amaterasu giving an angry tongue-lashing to a pair of rogue Ra’s al Ghul followers. He still blushed remembering how the others were solemn and respectful after learning the charming business woman they’d been dealing with all evening was really the all-powerful matriarch of the Shinto pantheon. Solemn and respectful—even Edward Nigma had received her thanks and her gift with stone-faced dignity—while he grinned like a moron. “Hey, look at that, the sun,” when she presented him with an ornament from the katana of a favored samurai. He practically giggled in her face he was so giddy.
By the time they went to breakfast, he felt like himself again. He had quite an appetite, but otherwise he felt perfectly normal and had flown them home without incident. But now he felt numb, weighed down and parched. He didn’t have a headache exactly, though there was a sensation behind his eyes and shooting down the back of his neck that wasn’t pleasant, and he felt he could use a nap.
It was Dick who used the word hangover. Bruce called to Alfred while Clark scoffed at the idea. Bruce hypothesized that Amaterasu’s solar energy overstimulated Clark’s system, flash saturating his cells with a highly concentrated dose of pure stellar radiation, and it was perfectly plausible that the drop-off returning to normal levels produced these symptoms similar to a hangover. He then handed Clark a pair of $400 playboy-billionaire-dodging-the-paparazzi sunglasses and his lip twitched as if to say “I won’t be needing them anymore.” And finally he assumed his ultra-low battlefield murmur and added “Besides, it will make Alfred happy.”
He broke off as Alfred approached, and Bruce ordered a round of ‘those pick-me-ups.’ He did it with the oddest smile Clark had ever seen. It wasn’t the playboy, it wasn’t the foppish multiplier on the playboy when Bruce sensed a threat to his identity and overcompensated. It wasn’t even relaxed, at-home Bruce having a joke.
Alfred went, and Bruce resumed talking:
“That’s why he’s here. The wedding is in a day, he has more than enough to do at the manor. I told him I could manage just fine here on my own; he has enough on his plate. But he insisted on being here when we got back. Do you know why? ‘In case we needed anything.’ Superficially, the Pennyworth version of a prairie oyster after the excesses of a regulation bachelor party. But really ‘anything’ meant patched up. Or camouflaging bruises. In case I spent last night doing exactly what I did wind up doing. But I don’t need a patch up and you do have a hangover, so it can mean what he pretended but didn’t dare hope for. You have a hangover, Clark. Drink your pick-me-up, followed by an aspirin, a bottle of Voss, and whatever else he brings you.”
So not Bruce having a joke; the real Bruce giving a gift.
The pick-me-ups came, and after swallowing his in a gulp, Dick left. Alfred had walked him to the elevator, no doubt to impart some final instructions that Clark didn’t like to listen in on. Bruce went inside to check the news, leaving Clark to enjoy the view.
Views weren’t something he did on a terrace. Looking through the walls to see that everyone was occupied, he then shot up above the clouds, changing as he went. He zipped downtown to the Flatiron District, further south to the Financial District where Selina once asked him to buzz a certain set of Wall Street windows to provoke Barry Hobbs. Uptown to D’Annunzio where he (maybe not wisely, but it worked out) once had Lois prod Selina about her and Bruce getting married. West into Robinson Park where he and Batman fought invading underworld gods with their gargoyle armies when that friendly lunch went sideways. Downtown again to SoHo and the catlair where he was asked to make “a Superman-shaped hole in the wall” to back up Selina’s queen of the underworld pose for Luthor. Up to Bristol, just to check on things around the manor without entering its air space… and hovering several seconds longer than necessary, recalling a cosmic crisis sparked by forces that had no business in Bruce’s private life meddling with his love for Selina. Then recalling a breakfast in the Wayne Manor dining room, Bruce and Selina including him on an undercover mission to the stock exchange, posing as Tim Drake’s corporate flunky. He returned to Wall Street, remembering that day, remembering Luthor and the way they’d snubbed him. Later that day, Selina took him to the Catitat but he didn’t go there now. Instead he flew to Museum Row… That extraordinary art exhibit, Tae-Vrroshokh, the time and money and effort they went to, all to show him how the world sees Superman.
They were good friends. And they were good for each other. They made each other happy. And absolutely nothing was going to interfere with this wedding as long as Superman had anything to—
..:: Busy? ::..
It was his Justice League communicator, but rather than answer it, he bolted back to the terrace. Before Bruce could finish his hail, Clark was standing in front of him, adjusting his glasses.
“No, just checking some things,” he grinned. “Anything in the news?”
“Dubai appears to have survived. I was photographed nine times by the press, twenty-six on social media. I don’t appear to be doing anything too embarrassing in any of the pictures (although one of the men is clearly ginger and I can’t understand why no one has questioned if that particular photo is really me.) There have been thirty-three hashtags in various languages over the last forty-eight hours. I think we can consider Operation: Public Wayne a success.
“Rayner, West and O’Brian were all smiles checking out according to the Burj front desk, never left the solar system according to the Watchtower, and no boom tube activity detected. I call that money well spent.
“My future self patrolled without incident: skirmish at the Iceberg, drug ring in Sunset Park, Armenians had a plan to break out a Falcone underboss tomorrow, that’s been shut down, and there’s some Z-activity near the docks possibly setting up a lair for Ventriloquist.
“A single, dry mention on the earthquake. Two sentences, nobody picked it up. It’s a non-story outside of Japan.”
“So far so good,” Clark said, sensing a ‘but’ was coming. Bruce picked up on the tone and met his eyes. His lip twitched, and a hint of the bat-gravel crept in as he spoke again.
“The women got back to Gotham on schedule,” he began.
“I know; Lois texted me when they landed,” Clark nodded. “She’s back at the hotel. This is bringing us to…”
“What we knew we’d be facing when I asked you to be best man. Selina is with her friend Anna. The fence. They’re doing the final fittings or something at Deeor and then… I was supposed to meet this Anna before, twice in fact, and both times something came up. I really cannot let anything pull me away this time. Could you—if the signal lights or anything comes up—”
“I’ll cover,” Clark said, grinning ear to ear.
From the Wayne Family History:
The Dutch exploited wind-powered saw mills and by the 17th Century were building ships faster and more cheaply than any rival. Tea, coffee and spices were the most important commodities, eclipsing income from the North American colonies, and by the late 1600s the Dutch had developed such a hunger for nutmeg that they traded their colony of Nieuw Nederland to Britain in exchange for a nutmeg-producing Banda Island, one of the so-called “Spice Islands,” called Pulau Run.
Nutmeg, unaware that she was named for a substance once deemed more valuable than the whole of Gotham, left Alfred’s pantry having assured herself that the man they called Standing Softpaws had escaped the changes moving through the house with alarming speed. While she was there, she inspected the Land of the Can Opener outside his pantry and the many crates strangers brought early in the day. Food mostly, normally a welcome addition to any room, along with bottles and other less interesting things. Quite a baffling array of smells. All in all, too much of everything. Whatever foodstuffs they might have gained could not be worth the overall disturbance to the quiet routine of the place.
Rather than return to her nap place, she went to Bat-Bruce’s study to rendezvous with Whiskers. In the study, there was a cave smell that came from a Big Dark behind the Tick-Tock. In that dark cave place, Whiskers knew there were flying mice. Bat-Bruce went in frequently to battle them, and now that he had disappeared, Whiskers was worried perhaps he’d fallen prey to a mouse that was too much for him.
Nutmeg waited for a few minutes outside the study, considering the feet of the Atlantis guardsman on duty. She didn’t approve of these new arrivals. There was a big claw-footed bathtub in their room and they filled it often, immersing themselves entirely in water and soaking in the stuff so their fur must never completely dry out. It wasn’t natural. How could you trust someone who got wet so often they could never properly groom?
Whiskers finally arrived, reporting no signs of Bat-Bruce and no new smells at the base of the tick-tock. There was no sign the tick-tock had been opened or that the room had been occupied in days. Woof.
The cats went together to inspect the final place which had been the scene of the greatest disturbance. The two-foots called it “the ballroom” and before today, the human scent was all but non-existent. The air had a close, dry quality that Whiskers loved, a room that had been empty for Tiger Moons, where he could explore and sniff and roll around in the dust, thrash it with his tail and get cobwebs in his whiskers. Until today. Today brought noises and strange feet and strange smells and cloths were removed, dust was removed, the spider snacks were removed, the thin gilded chairs uncovered and unstacked, the tables arranged along the wall with different cloths draped over them. It was all very strange.
Shame. The minion Pikhai, axe-thrower of the Galata 4th and food taster to Ra’s al Ghul, felt only shame. He was in Gotham—City of the Detective, Stronghold of the Master’s Great Enemy—and while he wasn’t exactly AWOL, he wasn’t exactly there on an officially sanctioned mission of the Demon. He had jiggled assignments, there was no other way to say it. Since no minion of Ra’s al Ghul cared where he was sent so long as he served the interests of Ra’s al Ghul, it didn’t matter to D’kar if he was sent to Glasgow instead of Panama and T’hal to Panama instead of Miami. If he himself, now assigned to Miami, came into the United States as a commercial passenger on a flight into Gotham, well, there was no actual rule that a minion must stow away on a cruise ship from Havana.
The layover was not so easy to justify. With dozens of planes, trains and busses leaving Gotham every hour, there was no reason for the 79-hour hiatus between his arrival and departure, but even that was not his shame.
He had come to Gotham—that was the purpose of all his schemes, he had made the decision to come to Gotham to see the gift he had labored for was delivered with all the accoutrements it was meant to have—the documentation, the poem, the photograph—as Ra’s al Ghul intended. He owed that to his master, who had given such thought to every detail.
Yet these, these minions thought of the gift as nothing but the means to gain access to Bruce Wayne’s home. He heard them when he snuck in to insert his own humble note into the parcel. They joked about the parchment documenting the oil’s provenance. If the ink or the parchment were poisoned, it would be a clever way to get at the recipient. They joked about planting a bug in the frame of the photograph. They joked about poisoning the oil.
That’s when Pikhai snapped. Poisoning the oil? Poisoning the oil! Who would joke about such a thing?
He snuck away, troubled, and practiced throwing his axe until bedtime. Who could joke about poisoning olive oil? How was such perversity possible? A world where such a monstrosity came into being should right itself some way and purge the unclean thing from its shores... Unable to sleep, he returned to the shipping compound but it was too late. The oil was gone, the minions tasked with its delivery had been assigned; the documentation remained in the corner, discarded and unvalued. Pikhai was sick at heart. The thought of that refined lady who knew so much about food, opening her gift with no inkling of the thought Ra’s al Ghul had put into it. With no inkling of the olives selected and why, the subtle flavors of green almond and tomato leaf to be revealed, the delayed and elongated peppery finish—it was too much for a tender soul to bear.
He had to make it right. He owed it to his master, and with the appalling arrogance of a minion grown above his station, he owed it to himself. He realized now, he longed to see how the gift was received. He had been longing for days, that’s why it affected him so, imagining Selina Kyle receiving the oil without knowing any of its qualities.
And so he’d jiggled the schedule and made his plans and made his way to Gotham… yet even this wasn’t his shame.
He had… he had… As he had on every mission but one, sought out the humblest and most anonymous lodgings he could find. Though Gotham was a gourmet paradise, he meant to subsist as befits a lowly minion on whatever street food was available nearby. He had eaten a hot dog. And it was… sublime.
A bit of bread toasted on a flat-topped grill, a tube-steak of fine, garlicky meat in a crisp casing, a piquant gooeyness of cheese and mustard and onion. It was unspeakably wonderful. And he felt… such shame.
In Thomas and Martha Wayne’s day, Mise en Abyme was a French restaurant on East 76th Street known for deplorable art on its walls and elites of the art world at its tables. The Gotham rock stars held court daily, while European dealers would appear within hours of their planes landing. In the season, the foot traffic to Bemelmans Bar at the Carlyle or the diner down the block favored by Andy Warhol was a parade of influential artists, collectors and taste-makers. The restaurant didn’t survive when the epicenter moved downtown, but today a chic bar carried on the name a few doors from the original location.
Bruce glanced at the sky before heading inside. He’d seen Clark hovering, keeping an eye on something to the southwest. Of course with Clark that could mean Baltimore, but there was a Mad Hatter hideout only a few blocks in that direction. Once he stepped into Bar Abyme he was committed, but as long as he was still on the sidewalk… It wouldn’t hurt to ask. He took out his phone.
..:: This is Superman. I can’t take your call right now because I’m preventing my friend from coughing up the ball on the one yard line. Get in there and meet the friend, Bruce. They’re waiting for you.::..
“Very funny. I just wanted to—”
..:: You just wanted to say a last good-bye to the playboy thing by being inexcusably late to a woman you’ve stood up twice? You just wanted to pull a lame excuse out of your ear one last time? ::..
“Will you at least tell me if whatever caught your attention is in Gotham?”
..:: I will not tell you, because I am super-arrogant enough to believe I can handle it. Go meet your wife’s friend and let me cover for you like you asked.::..
Bruce grunted and entered the bar.
Selina was seated with Anna Karalis, who was considerably more beautiful in person than in her Interpol file. He took a closer look before he approached the table and wracked his brain, now that he saw her in the flesh, making sure he’d never had any dealings with her as the playboy. Like Selina, she was in her early thirties; like Selina, a brunette. Long hair swept to the side, dipping over her eye, designer dress, “statement” jewelry, expensive but tasteful. There were so many bimbos… But no, he would have remembered features like that. She looked Greek, the name Karalis was Greek, father was a shipping fortune. He would have remembered.
He strode forward confidently, and Selina turned and smiled up at him. She mentioned Dubai, he mentioned Jumby Island, he kissed her cheek, and then as he looked over at Anna, she flashed an almost Joker-wide Joker-intense smile as she offered her hand:
“Anna Karalis, homicidal meth whore,” she said with the grace of a debutante.
“We were just discussing the Gotham Post,” Selina murmured as Bruce let his chin drop to his chest in mock shame at his city’s most embarrassing newspaper. “Back to form and making up for lost time.”
“I knew of course that your delightful tabloids have made Selina out to be a penniless nobody with no breeding or connections, oozed up from the gutters of God knows where. So I suppose it’s only logical that old friends must be pulled down with her. But I must say, what I know of the poor—and I admit it’s not much—I don’t know how mass murder got on the table.”
“On behalf of Gotham, I apologize,” Bruce said, swiftly exchanging playboy charm for CEO diplomacy. “We do have better newspapers. The Gotham Times, for instance.”
“Not much consolation, I would imagine,” a new voice oozed from behind Bruce as Ford Dormont touched his arm lightly as he maneuvered around, homing in on Anna like a guided missile. “When one is the target of the libel, stripped of breeding, education and dignity because, as a woman, your dignity is expendable. Ford Dormont, my dear,” he concluded, lifting her hand to his lips with European panache.
“The novelist,” Anna said politely, “Very nice to meet you.”
“My colleague, Ash Torrick,” he said, gesturing to the man who maneuvered around Bruce’s other side and offered his hand like a normal person. Anna pretended she didn’t recognize his name from his far more sensational books and TV show, though Ash rejected the gesture and frankly acknowledged the elephant in the room.
“On behalf of sensationalist pablum, I would also like to apologize for the Post. I can chase Nazi gold and Nostradamus quatrains with the best of them, but turning two ladies like yourselves into bottom-feeders without resources, education or a scrap of common sense, well, that sort of thing gives sordid pandering a bad name.”
The pair explained they were on their way to dinner “next door” (meaning D’Annunzio) when they noticed Bruce heading this way and saw the enchanting ladies through the glass door. They simply had to stop in and say hello to Selina, and condole. Returning from an idyllic Caribbean weekend to see a Gotham Post feature on the wedding party that rivaled the earliest Cat-Tales era slanders of Catwoman. What a travesty!
Bruce was annoyed. The conversation had momentum. His attempt to laugh and move on was lost in the newcomers’ arrival, Anna responded as one might expect to Ford and Ash echoing her sentiments, and they were invited to join “for a drink” that could well extend into dinner. His eyes searched for Selina’s, but she was occupied with Ash commandeering a chair from the next table to squeeze in next to her. He saw no hint of her usual annoyance with Dormont; she seemed pleased her friend was having a good time… So he was trapped, and with Clark covering there was zero chance of a KGBeast rescue with a well-timed assault on the power grid.
He slipped into the autopilot of a thousand evenings like this one, though he talked less than he usually did on those occasions. Dormont appeared to have found his soulmate in Anna Karalis. She spoke of an upcoming auction in Geneva: Jewels of the Bourbon Parma family that included pieces made for Marie Antoinette, and of a recent sale in London, pieces that weren’t quite royal but were almost on that level, signed by Cartier, Tiffany, and Webb… Batman tried to nudge Bruce into taking an interest on the grounds that Karalis was a fence and one dealing in Catwoman’s level of merchandise, but it wouldn’t take. She wasn’t here as a fence; she was here as Selina’s best friend to stand beside her while they married… a reality that was underlined when the conversation moved on to their dresses.
The women had come from their final fittings at Deeor, and Dormont became a sponge ready to absorb every detail he could draw from them. Perhaps stinging from the talk of the Post (and the comparison of their recent stories with the ones that sparked Cat-Tales) Selina volunteered details she hadn’t before: details that were meant for the public eventually, but that so far she had only told him. Bruce had to wonder at her selection of Ford Dormont as her mouthpiece.
Selina’s dress was ivory peau de soie from one of the oldest and most prestigious mills in France, with Venetian lace from the island of Burano which predated the Alençon lace favored by the best modern dresses. Alençon began making lace in the 16th century to compete with Venice, whose monopoly and mastery of the craft produced ever-escalating prices for the French nobility. Selina had chosen those materials because her dress was a modernized take on that of a Wayne ancestor in the manor’s portrait gallery. To the world, it was her unique way to acknowledge the name she was taking and the legacy she was marrying into, the kind of gesture that made Ford Dormont’s toes curl and sent the Ashton-Larrabys of the world into ecstasies of self-congratulation... And privately, well, according to the family history, Marie Wayne St. John had used the lure of her French chef and prestige of her ‘Dinner and Supper List’ to stop a duel with rigged pistols, effectively preventing a murder and becoming the first documented Wayne to make use of the family fortune to fight crime.
It ended, in time. Three rounds of kir royales and vermouths cassis left Dormont sated with enough jewel auctions, ancestral portraits and bespoke gowns that he didn’t maneuver to join them for dinner. He and Torrick went on to their D’Annunzio reservation while Bruce found his way back to a non-foppish, non-playboy facsimile of himself if Batman wasn’t in the picture.
It wasn’t easy. Anna was a stunning beauty, similar to Selina’s coloring and height, and he was escorting both of them to one of Gotham’s trendiest eateries. Muscle memory was strong, and he found himself drifting into the playboy more than once, waxing on the automotive perfection of the Devel Sixteen prototype he’d driven in Dubai. The roar of its V16 Quad Turbo engine, the rumored 5000 horsepower of its top of the line sister, the curves of its rear wing…
“You’ll have to get one when they come on the market,” Selina said coolly. “We can finally race properly. None of your other cars can catch me, after all. Not for lack of trying.”
It was exactly the smack he needed, grazing just close enough to Bat-topics once-removed to set off his inner alarm. It made him realize he’d fallen into the playboy persona, bordering on the idiot fop, with Selina’s oldest friend with whom he was meant to be himself. She didn’t want Anna thinking she was marrying a glib idiot (and truth be told neither did he), and Anna was currently smiling at him the way non-bimbos did one date before deciding he had nothing to offer but his black card.
“Listen to me,” he sighed. “Fast cars have a way of taking me back to when I was sixteen and obsessed with Ferraris, and I’m afraid Ford also brings out a side from my past that I’m not proud of. Please. Anna. Disregard the last ten minutes and tell me about your flight in, this sale in Geneva, if you’ve been before, if you go often. What you drive even. Anything. Let me prove I’m not the shallow dolt I’ve been since we sat down.”
“No need, I wasn’t buying it,” she said pleasantly. “You run a forty billion dollar empire, and you’re marrying Selina. There’s no way you’re a fool. I am glad to know the reason for the curious tone of the conversation so far. It would have kept me up for days dreaming up exotic explanations. Now I don’t have to. It’s perfectly simple: fast cars and Bradford Dormont are a combination to be avoided. Contraindicated, as the doctors say.”
Bruce laughed—a genuine one—it was a long time since he’d been called out by a stranger sharp enough to see through his performance and reputation, and frank enough to say so. It stood to reason, Selina’s friend was… not to be underestimated.
Anna glossed over London and Geneva, sensing he’d only asked to be polite, but went into some detail on her car—a vintage MG—guessing it was the one subject where he had a genuine interest. She climbed a notch in Bruce’s estimation (for a criminal) declaring that she would have driven it out rather than flown, if only (her stock then plummeted) Gotham wasn’t so miserably unfriendly to cars. The parking alone, to say nothing of the traffic… Nothing put Bruce off like visitors failing to appreciate Gotham’s qualities, but then (her stock rose again) she acknowledged the city’s superiority to all rivals as a center for art, diamonds and gems. She regretted that she didn’t get out here more often, if only… (her stock soared) …the Batman factor made this whole part of the country too risky for the kind of transactions that made up the bulk of her business…
On the roof of a warehouse near the docks, Robin and Batgirl kept watch for the Scorpio shipment: an HK91 battle rifle, a block of uncut RDX military grade explosive, and a remote circuit cutter for disabling alarm systems—all of which Homeland intel said was being smuggled into Philadelphia with Gotham as the fallback, where an unknown operative would be picking it up for transport to Metropolis. It was extremely unlikely the smuggler knew he had a leak so it was extremely unlikely the terrorist starter kit was going to show up in Gotham waters, but if it did, it was extremely important that it never make it to Metropolis and even more important to Jim Gordon the GPD or Team: Batman identify and apprehend whoever came to pick it up. It was vital the job not be left to federal agencies who wouldn’t share the information. It was solemn work they were doing…
“Lace is from little island off Venice. Called Burano, very famous for making lace for hundreds of years. Before machines, hand-made, hand-embroider.”
Solemn work. That’s what Tim repeated to himself (since there was no point repeating it to Cassie).
“Much lace now brought in now for tourists, cruise ships full of them, very bad. Traditional makers could not keep up, so bring in Chinese-made lace, from machines. Nice enough for tourist. But Selina dress has real thing, finest Emilia lace, third generation maker. Deeor get from—No like look of that Coast Guard boat. Too close to shore, second time tonight. Check number, bet no legit. Echo Golf One Niner Three Zero—get lace from special shop in Venice proper near Piazza San Marco, also have peignoir set for wedding night…”
“Did you know there’s a city in Turkey called Batman?” Barbara asked as Dick was inspecting his tungsten line before suiting up for patrol. “Named for the Batman river which is named for Bati Raman Mountain.”
“What?” he asked, a look of utter confusion as he turned to face her.
“You didn’t want to hear any more about the lace and how the French Alençon in my dress is actually considered the better kind, so I dug around until I found the least wedding-related tidbit on the internet.”
“Thank you,” Dick said happily.
“Wedding scrooge,” Barbara retorted and stuck out her tongue.
“I am not. I’ve been rooting for those two longer than anyone—including them if you factor in the denial years. She’s good for him. She makes him happy. And in case you haven’t noticed, everything works better, inside the cave and out, when he has a little happiness to go home to balancing out the rest of it. And because it’s Selina, ‘a little happiness’ will never become so much of a normal life that he gets complacent.”
“So why the wedding scrooge?” Barbara demanded, and Dick sighed.
“I just… Now that the day is here, I want to take a breath, a step back, not get fingerprints on anything Alfred just finished polishing… And watch from a safe distance, keeping a clear path to the fire extinguisher at all times.”
“All this because I enthused a little about the dress?” Barbara said, shaking her head.
“All this because Bruce is Bruce. There is no way those two are going to pull this off without at least one dragon to slay. And when it pops up its scaly fire-breathing head, I’m going to be there for them.”
“Riddle me this, Puzzle Muffin. How did the bidding war for highly sensitive intel about South American oil production turn into ivory peau de soie and venetian lace?”
Doris shook her head and kissed Edward Nigma’s cheek.
“And something about shoes,” he added.
“I told you, silly. Rotsby was holding both briefcases—identical, silver metal, one with half a million dollars, one with quarter of a million pounds—when we went back into the party to find the bomb, and he slid them under the table rather than trying to pass himself off as a random party guest toting around a spy movie briefcase full of cash. When it was over, I saw him leave with a case in each hand, and I thought ‘okay, nothing blew up so he went back.’ He slid two in there; he took two out and never thought a thing of it because he never knew about the third case. Consulate guy sure didn’t go back for it, the Texan and his goon didn’t go back, so I went back and there it was—score!”
“Mhm,” Eddie said. “Followed all that, and then ‘seed pearl beading’, hand-stitched or hem-stitched or something, I don’t really know, I don’t really care, but there was no turn signal. Briefcase full of cash, exquisite beading on the peau de soie, and I don’t know why.”
“Selina’s dress, silly! Lois wouldn’t stop talking about the couture experience, all these fittings at Deeor, having the garment fitted to her body, and it sounds SO beautiful, nothing like the fabrics you’re going to find in even the best department store or dress shop. This one shop in Paris still deals with a mill that made silk for—”
“Puzzle Muffin?” Eddie said piteously.
He tried to work up some interest… Silk was still a mysterious rarity from China. (He couldn’t.) A Wayne ancestor was married to the U.S. ambassador to France, struck up a friendship with the queen, shared her dressmakers (He couldn’t.) She shipped exotic silk and feathered garments home to her relatives in Gotham who were still making do with homespun cloth after the war-time shortages. (He couldn’t. There might be 10,000 riddles to be spun from this history of haute couture as it dovetailed into the wedding that only he knew was Batman’s, but he could not bring himself to give a damn.)
“Just remember we’re not going as regular guests. We’ve been given a job to keep Bradford Dormont and his buddy occupied.”
“What is a nine-letter three-syllable descriptor for the self-assured derived from the Latin ‘with trust’ by way of bold and/or secretive Middle French?”
“You’re confident,” Eddie said.
“I am confident. And all the blue bloods call him Ford.”
After a pleasant meal, Bruce walked the women out of the restaurant—and experienced the most unsettling wave of déjà vu since a cosmic crisis erupted in Wayne Manor and an alternate reality battle with the Justice League played out in his study every 43 minutes. He looked at Selina to see if she felt it—she obviously didn’t, but Anna noticed and said “I can take the hint. I’m going to walk myself back to the hotel so you two can say your goodnights, okay?”
She and Selina exchanged air kisses and giggles—and Bruce realized too late that the thought tumbling from his lips would be taken the wrong way.
“We should have eloped,” he blurted, and saw the flash of hurt and disappointment in Selina’s eyes. Regret punched him in the jaw like a henchman he’d underestimated.
“Because my friend pays her bills the same way I used to?”
“No. God no. I like your friend. I’m sorry, that slipped out. It’s nothing to do with Anna—or with you or anybody’s bills. It’s just… I really can’t be rid of the playboy fast enough. I want you to have a proper wedding—I want it for both of us. For Alfred, and my parents, my father’s name. I want to do this right, I just hadn’t figured on these flashbacks. The way things used to be… I never realized how awful some of it was, how much I hated it.”
“I guess Tokyo didn’t go the way you hoped?” Selina said gently.
“Tokyo was great until a few… unexpected… that I don’t want to get into right now. It’s not that anyway, it’s this. Coming out of the restaurant, ready to say goodnight and go our separate ways. When we started dating, remember? We’d do this, right here coming out of D’Annunzio, and it was so… strange. Looking in your eyes, no masks in the way. It wasn’t like saying goodnight to other women, because you were going to be out there later, just like me. Or would you? It was so new then and I was struggling with it. You and me, and you, and me, where we stopped and they started.”
“I love you,” Selina whispered and then smiled. “You can be such a mess sometimes.” Her smile said it was the most wonderful mess anyone had ever been, then the smile became mischievous. “Nothing stopping me from hitting the rooftops tonight. My last chance for a while.”
“But not mine,” Bruce said sadly. “It won’t be me out there, remember? My last night swapping patrols, and you cannot play with the Bat who’s covering for me here.”
“I know,” Selina said with mock menace. “Your master plan kinda sucks. There is literally no point going out to case a target in this town without the possibility of a Bat-encounter.”
“You’re the only thief who thinks so,” Bruce smirked. “Thank God.”
Smiles faded, and again Selina became tender.
“Call when you get back? Just to say goodnight?”
“You got it.”
The moment held, a long loving gaze into each other’s eyes, a lingering kiss—which ended abruptly as their twin awareness flared. Their gaze abandoned loving intimacy for strategic assessment: someone was watching. Bruce’s glance considered the sidewalk cones a few doors away near the street entrance to Cipriani. Creating just enough of a blockage, those heading into the restaurant would have to enter through the hotel, walking right past the sweet spot where someone in the shadow of that newsstand would have a clear, well-lit view of them.
Selina’s eyes were more suspicious of the elaborate canopy outside the Pierre—convenient for shielding a lady’s dress from the elements in the mad dash from the car to the door, but convenient for shielding almost anything else you wanted to point at a couple coming out of D’Annunzio.
The telepathy shared by partners said they would window shop, moving north to get an angle on anyone hiding at the Pierre while forcing anyone at the newsstand to reveal themselves.
They took a few steps when awareness spiked. Bruce grabbed Selina impulsively, pulled her into a warm embrace, his hand stroking the side of her face, the pair of them oblivious to the world beyond their amorous desire—until a lightning quick, synchronized and ferocious pivot snapped both heads west…
To see the least imposing axe-thrower in the history of assassins running up to them with guileless zeal.
“Grit lady,” he enthused, looking on Selina like a pilgrim at Canterbury. “And wiry gentleman.” He beamed, and then noticed the confused stares. “This is right, yes? My English is new and perhaps wobbly. I am greeting you as persons of importance and esteempunk.”
Selina’s hand covered her mouth. Bruce had no smile to conceal so she let him take the reins.
“Who are you and what’s this about?” he asked like a pompous civilian, and Selina shot him a look like it wouldn’t have been her choice of approach.
“I am Pikhai, servant of Ra’s al Ghul, Light of the East and Terror of the West. And you are the Missus Selina Kyle-Wayne, and you are the Mr. Bruce Wayne she is will be marrying, and you forgive that I mangle for I am very excited.”
“We definitely should not have eloped,” Selina said, barely holding back a laugh.
“I knew tonight of all nights you would eat at D’Annunzio, so I came hopping to fine you. You are to be receiving Ata al Ghul, a gift of the Demon. (This is right word, yes? A ‘gift’?)”
Selina nodded encouragingly.
“That’s right. Last time he gave me swords.”
“Behave,” Bruce said under his breath.
“I always behave,” she replied shamelessly, and Pikhai continued:
“I come in grit urgency to fine you before gift arrives. To tell you before you open. There is grit mangling in the house of Ra’s al Ghul.”
“You don’t say,” Selina murmured.
“What kind of mangling?” Bruce demanded.
“Maybe they sent more swords,” Selina suggested.
“Shh,” said Bruce.
“Important documents left owl. I bring. Photograph of olive grove. Certificate and provenance of grower with explanation of olives used and oil quality. Special recipe from region. All this I bring. Add to gift when you open, is as if it was there all along, yes?”
“Yes, alright,” Bruce said like a crimefighter who’d learned to humor-and-handle his insane foes (and their minions) as well as anyone. “Just give us the stuff and we’ll put it with the oil when it arrives and pretend it was there all along.”
“It would be butter if I bring, myself, inspect box when you receive and make sure all is in hoard.”
“In order?” Selina guessed.
“Why?” said Bruce.
“It would be butter,” repeated Pikhai.
Selina was ready to agree. Bruce was adamant that he would not be leaving her to return to the manor alone for her and Alfred to be receiving Demons and their mangled gifts in his absence. She said she could handle it, raked her nails lightly across his dress shirt over the scars of an early cat scratch and mouthed a ‘meow’ dripping with sinful promises.
The moment held, a long loving gaze into each othe… Pikhai was not as perceptive as Anna and continued to stand there, grinning at them.
“I will see you tomorrow,” Bruce said, holding onto Selina’s hand, though his eyes said ‘If this guy is still on the street by the time future-me is here in costume, I am punching him into next year.’
“Tomorrow,” Selina said, though her eyes said ‘Please don’t. He’s harmless, and kind of cute.’
“Yes, tomorrow. I too will present myself at your house tomorrow and all will be made as it should be.”
Letter to Dr. Wayne, p.2
On my return to the manor, there was a development that confirms the wisdom of my decision to remain here with madam and let Master Bruce fend for himself at the penthouse. Szczenae Orlan reports an incident that is highly suspect. In my absence, a delivery was attempted when none was expected. Before you accuse me of succumbing to your son’s excessive caution (I will not call it paranoia), I should explain that we are in expectation of a most unwelcome gift from one Ra’s al Ghul, a foreign gentleman who came into the master’s life as a pestilence that has taken far too long to eradicate.
The vehicle came to the front gate shortly after I left. Told no one was available to receive a delivery, the driver said he would return later. Given that this was the first hour in many weeks the house was empty (apart from the Atlanteans), it seems likely they were waiting for my departure. I have consulted the security cameras and found the vehicle to be a common panel truck. Enhancing the image of the driver and passenger, they could certainly be followers of Ra’s al Ghul, in which case they had ample opportunity to survey the grounds. They will not have found it easy, for the ground security is first rate, designed by Master Bruce before madam moved in and made further improvements.
These are, nevertheless, trained assassins whose skills cannot be underestimated. I have not told Master Bruce, as it is only supposition on my part that these men have any connection to al Ghul. I shall inform madam when she gets home and accede to her judgment.
From the Wayne Family History:
When Nieuw Nederland became a British Colony called Gotham, the English king continued the Dutch practice, granting titled land to colonists who had proven useful. Robert Wayne had certainly done so… but the words patroon and patroonships had to go. Rather an English term was substituted: manorships, along with the title Lord of the Manor thrown in if the recipient had been especially good. Thus in 1686 James II declared Robert, son of Joseph the Uncompromising, to be the first lord of the great estate formerly called Schuylerwyck, henceforth to be known as Wayne Manor.
By 1800 the term Wayne Manor no longer applied to the land grant itself, which had swollen to a million acres before being largely sold off throughout the 18th century, but to a house. Wayne Manor the house was built in 1771 on the choicest 200-acre parcel of the original manorship. It was the first in the region built with large windows, seven feet tall and three feet wide, to command a view of the river and the growing city beyond, and to the east, of magnificent sunrises.
5:23… Twelve minutes to sunrise. A figure at one with the darkness that would conceal it for precisely 720 seconds had moved with uncanny certainty across the Wayne Manor grounds. Mindful of the cameras—overlapping 180s—thermal signatures and sightlines, air space monitors, speedforce detection near the Batcave, sensors for energy displacement related to magical disruption and even for kryptonite radiation as one approached the house.
Past the patio with the french doors… Magnetic sensors. Made to appear the weakest link in manor security to a semi-informed thief: door opens, breaks the electrical circuit triggering the alarm. Just a matter of keeping a magnet in contact with the sensor and you could proceed straight into the dining room… or so you’d think, until the trap sprang shut.
Past the kitchen that a true insider might see as the weak link… Alfred Pennyworth was no mere servant, and his kitchen was the heart of that family. A heavy but ordinary door, heavy but ordinary hinges, and secured by an extremely well-made but relatively ordinary lock. Keys held by Alfred and Dick Grayson and Bruce himself, and Selina Kyle. The door they all used most often, and where anomalies would be dismissed without a thought… A truly informed thief familiar with the family would think any of the keyholders except Selina (aka Catwoman) would be an easy mark out in the world, and once that kitchen key was copied…
Past the bushes under the balconette, the master bedroom whose window represented the only true flaw in the manor security, an exploit only a world-class thief would recognize and only Catwoman’s claws could exploit—a moot point now that the claws were under the bed in that room while Selina slept in that bed alone.
Concealed by the bushes, the figure crept to the end of the building and watched as the regular delivery man—Tony Alvarez, a Brazilian immigrant who delivered newspapers to augment the income from his construction business and send his kids to a better school—dropped the morning Times on the Wayne doorstep as if it was any other morning when a wedding wasn’t scheduled to occur in a few scant hours.
Alvarez returned to his mini-van and drove off, and the dark figure rounded the corner…
The formal entrance to Wayne Manor. Constructed
in 1866 when the architect B. Andrew Wayne included a massive renovation of
the manor in a number of building projects to stimulate the post-war
economy, the doors, doorframe and most of the foyer arch build from the
hardest, strongest and heaviest woods at his disposal, now embedded with
next generation nano-tech security mesh from his descendant’s tech
company—And irrelevant to the mission. The doors didn’t have to open.
As the first blush of indigo lightened the eastern sky, the dark figure squatted and replaced the newspaper on the stoop, then vanished with the silent haste of a vampire fleeing the sunlight.
The first rays fell across the newspaper, illuminating the masthead of The Gotham Times, identical to the paper it replaced thus far… Early Edition… Identical for a few centimeters more and then… SUNDAY… Not today’s paper but tomorrow’s… And as the light stretched and reddened from cool blues to a golden glow, in a box on the left that normally highlighted the weather or rosy hopes for a Knights playoff: WEDDINGS: Wayne-Kyle Nuptials Did Not Occur… ST12.
To be continued…