Chapter 4

Bruce walked down the street, eating an ice cream and enjoying the peace. Cats walked past his ankles, mostly ignoring him, chasing ribbons and passing pieces of rubbish. He passed the day in idyllic bliss, sitting in the park (on a bench covered in cats), visiting the museums (alongside a cat who appeared to love Picasso) and enjoying all the best food that didn't require preparation from the shelves of stores as he walked by.

The evening rolled on, Bruce kept up his wandering. The warm day was rolling into a blissfully cool evening and his jacket was slung over his shoulder as he turned into the alleyway.

He didn't even see the falling paint can before it dropped on his head, a sickening thud which made his ears ring and turned his whole world green. The same brown tabby he had seen in the library leapt from the roof, joining a black cat with a white belly on the top of a dustbin lid. As the tabby settled, the black and white cat limped towards him, reminding him an awful lot of the penguin.

Wait, Alfred, penguin, mysteries and green? He looked to the brown tabby as if expecting him to ask him what goes up a chimney down but not down a chimney up. His eyes spotted the black and white cat picking up the umbrella before it jabbed him in the eye as the penguin-cat pressed down on the button to open it into his face. He cried out from the pain as his eye swelled shut.

He turned his face to spy a large, longhaired cat knock over a jerry can. As the viscous liquid pooled around him, the cat turned, exposing his less beautiful side. Red, scabbed skin peeked through matted tufts of fur, dark patches like coffee grounds and gravel appeared stuck into it. The cat's jaw and skull were exposed showing the teeth in a manic sort of grin.

Bruce tried to stand up; death by cat would not be a suitable way to end his illustrious career as a vigilante fighting crime wherever the night might take him. He was dismayed to find that the knock to his head and resulting fall had damaged his back. He was paralysed.

A longhaired ginger cat streaked around the corner jumping over Bruce's battered body, which had ceased to obey his commands, and stood to watch the proceedings, carelessly knocking a can of purple paint over in the process. He stood still with his hackles raised, excitement rolling off him in waves.

Bruce knew this was the end. His head lolled to the side, looking out of his good eye to see the city that he had tried so hard to protect for one last time. His eyes caught sight of the theatre, and the thought pierced through his swiftly clouding mind that this was the same alleyway that his parents had been shot to death in. They too hadn't seen it coming.

A scraping rock sound brought his focus back to his two-faced assailant, who was striking a piece of flint rock against the ground near where he lay. Vapours from the petrol were filling his nostrils, he knew it would only take one spark for him to ignite, and without a flame retardant Batsuit or any means of walking away, this would be his end.

The stones sparked, and the vapour ignited, hitting him rather ironically with a woof! sound as the flames stroked up the sides of his body. The manic grin of the half-longhaired cat stared at him through the flame with a look of satisfaction before standing back and walking down the alleyway away from him. Not a single glance back in his direction.

He was followed by a limping black and white cat, a brown tabby that seemed to bow at him before turning away, one of his paws bearing the green paint that had caused him to end up in this mess. The ginger cat was the only one to approach the flame; daring, seemingly uncaring of the danger the element caused him. Bruce locked his eyes on the ginger cat who seemed to be laughing at him through the haze of the flames.

As the fire started to cover his face, the ginger cat turned tail and ran, his feet passing through the purple and green paint on the floor; he turned back one more time to look at the broken and bleeding body of the Batman. The last thing Bruce saw were his feline features oddly grinning, as if they were haunted by the ghost of some half-remembered joke.