Yes, yes, I know… Looks like I can't write about anything else but Batman and Catwoman, right? Well, it's true. They are my favorites. Anyway, this story is an idea I recently had, nothing terribly original, but a simple thing: some drama, some romance, some mystery, and many characters from Batman Universe – including the almost obligatory participation of Superman.
This is just the first chapter, and it doesn't go very far, but I think it gives an idea of where this story goes. I just would like to add that the detectives from Gotham Police that are shown here are actual members of the force, and characters you can find in the pages of "Gotham Central", book written by Ed Brubacker and Gregg Rucka. However, I didn't read many issues of this comic, so the characters in here might not be faithful to the versions you know. I kindly ask for your patience, and I'll be glad to hear your opinion in reviews.
Considering DC's timeline, I would place this story after One Year Later. But I don't stick so much to timeline, because, after all, it can change any moment.
Finally, I tell you again that English is a foreign language to me – although I've improved in this last year! -, and you will most certainly find mistakes. I apologize for it, of course, and I would be very happy if you could give me a feedback on any mistakes you find.
Hope you enjoy the reading, and leave me a review if you can.
The how didn't bother him. How is usually something he can easily figure out. The weapon, the logistic, the time, the place. All those things he could uncover in a matter of hours, sometimes even less. No, how is never the question…
The question is usually why…
Why people do what they do. Why people commit crimes. That is truly the work of a detective.
The other questions – how, and, most important, who – can be answered much easier, much faster, much simpler when you actually know why.
Of course, the why is hardly the first answer you get. Actually, it's usually the last, and not rarely is the question that remains without answer. True, the who and how can get people into jail just the same, but still… things are not complete, not for him, until he understands the why.
Take this one, for example: mid-aged woman, housewife, mother of three, gets shot in the head while walking home from a grocery store. Time? It was 4:17 p.m., according to an eye witness that had just checked his watch. The victim was on the sidewalk of the block where she lived, thirty five feet from the entrance of her own building in East End Gotham. No, not the best neighborhood in town, but still… It was a quiet afternoon, other people were around – three senior citizens were playing cards just across the street, a bunch of children were in the middle of an improvised baseball game, a teenage couple was… well, doing what teenage couples do, both seated on the stairs of the building in front of which the woman collapsed. An innocent, almost idyllic scenario, completely inadequate for the violent death of this poor victim.
What else could be said about it? First, there was no noise, no sign; just the woman – her name was Beatrice Collins – suddenly falling to the ground, the top of her skull separated from the rest of her body, and the sad, bloody bits of her brain spread over the dirty sidewalk. People panicked, most of them ran, except for an eighty years old man, one Dan Grady, former police officer, that approached the body and consciously looked up. Doing so, our respectful Mr. Grady saw what seemed to him like a person – man or woman, he can't be sure, because he just can't see so well these days – on the top of one of the buildings across the street. To his best knowledge, Mr. Grady could only tell that this person was dressed in black, and seemed to carry what looked like a very big rifle. The person wore no cape, as Mr. Grady kindly pointed out in the statement he made at the police station, making it impossible to be the Batman.
And now, around three a.m. in a hot summer night, Batman remembers Mr. Grady with gratitude for his concern.
Batman was on the rooftop where – presumably - the sniper had waited and then shot Beatrice Collins. According to police reports, this building and all the others in the block where searched, but nothing could be found. This one in particular was just a simple residential building, no better or worse than the other ones around; it's so common and boring that no one would give it a second look. All the apartments in it were occupied, all by ordinary people: two families, an old lady that lives by herself, three young actors that are trying to make a living in theater, a young couple that has no children. No one has a criminal record, no one has a history of involvement with crime what so ever, none of the residents even has any signs of drug use. The greatest connection one could establish between Beatrice Collins and anyone in this building is that her youngest son studies in the same school as one of the little girls that lives here; and no, they are not in the same class.
This one, the murder of this peaceful housewife, was about to become a real mystery.
Batman kneeled close to the edge of the building, looking down to the street where Beatrice had died less then twelve hours ago. On the sidewalk, the blood stains could still be seen, and would remain there for a while. Blood, he knew, wasn't something that could easily be washed away.
He focused on the problem again: the poor woman was killed - and that was one of the details that caught his attention - with just one very precise shot, a shot from a gun that could easily hit a target from a greater distance than the one used. The ammunition, according to Gotham Police, was an explosive and highly restricted one, allowed only in Army Special Forces, and surely not the kind used to kill ordinary citizens, but more the kind you use to pierce Kevlar vests during a war. Add to that the silencer, and the way this hitman took care to don't leave any traces, and you could conclude that someone out there went to quite a lot of trouble just to murder Beatrice Collins.
Housewife. Mother of three. On her way home from the grocery store.
No, there was something so very wrong with that picture…
"I always knew the scent of blood could attract sharks…" The voice came from behind him, an unexpected sound to the man that wasn't use to be caught by surprise. However, the voice – subtle, feminine, sultry – wasn't at all an unpleasant surprise. "In Gotham, I guess blood attracts bats."
"Selina", he answered as a simple and unremarkable ascertain. Although, of course, nothing about her could be said to be simple or unremarkable. He rose from the dark corner where he was, quietly observing as she approached him. Catwoman, as she was known, dressed in her black and characteristic uniform, that gorgeous woman that always seemed to have a way to… well, distract him, at best, or disturb him, at worst.
"That's my name."
"What are you doing here?"
"And that's my line…" She smiled, her seductive and jocular smile. "The East End is Catwoman's territory, I'm sure you remember…"
"And Gotham is Batman's territory." He added in a husky tone.
The Catwoman smirked, seeming amused by his reaction.
"All right, all right…!" She reached a hand to his face, her gloved fingers lightly touching the exposed skin. "I'm not complaining, you know? You're always welcome…"
He grabbed her wrist, his fingers wrapped around her arm, the gesture – he didn't intend it to be so harsh – causing her to groan in painful dissatisfaction. "Ouch! Why did you…?"
"No time for this. I'm working." He turned his back on her, letting go of her arm.
"No kidding…! And what do you think I'm doing, detective?" She rubbed her wrist with one hand, staring at him in a resentful expression. "Bastard. That really hurt…!"
"I didn't mean to", he quickly admitted. Looking at her, not completely turning, but over his shoulder, he said: "I… I apologize."
In the moment of silence that followed, Batman watched as Selina stared at him, first in a doubtful glance, then replaced by the very familiar roguish smile: "Apologies, hm? Unexpected, but I think I can get use to it…"
"Oh, don't be so grim…" She approached him until their bodies were inches apart, almost touching each other. "We both know there's more than that into you…" She whispered, her mouth close to his face, so close he could hear her lips move: "You can drop the 'merciless hero' act, Bruce…"
He whispered back:
"It's not an act."
"When you're around me it is."
Refraining himself from smiling, he stepped back, increasing by a few inches the distance between them.
"I do make you nervous, don't I?"
"Is this about the Collins case? Or is this just some sort of recreation…?"
"Okay, okay!" She interrupted him, a sigh that indicated irritation and recognition of defeat followed her words. She placed both hands on her hips, her green eyes sparkling. "Unbelievable… Yes, I'm in the Collins case."
"Why would you", he inquired, "if you are no longer the Catwoman?"
Batman showed no reaction to that.
"Anyway", Selina proceeded, "I knew Beatrice Collins."
"Really?" He was genuinely interested; after all, nothing he had discovered about Beatrice Collins so far suggested she had any connections with the Catwoman.
"Yes. We were…"
It happened fast, so very fast.
Catwoman yelled at him, yelled the words get down, and her hands were on his chest, pushing him away. It didn't make any sense, not to him, not at that moment, but he obeyed her, moving as fast as he could, trusting her words and the expression of fear that took her features.
And then, even before he felt the cold floor under his body, even before Catwoman herself could move, he saw what was the source of her fear: the red, small, almost imperceptible flash of light, the red dot that moved from his chest to his cape, and then he couldn't see it anymore, see where had it gone…
There was a noise. Low, muffled, distant, but a noise never the less, a sound he could, always would recognize. The sound of a gun. The sound of a shot. Yes, disguised, hidden, unique… but a sound that he could never ignore, could never avoid listen. He heard it one, two, three times. He heard the projectiles hitting again and again its target. He felt his left leg burn, just below his knee. He felt warm blood suddenly touching the skin of his face. He tasted it, the small drops on his lips.
"Catwoman!" The word escaped in a desperate cry, a horrified call as he saw her collapsing. No, no, no, Selina! His mind, the rational and cold mind of the detective, counted three wounds, three shots that pierced her chest, abdomen, and right shoulder. Kidney, heart, clavicle. Dead?
There was a sniper somewhere, a man with a powerful gun, and the Batman knew the risk, the risk of rising from the floor, where he was partially protected, and going to Selina, who was such an easy target, lying completely helpless on the floor. If the shooter wanted Batman, approaching Selina would give the perfect opportunity.
"Selina!" There was Selina, and she needed him.
It took him less than a second to reach her, and maybe another second to take her into his arms. Then, two other seconds to find shelter behind the building's water reservoir, he finally giving himself a chance to look at her, at her broken body from which blood ferociously flowed.
He touched her neck, looking for a pulse. Nothing, nothing at first, he couldn't feel anything… Oh, no… He removed his own glove, tossing it aside, again pressing his finger against her soft skin; there, so weak, faltering, failing, there he felt a pulse.
"Thank God…", he sighed, relieved for the fact she was still alive, however feeling his desperation grow from the obvious knowledge that he would never be able to save her in time. She was bleeding, bleeding so much, and he knew the bullet that pierced her chest – although it missed her heart - had probably caused an artery rupture. "Selina…"
He felt his own eyes misting.
"She can't die!" No, he couldn't let her die. He had to do something, had to try. No matter the costs. He would do anything.
But first, he needed help.
Detective Marcus Driver, from Gotham City Police Department, had seen too many bad things in his life. He had been around death more than any person should, even one that works in GPD, and he had seen all kinds of atrocities, remarkably those committed by masked wackos – type of people Gotham had no lack of, unfortunately. As an officer that had worked the night shift almost his entire career, Driver was also no strange to that thing called Batman; a man, yes, but, above all, a masked vigilante, a guy that was out there crossing all the lines regular detectives couldn't, and still posing as a hero. Had the Batman ever helped? Yeah, he had, no doubt. However, how could they know all that mess he pretended to clean wasn't his fault in the first place?
Unfair? Maybe. Old Commissioner Gordon trusted the guy, and Gordon was the best cop Gotham ever had… still, Batman had it coming. How can any mask – villain or hero – ask people to trust him? How can you trust someone you can't even see the face, see his eyes… No, Marcus Driver, detective, would never be able to actually trust those guys, villain or hero, people that hide their names and often play God.
Right now, however, he would have to.
It was about three forty five a.m. when he got the call. Someone from Gotham's Central Hospital, telling a woman had just entered the E.R. with multiple bullet wounds… No biggie, not in Gotham, but this one was actually pretty big. It seemed like this unfortunate – and about to die – lady had been another victim of the mysterious sniper that had highly technological equipment and a special attraction to harmless woman.
The Collins case. It was connected with the Collins case.
Marcus rushed to the hospital, taking the other avaible detective in the Central with him – Romy Chandler, female hot detective, currently his secret girlfriend. They got there in less than ten minutes, with Romy driving like a crazy person, while Marcus prayed for one of two things: first, that the woman survived and could give a solid statement; second, if she died, that at least her body could provide enough physical evidence to give them at least a clue to where they should start looking… Yes, pretty cold of him to think like that, but if there was something Marcus Driver just hated where dead ends. And the sniper guy, who ever he was, had given them nothing to work with, so far.
However, in Gotham, nothing can be easy. Nothing can even be at least simple, and this case wasn't different. The story Driver and Chandler heard as they got to the hospital caused Marcus to shiver, a reaction that came from the knowledge that things would only get worst…
"Marcus, hey!" Romy was waving a hand in front of his face. "Are you listening?"
"Yeah, yeah…" They were standing a few feet from a door that had a sign saying "O.R. 1 Observation Room". Driver's watch now showed him it was almost six a.m., and he knew that, to end his shift for the night, he had to go inside that room, and take the statement of one last and crucial witness to the case. "I'm just, you know, preparing…"
"Preparing? Well, enough of preparations, will you..? Our witness may have a change of heart at any moment, and then we won't be able to ever track him down again."
"It's never hard to find him…" Driver sighed, not hiding his obvious contempt. "The hard part is convincing this kind of guy to collaborate."
"They do collaborate…" Romy started.
"… in their own way." Marcus finished her sentence. "Yeah, yeah, I know. And I'm sick of it."
"You do realize he can hear you through the door, don't you?"
An uncomfortable silence took place as detective Driver rubbed his face with one hand. Romy and Marcus exchanged glances, and she broke the silence:
"Ah, what the hell…! He can also see through walls!"
"No point in hiding our cards… Guess we should just go in." He reached for the handle, slowly opening the door: "Excuse me, Superman…"
There he was: the great Superman, as Driver usually referred to him, with an ironic intonation on the word great. Indeed he was impressive, Marcus would give him that much. Superman was a big guy, much taller that he looked in papers or TV. And… well, big, just big, with big arms, broad shoulders, large chest. He was truly impressive, although not like the Batman, who was impressive in a scary way – honestly, Marcus always had serious doubts about the Batman, wondering if that powerful figure the Dark Knight seemed to have was nothing but a trick of his gadgets and uniform. Well, the Superman had no trick, no illusion; he clearly wore nothing but his uniform (spandex, lycra, whatever it was called), and it had no armor, no signs of fake muscles, nothing in his clothes that were there with the purpose of impress. To be honest, his uniform, all those bright colors, the red cape, all seemed to be there to make people more… comfortable. Because, really, if this guy wanted to scare people, he could easily do it even in a clown outfit.
"Good night detectives. I was waiting for you." He offered his hand in a gesture that looked like a friendly handshake.
"More like good morning, sir." Driver took Superman's hand, thinking that the man could rip his arm off in a blink if he wanted to. "Sorry to keep you waiting. I'm detective Driver, and this is detective Chandler…"
"Pleasure", the superhero acknowledged Chandler's presence with a smile, one that Driver judged as unnecessarily kind.
"We have a few questions for you, if you don't mind." The detective made his best to sound very professional and unimpressed.
"Anything I can do to help, detective Driver."
Annoyingly good, that's how Marcus would describe Superman right now. "No one can be so nice."
"That's very thoughtful, thank you."
"And you are so obviously machinating something…" Taking his note pad out of his jacket pocket, Driver started with the questions.
"I understand you were the one who brought the victim…" He flapped back and forward a few pages in his note pad. "Ms. Irena Dubrovna, right?"
"Irena Dubrovna? That's her name?"
Superman looked genuinely surprised.
"Yes, that's her name."
Marcus stared at Superman in distrust, while Romy quickly insisted on the question:
"You were the one who brought her here, yes?"
An almost imperceptible hesitation delayed Superman's answer; nothing a regular person would notice, but Marcus Driver had too much experience with interrogatories to let it pass unnoticed.
"Yes, I brought her." Superman's glance left the detectives in front of him, and went to the glass window on his right. Through the glass he could see the operation room, where Irena Dubrovna was now under surgical procedure, a dozen doctors around her, her chest open and her heart exposed. She had been there for a couple hours, and would be for many more, if she was lucky. Odds were against her, and death was the most likely outcome. "I tried to get here as fast as I could… Hope she survives."
"We all do…" Driver forced himself to look at the poor woman. From what he had heard, the fact she was still alive was already a miracle; considering just the amount of blood she had lost before had gotten to the hospital… most people would already be dead. "So, Superman, would you mind telling us why you were in Gotham, and how did you managed to so promptly help Ms. Dubrovna? Were you with her when she was shot?"
The hero's gentle smile would be enough to make most people immediately smile back, but not Marcus Driver. No, he was a police officer in Gotham, and he knew better than just accept a kind smile instead of an answer. "Well?", he insisted.
"No, I wasn't there when she was shot, unfortunately. If I was, maybe all this could have been avoided…"
"Oh… sure you would, big hero! You could have stopped the bullets, right? You would have caught the guy already, wouldn't you? You, the Superman, would have solved this case already, isn't that what you're saying?"
"Interesting." Romy Chandler spoke as she played with her neck pendant, a gesture Marcus had already learned that meant she was uncomfortable with something. "So how did you managed to get to her so quickly? How did you guess…?"
"I didn't guess." For the first time Superman looked at the detectives with an expression that translated some level of distress. "He called me."
"He? And who would 'he' be?" Driver asked the question, although he already knew the answer.
"Batman. Batman called me."
The message came through the League's COM link:
"I need you. Now!"
Bruce sounded not only nervous, but even despaired. And this reaction, coming from the Batman, could scare even the man known as Superman.
"Be right there. Where…?"
"Residential building in East End Gotham, fifteen miles southeast from Wayne Manor. Follow the supersonic signal."
It took him twelve seconds to find Bruce; he easily identified him on the rooftop of the building, almost unharmed. Even before getting near Batman he noticed the wounded person – really wounded – that Bruce seemed to be treating, and without success. However, it was only when Superman landed near his colleague that he realized what was the calling about: the wounded person was Selina Kyle, the Catwoman, and she was dieing.
"It took you long enough…"
Superman didn't resent Batman's ungrateful comment, knowing Bruce was now living a private nightmare. Not only the person involved was Selina, Bruce's ex-girlfriend, and, Superman thought, still someone Bruce loved, but the scene was a crude replica of Batman's worst memory: the death of his parents by gunshots, he watching them die, their blood on his hands. How disturbing was that to him?
"What can I do?"
"Take her to the hospital… as fast as you can!"
Superman took the woman from Bruce's arms, unable to avoid hearing Selina's heart faltering, almost stopping… And there was also Batman's heart, a ferocious beating, his body completely tense, sweat and blood all over him.
"GO, Clark…!" Batman clenched his teeth, almost yelling, almost, to Superman's shock, loosing control.
"I talk to you when I get there." He was already flying above Bruce's head when he spoke, and gained speed as he crossed the neighborhood. In his arms, Selina draw a breath, and Superman wondered if it would be her last.
"Oh, that explains…" Sighting, Romy Chandler gave Driver a look that usually meant "dead end". Nothing useful would come out of that.
Marcus, however, wasn't so sure.
"So, Batman was with Ms. Dubrovna when she got shot?"
"I couldn't tell."
"Couldn't… or wouldn't?"
Superman raised an eyebrow: "I hope you're not suggesting I would obstruct the work of justice, detective Driver."
Marcus smiled: "Only a crazy man would suggest that, right Superman?"
The hero didn't answer.
"Okay…" Driver took notes. "So, one last question…"
"Please, go on."
"It looks like… correct me if I'm wrong… that Batman and Ms. Dubrovna knew each other even before this attack, is that right?"
Superman's blue eyes sparkled in a way that Marcus couldn't quite describe or understand. He was either angry or surprised, maybe both.
"Why do you say that?"
"He went through a lot of trouble to save this woman… to try saving her."
He saw as Superman shook his head in disbelief.
"You really don't get him, do you?" Now Superman had his arms crossed over his chest, and made no effort to hide how irritated he was.
"Excuse me…" Detective Chandler tried to speak, but the Man of Steel interrupted her:
"Batman would do that for anyone, detectives. For a friend or for a stranger, for an ally or even for an enemy. He saves liveshe does it everyday, and he does it indiscriminately."
An awkward silence filled the small room, and Superman turned to again face the window, his attention on the surgery.
"Is this all?" He finally asked, but still don't looking at the detectives.
"Yes." Driver was pretty upset, considering that this conversation had lead to a bunch of nothing.
"Actually…" Romy said, ignoring Marcus' surprised look. "Actually, just one more question."
"Yes?" Superman's reflex could be seen on the glass, his blue eyes indirectly staring at Romy.
"Do you know Ms. Dubrovna?"
Superman sighed. "I had never heard of Irena Dubrovna before."
"Oh, okay then. That's all." Romy smiled. "We'll leave you alone, Superman."
Marcus returned his note pad to his pocket: "We are going to get him, Superman. The guy that did this." There was no irony or lie in his words.
"I hope so. Good luck."
The detectives were already leaving the room but, as Superman made his last remark, Marcus Driver spoke:
"Thank you, Superman, but luck has nothing to do with it…"
Superman's features assumed an intrigued expression, and he smiled in a way that denounced his amusement:
"I have a friend that says exactly the same thing."
"Is that so? Oh, well, sounds like a wise man. I'm sure we would get along if we met…"
"Yes, I believe so." Superman watched as the detectives left the room, closing the door behind them. "You could get along, if only you would give each other a chance."