Tangent Comics: The Batgirl by C.W. Blaine

Tangent Comics: The Batgirl

By C.W. Blaine (darth_yoshi@yahoo.com)

DISCLAIMER: Tangent Comics™, Batgirl™ and other related characters and situations are ©2001 by DC Comics Inc. and are used here without permission for fan-entertainment, non-profit use only. This original work of fiction is ©2001 by C.W. Blaine and may not be reproduced, posted or archived without permission.

Some people will tell you I am the night.

Others will tell you I'm just a whore.

But none of them will ever say I'm a pushover.

 Deanna "Trixie" Smith had lived a long, hard life for a woman of twenty-two years.

At thirteen, when the first indications of womanhood caused her to begin wearing two shirts to school, he uncle had decided to teach her the meaning of "family love". When she tried to tell her parents about it, they had convinced her that she had imagined it.

A month later, her uncle had invited a friend over to demonstrate her newfound abilities. Again, her parents never believed her and the invasions to her privacy, both physical and emotional, began to take their toll on her. At 16, she left home and moved in with a man who promised to make her a star and treat her like a queen. Instead, he had treated her like a doorknob: everybody got a turn. Finally, she had moved to the inner city of Gotham, the great urban Mecca, where she decided that if men were going to poke, prod, slap and drool all over her, she might as well be getting paid.

For four years now, she had successfully worked the streets, both as an independent entity and as a member of Diamond Jim's prostitution ring. Working under "Small" Tony Caprelli (the "Small" was in reference to many of his attributes it was joked), she usually satisfied four or five men a night, taking Sundays off to rest. Occasionally, she was "rented" out for various internet ventures or small-press publications, but, for the most part, she was simply a young woman made old before her time and participating in the world's oldest profession.

Being part of a prostitution ring generally meant a trade-off of sorts. While she would have to surrender 75% of her take, she was able to work areas she otherwise couldn't and she also had the protection of the young men in the employ of Diamond Jim and "Small" Tony. It also prevented her from being forced into servitude for one of the organizations run by some of the more vicious crime bosses. It did not, however, keep her from coming in contact with customers who had a violent or sadistic streak.

Tony Wells was not a bad looking man, or a poor man or even a particularly dull man. In fact, in conversation, he had often remarked that he was exactly the kind of man most women wanted. He had a good job, was honest and clean, good in bed and loved children. He never bothered to mention that he also had a tendency to fantasize about having sex with corpses of pretty young girls, but nobody ever cared to ask either.

It was amazing how many times he had actually gotten away with making his fantasies a reality. He had honestly thought that he would have been caught by now, but then had to consider the type of people he was using to fulfill his dark desires. Prostitutes, runaways and "swingers" (though he merely killed any make companions to the women and left their corpses alone. It wasn't like he was queer or anything!). Tonight, e had spied the pretty little blonde with the cheerleader's body, but the eyes of his grandmother. While an obviously experienced whore, she still had firmness in the right spots and that was what turned him on.

Besides defiling a corpse…

He suppressed a shudder as he checked the ropes holding his victim fast to the tree. It had taken him no time whatsoever to come to Grand Park in the center of Gotham City; it was so close to the trade routes of flesh peddlers. A bigger surprise during his crime spree had been had easy it had been to do what he did out in public, especially here. Gotham City was becoming a two-sided municipality. On the surface, in front of the press cameras, there was this air of sophistication and refinement; underneath, once you got past the breading and into the meat, you found a modern day Sodom or Ghamora.

"Where else can you kill and screw a girl in public view and nobody even cares?" he mumbled to himself.

The truth was that he was in a very remote section of the park, which was actually 15% bigger than New York's Central Park, and there was virtually no chance of anyone spotting him. Hearing was something else, which was why he had to gag her. It would have made more sense to take her someplace remote, but the thought of getting it on with her still-warm body, so close to being able to be caught, added something…beautiful to the moment.

"Well, I guess its time we got on with it," he said, pulling a condom out of his wallet. ""Got to be careful…don't know what diseases you might have."

Deanna closed her eyes and prayed to a God whom she figured had abandoned her so many years ago. She tried in vain to remember something from her youth, before she had been "damaged" as the term went, from her times in church. All she could think to do was pray for an angel to come and save her. She didn't want to die.

A dark, man-like shape fell from the trees below, landing behind Tony. He didn't so much hear the intruder, as sense their presence behind him. He whirled around and saw blackness against the darkness of the night: an ebon beacon that seemed to absorb the surrounding starlight.

"So," came a grave-like, yet undoubtedly feminine voice," you like to hurt little girls, do you big boy? Do you think you can hurt me? Can you make me scream? Will you make me cry?"

Tony's arms began to shake and he willed them to stop, but his willpower was slowly evaporating from his body. The woman was a good head shorter than him, clad in a black body stocking. She had on equally black boots and gloves, a cape and a cowl. The cowl had slightly pointed ears. She looked like a dark, human-like rat. Or bat.

Tony's mind went into overdrive as rumors, whispers and innuendo came together, gathered over the past few months, to give him a name for the defiant woman who stood before him. "Batgirl," he said, a slight quiver in his voice.

She smiled. It was a knowing smile. A cocky smile. Much like the one he had on his face a few minutes ago. He did not like the way it made him feel to be looking at it. "Guess you aren't as dumb as you look." She stood up a little straighter, but even so, she came nowhere near Tony's approximate two-meter height. "I bet you're wondering what happens now, aren't you? Do you think I'm going to beat you up and then leave you for the police?"

His hand started to move slowly down to the hunting knife he had in a sheath on the side. He wasn't sure what this freak's game was, but he figured her could take her if he got the jump on her. Then he could have a threesome, he thought viciously. "You're a fruitcake, lady," he said.

Batgirl did not respond to the remark. "You've been a busy little boy, you know that? It's taken me forever to track you down, much longer than I would have liked, but you've been very good at covering your tracks. I don't care too much for guys who take advantage of people down on their luck."

Tony paused for a moment and then gave her a quizzical look. "What the hell are you talking about, freak?"

Batgirl began to slowly move to the left, closing the distance between her and Deanna. "Its really easy to take and tie up a girl who's been on her hands and knees all day, literally, but how well do you do against someone who can fight back?"

"Bitch!" he cried, pulling the knife out and rushing towards the costumed woman. Batgirl made a snorting sound, in utter contempt of the attack upon her person. The knife slashed at her and she reached out and grabbed Tony's wrist. With a shifting of her weight and twisting of her own arm, she used Tony's momentum to put his arm up behind his back.

He was a lot bigger in mass and weight than her, and she had to push to keep up the attack. Normally, she would have used a move to break the arm, but she had a strange desire to prolong ending the battle. Tony swung back a ham fist with his free arm, but Batgirl ducked the blow and put more power into the arm lock. The knife finally dropped to the ground and Batgirl pushed forward, sending Tony falling to the ground next to Deanna.

He growled in primal rage and was soon up. Again, he rushed the strange woman, who made no attempt to dodge. Just as he was about to make contact, he saw a flash of metal and then his thigh began to burn intensely. The leg muscles immediately gave up responding to his commands and he started to fall. The Batgirl-woman whirled, her arm slicing through the air and saw that his knife was now in her had. The other leg burned with a stab and he went down to his knees.

Batgirl seemed to dance around him, a ballet of dark seduction mixed with split second splashes of hot pain. The knife struck again and again, never hitting anything vital, just poking into his meat. When he fell onto his face, a double-stab to the buttocks signaled then end of the dance. Batgirl laid a mud-encrusted boot onto the back of Tony's neck. "Aw, what's the matter, big guy? I thought you were an expert at this? Don't poop out on me now."

He was bleeding from several wounds, but from his extensive experience, he knew that he was far from bleeding to death, but something kept nagging him about the placement of the wounds. His mind went back to the anatomy books he used to read and fantasize with as a teenager. He tried placing his wounds on the muscle groups.

"Not much of talker now, are you, big guy?" Batgirl said, wiping the bottom of her boot on his neck. He could smell the dirt and could tell it was laced with doggie-poop.

Batgirl lifted the boot and walked over to Deanna, whose make-up was running in rivers of tears down her face. In the starlight of the dark Gotham night, she looked to be no more than a child, and Batgirl shook her head. "Are you okay?" she asked, removing the tape that was across the prostitute's mouth.

Deanna took in a deep breath of the cool night air, and, despite the desire to do so, did not scream. "I'm fine, thank you," she said, looking into the masked face. It was a beautiful face, she could tell, with soft skin and even some light lipstick applied to it. The eyes, however, standing out against the darkness of the cowl, were familiar. It was not that she felt she knew the woman dressed in black, it was more like there was a common bond between them.

Batgirl cut the bonds that were holding Deanna to a tree and checked her wrists to ensure that there was no permanent damage. "You need to go get checked out at a clinic, just to make sure no infection sets in on these abrasions."

Deanna nodded and Batgirl helped her up. "What about him? Aren't you going to call the cops?"

Batgirl shook her head. "Believe me, he won't be hurting anybody from now on."

As the two women disappeared into the darkness, Tony tried to get up. He wanted to go after them and break their bones. He wanted to throw their dead bodies onto rocks down by the lake and spend the entire night ravaging them. His body simply wouldn't respond to his commands.

Again, he though back and realized that every place he had been struck was where key muscle groups came together. The accurate stabs and slashes had separated the groups, some of them from bone.

He had been filleted.

"Another eventful night?" Alfie said, inclining his head at the Batgirl as she entered through the window.

The woman smiled at the large, muscular black man and reached up to remove her cowl. Short, spiky blonde hair shown with sweat and a red band where the cowl had set too long in one spot. "I finally got that S.O.B. ! Damn it felt good!" She threw down her gloves onto the floor. "Three weeks, and I finally got him."

"Is he dead?" Alfie asked, reaching down to pick up the gloves.

"No, though I don't see why you care," she said, removing the cape and cowl.

"Indeed," was the only reply she got from her friend.

She walked into her bedroom within the spacious apartment and closed the door to continue undressing. As she did so, she considered, as she often did after a hard night, her situation and how she came to be what she was.

The answering machine across the room was blinking and she saw that it showed at least five messages. Clients, no doubt, wanting her particular services for the right price. She sighed and removed the last of her clothing and stepped into the adjoining bathroom. As she started the shower, she went over her schedule for the next week.

Outside her bedroom, Alfie, Alfonso Roberts in full-name, collected the dropped garments in the dining room and put them in the special hamper he kept hidden for washing such things. For five years now, since he had been paroled, he had been employed by, officially, by Cheryl Montgomery, the young woman in the Batgirl suit.

The name brought a smile to his normally somber face, as he recalled how she had started out on this vocation, of being Robin Hood in the urban areas of Gotham City. She had wanted to be the Black Devil, but her costume's tail had fallen off without her knowledge and her appearance than seemed more akin to a bat than something supernatural. She still hated the name.

He, on the other hand, did not like her doing what she did, either in or out of costume. They had grown up in the same city, though a good ten years separated them in age. He had been friendly with her mother, but like in his own situation, never knew her father. When he had gone to prison for armed robbery and assault, he figured that his life was essentially over. Yet, on the day he had exited Blackgate, she had been there with a limo, ready to offer him a job.

She had never explained her reasons for doing so; maybe it was because he was the only man she had ever known that hadn't tried to take advantage of her. It wasn't a physical problem, but more of a psychological one. He remembered her as a child and looked at her at the sister he never had, and she looked upon him as a brother.

At first, he had no idea where she had gotten her money from, but he soon found out. His employment was contingent upon his oath of secrecy and loyalty.

The loyalty was not the problem; it was the secrecy.

Cheryl rubbed the soap over her firm body, enjoying the feeling of the hot water spray on her backside. It seemed like forever since she had washed, but she knew it had only been six hours, ever since that Hollywood producer had left. She had five hours until the basketball player was to come by.

She smiled, thinking back to a time before all of this, when she was struggling to get out of the low-income housing projects of Gotham City. She had finished high school, despite the overwhelming pressure by her peers to give it up and fall into the circle of drugs, sex and gangs. Working hard, she had managed to get a scholarship to Gotham University, where she had majored in business.

After college, she had tried to make it in the cruel, male-dominated world of big business. However, while she was easily able to get hired on at the prestigious WayneTech Company, she had to deal with the constant harassing behavior of the senior executives. Despite all of that, she tried to play the game, follow the rules and attain the American dream.

She stopped washing as a very unpleasant memory assailed her. It had been another night as any other, where she had to work late into the night because she was given five times the workload of any other female employee in her division. She knew why, of course, but she refused to compromise her principals for anyone.

The memory came in flashes, that seemed to cause actually physical pain to her and she nearly doubled-over in the shower. She remembered Lucious Fox, CEO of WayneTech coming in and closing the door. The attempt at small talk. The request for sex. The demand for sex. The hands on her shoulders. The tearing of her blouse. The sweaty hands all over her body. Her face forced down on her desk. The intrusion. The sounds of heavy breathing. The ending. The attempt at small talk. The promise of a raise.

She never spoke of it to anyone, so ashamed she had been. She wanted to quit, but then that would have been running away. Instead, after the first few tearful hours of shame and grief, another feeling began to burn in her breast.

Revenge.

No man would ever force himself upon her again. Never, ever would control be taken away from her. She swore a vow to God, not caring whether or not he approved of it, that she would defend all those who would be preyed upon those who felt they were the wielders of power.

She would show them power.

The idea for the costume and cryptic act would come later, after she had secured employment that allowed her free movement and plenty of money. Her first act of revenge was to have sex with every executive at WayneTech. She became the company whore and reveled in it as the hidden cameras she had put in her office and apartment caught the acts of perversion that self-styled men of culture participated in when they thought nobody was looking.

For six months, she played the role and then she sprang her trap. Seventeen parcels of photographs and videotapes went out to seventeen wives, including a certain Mrs. Fox. Sixteen marriages ended in divorce, with many top executives waving good-bye to their retirement nest eggs and investments. One ended in suicide.

Cheryl had not even bothered to attend Lucious Fox's funeral. By that time, she had already resigned and had begun life as a professional escort.

Some would have said that such a thing was ridiculous, but she reasoned that those were generally people who didn't have the correct assets to sell on the flesh market. She turned off the shower and grabbed a towel. Her attitude, essentially, had become that men were going to try and sleep with her, she might as well put it to use.

Of course, she had a very select clientele; only the most wealthy and safe people could rent her time. Man or woman, it didn't matter, though she had developed a preference for women after Lucious Fox. Every client and potential client had to submit to an extensive medical and background check, which was monitored by Alfie, her friend and confidant.

As she put on a robe and began brushing her teeth, she listened and heard him in the kitchen, preparing her a meal. He was a godsend, and the only man in her life that ever treated her with respect. She remembered him from her teenage years, when he had tried playing the street tough, but never had the heart to put into it. A botched gang initiation landed him in prison, but he was never far from her thoughts.

He was handsome and articulate, not the common dummy you found on the streets of Gotham City. He was a fine catch for any woman, but she knew that any chance of romance between them was impossible. While she might have had a crush on him at one time, he never thought of her in that way.

The Batgirl identity had never set well with him (even though that it was supposed to be the Black Devil!), as he said that with her intelligence, she could start up a company and make money in a legitimate way. Just being a whore was not enough to get her arrested by the local police, a monthly service call to the commissioner ensured her freedom, but if she were identified assaulting would-be rapists and other forms of scum, pushing her need for vengeance to the limit, then even her considerable bedroom skills would not save her from doing hard time.

The Black Devil idea had come from a 1950's horror film, and would have worked if that damn tail had not fallen off! Thankfully, the witnesses that had made statements to the police had called her a bat-girl and not rat-girl. The bat inspired more fear in men; rats inspired fear in women. At least, they inspired fear in her.

She exited the bedroom, clad in a fluffy pink robe with matching slippers, the smell of eggs and bacon in the air. Alfie was working hard, humming a tune she couldn't quite place and she stopped for a moment to reflect upon the man once more. There was still that tingle on the back of her neck as she watched his muscled back work the frying pan, and deep inside her, she wished, just once, that he would show her the attention the teenager in her craved.

That, however, would make their working relationship difficult. Alfie had trained in the martial arts while in prison, and had passed on his knowledge to her. The intent had simply been to try and find a way to channel her aggression, but she had instead used it to further her efforts and agenda.

"Smells good," she said, sitting at the breakfast counter. Alfie laid down a plate covered with eggs, bacon and potatoes. That was followed by a large glass of orange juice. "Trying to make me fat?" she asked.

"That, I believe, would be quite difficult to do," he replied with a sly grin, "however, if you like, I'm sure I can up your fat content to your liking."

"I'll pass," she said, stuffing a forkful in her mouth, "nobody likes a fat hooker."

"Most people don't like any kind of hooker," he said, pouring him a glass of juice.

She continued to stiff her face, getting egg on her chin. "Well, it pays the bills."

He took a drink. "So do many other things. Maybe I'm just a poor old black boy from the wrong side of the tracks," he said, his accent slipping into that of a street hood, so different from the relaxed calm of his normal one, "but selling your body is not only illegal, its wrong."

"And like I've said before, its my body and I'll do what I want with it," she said. "You don't know what its like, out there in a world without a…"

"Penis?" he asked, his eyebrow arched. He liked to emulate a certain professional wrestler in his facial movements. "I suppose that it's my magic wand, with which I can rule the world."

She smirked. "Most men think so. Here, I'm in control. You really don't understand, Alfie, because you're a decent man. The things I talk about…the things that have been done to me…they are so alien to you. And why? Because you're a good man."

"If I'm so good, then what am I doing working for a costumed vigilante hooker?"

She downed the orange juice. "Because you're a good man, and good men always help the damsel in distress."

"Indeed," he said, his accent back to the norm. "I suppose you'll be going out again tonight. I wish you would invest in some better material for your costume. Perhaps something bulletproof. You do know that many criminals these days carry guns."

"Indeed," she said, mocking him. "Did you ever stop to thin that these," she indicated her breast, "do more to intimidate a man than a gun? My costume is see-through for a reason, it takes my attackers off-guard."

"Well, I'm sure that is true, but I would think that such a weapon would come in a larger caliber."

It took only a second for her to get the joke and she responded with a forkful of egg at his handsome face.

"Bitch!" screamed "Small" Tony for the fourth time in a minute, the exclamation accented by the resounding slap he laid in again across Deanna's face. "You're holding out on me!"

Deanna put her hand up to her bruised check and felt that it was wet, which was no surprise. For the last twelve hours, she had done nothing but cry. After her rescue by the mysterious Batgirl, she had made her way back to the nightclub where her employer, or pimp, ran his business. He had been furious with his take of her action, and didn't believe her story about the mysterious woman in the bat costume.

He had been hearing rumors about such a person for months, though neither nor his boys had ever seen such a person. He finally figured that it was some story that the whores were using to justify their laziness. There was one thing "Small" Tony could not stand and that was a lazy whore. "Good God, all you have to do is lay on you back, or bend over or just open your damn mouth, but that's too much work for you, ain't it?"

She tried to say something, but another crack across her face sent her sprawling across the floor. She landed at the feet of one of the many bodyguards "Small" Tony kept around him. The man made no attempt to help her up.

"Who takes care of you, bitch? I'll tell you who, I do! I make sure that you're okay so you can gang-bang all night long. And how the hell do you repay me? Some goddamn story about a woman dressed in black stabbing your john."

He was red-faced and the veins were sticking out on his forehead. His doctor had told him that his temper would be the death of him, but his profits were down on the whores and for some reason, a lot of the young ones were disappearing. Not dead. Not quit. Just vanishing, like someone was giving them a bus ticket home.

The demand for young girls was high in Gotham City, and he was especially upset at the loss if two fourteen year olds he had lined up for the local state senator. That had resulted in a big loss of face for him within the family and he had to go to Metropolis, that stinking uppity-up city, to get the merchandise he needed. That put him in debt with the boss there.

Someone was going to pay for his embarrassment. It wasn't like he had anything against Deanna in particular; in fact, back a few years ago, before she started…aging…she had been the life of the party in many private functions. He was still generating money from her exploits on the internet. But, the whores had to know that they were expected to do what he said. That was there purpose. They were the cattle and he was the rancher.

He turned to a rather tall man with slicked back hair. "Mark, you and the boys, take her out and have a little fun with her and then…let her go."

Deanna nodded before Mark did, for she caught the meaning. She would be forced to sexually satisfy as many as ten men before they let her go home. It would be filmed, of course, and she would be expected to act as if she were enjoying it.

Mark, however, caught the true meaning by way of the pause in the command.

Deanna would have sex with them. All of them. Maybe twice. It would be filmed.

Then she would die.

"Have you ever thought about giving up this life, Cheryl," the Gotham City police commissioner asked as he watched his entertainment for the night get up to step into the shower.

She turned and winked at him. "What? And miss these lovely after-the-encounter discussions?"

He laughed a hearty laugh that sounded much more youthful than his body portrayed. He was old and he knew it. Another few months and he wouldn't be able to keep up with Cheryl and then it would be over. That was the way of things, the circle of life. He would have to make room for someone younger and stronger, just as someone had to move on when he came of age.

Every month, at the same time, he visited the expensive apartment of Cheryl Montgomery, a prostitute who posed as something more. She called herself an "escort" or "professional companion", but in the end, she was the exact same thing as the nastiest whore on the street corner. That was what bothered him.

He was old enough to be her grandfather, and since his wife had died, she had been the only woman he had been with. He did it more out of nostalgia now, this cloak and dagger stuff, hiding in shadows as he approached the building that housed her apartment. It added a small thrill to a life that was closer to the end, much closer, than to the beginning.

"I'm serious," he said, sitting up and reaching for the pack of Marlboro on the nightstand. "Look, it's not that I don't enjoy being with you…"

She popped her head out the bathroom door. "You better enjoy it for what you pay."

He thought about it for a moment. "But, I don't pay…"

He said no more until she came out again, with only a towel on her head. "Commissioner," she began, "if I didn't do this, what ever would I do?"

He finished the cigarette and offered her one, which she took. She rarely smoked, but when the commissioner was in the mood to talk, she always felt better with a cigarette in her hand. She often remarked on the symbolism behind it. It was like wielding a smoking penis and she sometimes understood the small rush of adrenaline a man must get when he was excited. "Cheryl, our arrangement is good, but I'm going to retire soon and there will be a new person in my place. I can't guarantee that they will be as…understanding to your situation as I am."

"Ha! Understanding my fat behind!" she laughed. "So, I'll have to pay a bribe with actual money…"

"No, it's not that. Look, sleeping with a girl one-third my age doesn't exactly make me the voice of morality, I understand that, but you don't belong in this line of work. You would make someone a fine wife one day."

"Of course, give in to the male-dominated society, follow the course…do what you're told, no matter your personal feelings on the subject. I can sell my mind, my sweat and my back in any job in this country, but I can't sell my genitals! Why? Because that's something a man can't control."

The commissioner remained silent at the outburst, feeling like a child that just cursed in front of a parent. "Oh, yes, be a good wife," she said, taking a long drag off of the cigarette, "lay on my back and get pregnant while the husband runs around doinking the secretary. Then after a few years, he leaves you with the kids and no money so he can start his second childhood with Bambi and Buffy!

"I'm sorry, commissioner, but there is no way I'm going to fall into the status quo. I tried that once, I really did, but let's just say things didn't work out. There is no equality out there, no matter what the government surveys say. Here, in this business, I'm in charge, I have the control, I have the power." She leaned in close to the commissioner and winked again. "Here, I'm raping them and they just don't realize it."

"She's in denial, Alfred," the commissioner said.

"I prefer 'Alfie', sir; and yes, she is in denial. I have asked her repeatedly to seek out professional help."

The commissioner shrugged. "I wish I knew what had happened to her; honestly. Maybe I'm just a dirty old man, but I would like to really help her out. This hatred she has against men…"

Alfie cut him off with a finger. "She does not hate all men, sir; in fact, it is only those who seek to dominate only because they believe they are powerful that she has a problem with. True power comes from within, through hard work, willpower and dedication."

"You sound like my dear wife's yoga instructor," the commissioner said as he exited the apartment. Alfie turned to see his employer standing there in a bathrobe, a look of anger on her face.

"What do you mean I'm in denial? I'm not in denial…"

"So, you deny that you are in denial?" Alfie asked.

She screamed and threw up her hands. "Why is it that everyone is so worried about me, but nobody cares about the girl with two kids to feed that is out there selling a little piece of her soul every night? Can you tell me that?"

"That is just it; nobody cares about them. Like it or not, there are people who care about you."

Cheryl turned and walked away. When she got to the doorway to her bedroom, she paused and looked back at her faithful employee. "You're wrong; somebody does care about them. Me."

The air was not particularly cold, but the see-through fabric of her costume forced the Batgirl to wrap her cape around her to keep her comfortable. She had never been one for staking things out, which was why it had taken so long to nail that corpse-screwing bastard. She just didn't have the patience to be a manhunter. She found it to easy to lay a trap and wait for the prey to come to her.

And it wasn't like all she did was hunt men, either. She didn't particularly hate men as she did the idea that society was based upon the rules and practices laid down by only one-half of the race. They even went so far as to call God male, when, obviously, God was something far beyond anything people could pin a sex to. Ships were called female, only because they were filled with seamen a friend used to joke to her.

In fact, there were many men she admired, especially Alfie for being strong enough to point out to her the flaws of her life. It was true, she had considered giving up the call girl life. She had the money now and had made substantial investments. In truth, she didn't need to be doing such a thing. It did not bring her closer to those on the streets she was trying to protect; in fact, it did the opposite. Her clients paid top-dollar and went through exam after exam after exam, and she and Alfie both were skilled in various ways of incapacitating an over-anxious client. Down on the streets, you hopped into a car and hoped against hope that you got out of it alive. Sometimes, you were lucky to get paid.

It was that contrast in lifestyle that was eating away at her as she watched the medical examiner zip up the body bag that contained the corpse of Deanna Smith. The other night, when Batgirl had saved her and sent her on her way, she simply thought the woman would go home or back to her neighborhood. How naïve!

The woman had a pimp, something the Batgirl would never have dealt with, and she had to answer to that pimp. A little bird, in the form of a transvestite named Miguel, had told the Batgirl that "Small" Tony was getting really upset with the dent in his business the Batgirl was causing. In his mind, so long as his girls got the money, he didn't care if they were hurt.

Batgirl had been considering taking "Small" Tony out for quite awhile now, but had always held back. What if he was simply replaced by someone even more ruthless or heartless? Then it became a never-ending circle. No, there had to be a way to convince them that it was time to change the way the prostitutes were being treated.

Prostitution, next to religion, was the oldest institution known to man. When Eve bit the apple, one hooker had told her, she learned the true value of what she had. People had actually gone to war over the right to get into bed with a woman!

It would never go away, and that was a fact. It wasn't like drugs, where you could go after the importers and exporters. Oh sure, they talk about how male hookers are treated the same way by the law, but it wasn't really true. Everyone knew it, but didn't talk about it.

Batgirl felt herself get angrier and angrier as the heat of her argument built up inside of her. It was a debate that had raged within her for years, ever since that night. It's okay to take it, but I can't sell it. Again, memory flashes assailed her as the night of her changing, of the shedding of her outer skin, played again in her mind's eye. A male-dominated society and culture, where the only way a woman could get ahead was to bend to the will of a man!

The twenty-first century was the result of over four millennium of male arrogance towards the "weaker" sex. Even money was genderized. The almighty dollar was big, long and large; while the equivalent coin was a small, dull rounded coin. Prostitution was called everything in the book from immoral to evil, but that was only because somebody, a man, had not come up with a proper way to legalize. Tax it. License it. Regulate it. Then the men could come up with standards for positions, mouth placement and foreplay!

Then, she looked down and saw the orderlies unceremoniously dump the body into the back of the waiting ambulance, and she suddenly had a revelation.

The first twinges began to break through her brow, and the shaking began. There would be nothing more she could do this night, as the tremors would only worsen as the night wore on if she didn't get some sleep. It was a slight inconvenience that she had developed ever since that night.

It was almost like another personality was trying to break out.

Alfie set down the morning paper and a cup of steaming black coffee, as Cheryl looked out at the skyline of Gotham City. The sun was just beginning to rise and already, the pollution had turned the crimson rays into a brown with orange highlights. "I may need help," she said without looking at him.

He nodded, suppressing a smile. Ever since the death of Deanna Smith, his employer had been contemplating something. She had canceled all of her appointments, which was a first and had not bothered to go out as Batgirl either. "Should I call a doctor?"

She looked at him and smiled, and for the first time, he suddenly realized what a beautiful woman she had become. "No, but I am getting out of the business. Being a hooker doesn't make me an expert on the streets and I was fooling myself to believe that. Maybe it was something more. Maybe by being a hooker, I allowed my rape to continue, which gave me the fuel to seek out revenge. It was a cycle that was killing me. I realized that the other night when I was looking down at her body. A woman had just been killed and all I cared about was rehashing some old ERA debates."

Alfie was silent for a moment more. She continued. "I do want to help those who can't help themselves; people like "Small" Tony cannot use people like garbage and just throw them out when they are done. It's going to take dedication because there is only two of us and hundreds of them."

"Two? Oh, then I get a costume, too?" he asked with a wry grin.

"No, but I get a better one. I still believe that the world is unfair…but allowing it to control my life as it has is going to get me killed. I will make a difference."

"Of course you will, Cheryl, of course you will," Alfie said, enjoying the sunrise with her and knowing that the future was looking brighter than ever.