The bright yellow beacon hadn't been shining through the Gotham skies long when a dark shadow dropped quietly next to Commissioner Gordon on the roof of police headquarters.
"What can I do for you?" asked the shadow.
"And hello to you, too, Batman," Gordon said and took a puff on his pipe before continuing.
"We picked up a Mick Dugan tonight, one of the local muscle-for-hire. He was trying to collect protection money from a circus that's passing through town, Haley's Circus. They're opening tonight, going to be here for a couple weeks."
"Who was Dugan working for this time?" asked Batman.
"He lawyered up before we could get that out of him," answered the Commissioner. "Strange thing, though. He was also carrying a set of blueprints for the Gotham Museum of Art and Antiquities."
"The Kane Diamond," Batman said.
"That's our bet," Gordon said. He pulled a small cassette tape player out of his coat pocket and continued, "Most of the interrogation was pretty standard, but there was one bit that I thought would be particularly interesting to you."
The Commissioner hit play...
Dugan: Look, Detective Bullock, I'm small potatoes.
Bullock: Small potatoes guys don't usually carry around the floor plans to museums. So tell me, Mr. Small Potatoes, is one of the big boys branching out past the protection rackets?"
Dugan (nervously): This isn't exactly something any of them knew about, but a guy has to make a buck, right?
Bullock: Holding out on those guys? You're braver than you look, Mick. So if you're small potatoes and none of them is calling the shots, suppose you tell me who is?
Dugan: It's kind of freelance, you know. She needed the blueprints, and my brother-in-law works at the construction firm that did their big renovation last year. She was gonna pay good money for 'em, and it's not like anybody needed to know what I did on my own time.
Bullock: She? She who? You workin' for Mata Hari?
Dugan: Hey, I wasn't workin' for nobody but me. She needed something, and I said I'd sell it to her. I ain't workin' for no skirt, though.
Bullock: Okay, so you're some kind of wheeler-dealer. Fine. What I need is a name. Who were you gonna sell the blueprints to?
Dugan: (half-whispered) Catwoman.
Gordon stopped the tape at that point, pulled it out of the player, and handed it to Batman. "I figured you'd probably want your own copy," he said.
Batman silently slid the tape into a compartment of his utility belt and said, "I'll watch the museum. Your people can keep an eye on the circus."
"We'll be there," replied the Commissioner. He paused to relight his pipe before continuing. "You'll be monitoring the radio in case she shows up at the circus?"
He looked up to find that he was standing alone.
Selina Kyle sat on the couch in her terrycloth robe, looking over a set of blueprints.
"Good thing Dugan didn't have the only set," she murmured. "Although I'll probably need to use a different entrance than the one I had planned on."
She studied the blueprints a few more minutes before setting them down and picking up the TV remote. Tuning into a local newscast, she toweled her hair while she waited for the weather report.
The weatherman gestured toward a map of the metro area and said, "There's a front headed our way that should drop a lot of rain on Gotham tonight, so you better take your raincoat if you have to go anywhere."
Selina picked up one of the 8 or 9 cats lounging around the room, and scratching the feline between the ears, she said, "Hmmm, what do you think? Do we go out and crawl the rooftops in the rain or do we wait a night or two?"
The cat purred contentedly and nestled down into her lap. "I agree," she said, "Why be cold and wet when we can stay warm and dry? It's not as if the diamond's going anywhere tonight."
As the weatherman completed his report, the anchorwoman turned to him and asked, "What are the odds that tonight's Knights game will sneak in before the rain hits?"
The weatherman said, "About the same as their chances of winning: not very good."
The anchorwoman turned back to the camera and said, "Fortunately, not every attraction in town is vulnerable to the weather. Tonight, the Haley Circus is opening two weeks of performances at the Fairgrounds, and the weather outside won't affect the newest features of the show, two tigers named Julius and Caesar."
"Tigers, eh?" said the woman. "Maybe I ought to go out after all."
John and Mary Grayson made the final adjustments to their costumes, thereby completing the transformation from average American husband and wife to the not-so-average team of The Flying Graysons.
"So, Mary," he asked, "What do you think about the offer to teach in that gym school in Metropolis?"
"Frankly, I'm not sure," she said. "I'd be lying if I said there wasn't a certain appeal to settling somewhere and putting down some roots. Besides, it'd probably be better for Dick. I mean, how normal is it for a boy to have an elephant like Elinore as his favorite playmate?"
"I know," John agreed. "But the other side of the coin is how much Dick loves it here. Granted, he doesn't know anything else, but how do you think he'd feel about leaving?"
"He'd probably hate it at first," Mary admitted. "But if it's best for him, ..." and with that she let the sentence hang unfinished in the air.
There was a knock on the trailer door, and Mr. Haley stuck his head in the trailer, saying, "John? Mary? It's almost show time."
"We're on our way," replied John, and turning to Mary, he said, "Let's talk about this more tonight after the show."
"Dick, are you about ready?" called Mary.
The door to the smaller bedroom opened and a young boy came out, also decked in one of the colorful costumes.
"Ready, Mom!" he declared, and as if to prove the point, he promptly turned upside down and walked on his hands over to the door of the small trailer before flipping back on to his feet.
"Lookit that," said one of the clowns to the other, pointing to the lady standing in front of an empty cage. "She could honk my horn anytime."
The second clown smacked the first one on the back of the head and said, "Don't be rude." He then walked over to the woman and said, "'Scuse me, but the animals are all backstage by now. The Flying Graysons are about to open the show, and that's something special to see."
"Thank you," said Selina, and, she headed down toward the brightly-lit big top. She handed her ticket to the man in front of the tent, slipped inside, and found a seat.
The performance was sharp and fast-paced, and, much to her surprise, Selina found herself enjoying the circus as a whole and not just the tigers she came to see. Before she realized it, the ringmaster was announcing the Grand Finale.
"Ladies and gentlemen, if you would turn your attention to the trapeze, you will see that we have brought back the Flying Graysons for one final thrill!"
Selina began to move toward the exit as Dick Grayson finished his final routine and made his way to the ground.
"Avoiding the rush, eh, Miss?" asked the usher.
Before Selina could answer, though, there was a collective gasp from the crowd. As the gasps turned to screams, she turned around to see what was happening. She looked up to where she expected to see the colorfully clad acrobats and saw only a couple of ropes with frayed ends dangling in the air. She turned her gaze to the sawdust floor, a sickening feeling sweeping over her as she saw what she knew she would: the man and woman, lying bent and very still in the center of the ring. Lying next to them was the trapeze.
"Mom! Dad!" screamed Dick as he saw his parents on the ground, motionless. He tried to run to them, only to be met by Maisie, one of the clowns.
Maisie tried to hold the boy in the midst of the horrified melee, saying, "No, Dick, don't go there. You don't want to see that!" but Dick twisted his way out of her grasp and pushed his way through the crowd. It was as though he expected his parents to get up and tell him everything was okay if only he could get close enough.
John and Mary Grayson were beyond talking, though, and the rapidly departing crowd was hushed, if only for a moment, by the small boy's plaintive scream of "NOOOOOOOO!"
As the crowd scattered away from the tent, the circus people began to converge on the center ring, and again, someone tried to hold onto Dick. This time it was Mr. Haley who tried to pull the boy away from the tragic scene.
In desperation, Dick pushed the older man away. It seemed like everyone who wasn't gathered around his parents' bodies was trying to get ahold of him. So he did the only thing that made sense to his young mind, overcome with grief and rage. He ran toward the open tent flap in the direction of the family trailer, the one place that had always been home within a home.
Selina's initial instinct had been to flee herself. However, the panicky exodus of the crowd had quickly blocked her off from the opening she had nearly reached. So instead, she made her way to the rapidly emptying seats and moved quickly through the narrow rows toward another, less crowded exit on the far side.
Then she saw the small boy rushing toward the same exit that she had chosen. Even at a distance she could see something in his eyes that brought back memories of her own parents' deaths, and with a deep breath, she followed him out of the tent. Seeing where he was running, she cut between the Haley Circus moving vans, which had been parked in a row outside the tent. Reaching the end of the line of trucks, she reached out to the running boy and caught him in her arms.
"Let me go!" he cried. "Let me go!"
Selina held him firmly, though, and he gradually stopped struggling. She whispered, "It's okay, go ahead and cry, it's okay," as he simply buried his head in her shoulder and wept.
It was only a few moments before the people from the circus found them, and there was soon a small crowd of people gathered around Dick and Selina, who was surprised to find that there were tears in her own eyes as well.
Selina stood outside the circus' office trailer, sipping a cup of coffee handed to her by one of the circus workers. The door to the office opened and looking up, she saw Commissioner Gordon and, for the briefest of moments, she froze. The Commissioner looked at her without a hint of recognition and said, "Hello, Ma'am, I'm - "
"Commissioner Gordon," she finished.
He raised his eyebrows slightly and said, "Do we know each other?"
"Only by reputation," she said and handed him a card, which simply said, "Catherine Fellini, Antiquities Consultant".
"Ah," he said. "Well, Miss Fellini, I'm sorry we had to keep you waiting here. I just need to ask you a few questions, what you saw and so forth."
She recounted for him what little she had seen and what led her to be holding the boy after he ran out of the tent. Then she asked, "What happens to the boy now?"
"That'll be a matter for the court to decide, but my guess is that, unless some family member comes forward, he'll become a ward of the state and go to the County Youth Home."
Selina stared thoughtfully into her cup of coffee as one of the detectives interrupted to ask the Commissioner a question, and then he turned back to her and said, "Well, an officer will be here to take your statement. Thanks for your help. We'll be in touch if we need to ask you anything else."
She shook his extended hand and said, "Anytime, Commissioner, anytime at all."
After Selina gave her statement, she looked across the grounds. She saw the boy leave a trailer, accompanied by a policewoman who carried his suitcase and by a number of weeping circus performers.
He looked up at Selina and wordlessly waved goodbye to her as he got into the patrol car. She watched the car drive slowly away, and then she went to her own car. Sitting behind the wheel, she turned the key and drove away. Passing the entrance, she simply shook her head and muttered, "Damn."