The Bat and the Cat, redux.
#include stdDisclaimer.h: Batman, Catwoman, Alfred, Babs, Dick, Lucius, and the rest of the gang, they're DC comic's toys. I'm just playing with them, and they'll be put back later. Everyone else, they're mine. Any resemblance to actual people, living or dead, is purely coincidental. Of course, no injury or profit is made by this.
#include stdOwner.h I'd like to thank my Beta testers, in alphabetical order: BigAl, Chris, Diane, Evie, Nebular, Mike, Susan, and Vivienne. My thanks to the attorneys and engineers. You know who you are. © 2002 Kara Anne Kalel, karanne at mindspring dot com
Gotham City, and thoughts …
By: Clark Kent, for the Daily Planet
Exciting Gotham !
Experience unique Gotham living! Enjoy some of the finest chefs in the world! Be dazzled by art and museums that rival the Hermitage and the Louvre! Enjoy Gotham's neo-classic architecture!
Excerpted from Gotham County Convention and Visitor's Bureau brochure.
Gotham. A typical, mid-size American city on the Atlantic coast, with a population of around 1.8 million people. Currently the metro area, with the dominant island city of Gotham boasts a world-class collection of art galleries and museums, along with university research to rival competing MIT and Caltech. Gotham's first-class university is bolstered by the presence of STAR Labs and WayneTech Research. Together with affordable housing, good wages, and a widespread mass transit system (Gotham Metro) make Gotham County an attractive place to raise a family.
With the rise in prosperity, a rising crime rate has afflicted Gotham County. With the excellent deep-water harbor and long waterfront of the island city, this has seen the rise of drug and weapon smuggling, primarily under the control of the Yakuza gangs and the Chinese tongs. With more notoriety, however has been the development of the so-called 'super' beings, with both criminal and heroic leanings. Possibly the leading 'supercriminal' has been a psychopathic killer known only as "The Joker". Driven insane by unknown forces, the Joker kills randomly, for amusement or his own reasons. Joined on occasion by a female accomplice and alleged lover, "The Harlequin", the Joker has proven an elusive and dangerous threat.
An equally formidable, but far less violent threat is a burglar and thief known as "Catwoman". Known as a burglar that no security system can deny, she prefers high value and 'cat' themed crimes, and she disdains the use of excessive force, preferring subtlety. Catwoman is known never to have killed anyone, preferring to render the odd guard that encounters her unconscious. One of the few things that will stir her to violence is cruelty to women and animals, particularly the large cats.
Facing these many and varied threats is Gotham's defender and vigilante, "The Batman". Considered by some politicians to be as much of a threat as the criminals he pursues, he fights crime from the street mugger, to the Mob, to the Joker. His identity and motivations are unknown, but the mere whisper of his name is enough to make the most hardened criminal break out in a sweat. He is feared by the criminal classes that he pursues through the night, as much as both the common citizen and the cop on the beat praise him. He is known to be incorruptible, having brought to justice corrupt politicians, police, and judges, and exposed innumerable shady dealings, sometimes to the acute discomfort of others in the media.
Aiding the Batman on occasion is a figure known as "Nightwing", who has lately relocated most of his activities to the neighboring town of Bludhaven. This figure (story continued on page E3) …
I cautiously followed Catwoman down the freezing, icy alleyway. She stopped long enough to hiss at me, and then jumped for the top of a Dumpster. Her next leap shoved her off the heavy Dumpster as she reached for the ladder of a fire escape, missing it as a swirling, red and white fog enveloped us.
"Oh, gods! Where am I?" I heard as I blinked back to consciousness, to find myself trussed and hanging by my ankles over a steaming pit of some bubbling greenish chemical. I twisted in my ropes to see... myself.
"Batman?" I whispered. That must mean that I was...
I coughed from the chemical fumes, and twisted around to see ... myself. I twisted and saw my own dark gray outfit, and my knee-high spike heeled leather boots. I saw the... my... raven-black hair swing freely. I coughed again, and said, "Batman, can you reach your cutter?"
He coughed violently as he twisted his hands behind himself. His contortions swung him around, the dangling cape hiding his cowled head. As we both swung, I tried to direct his fumbling hands, the heavy ropes around his wrists hampering him.
"There you are!" The whiney voice caused Batman's fumbling fingers to lose his tenuous hold on the small cutter, and I watched, sickened, as it fell into the steaming vat. I turned, and saw a small female figure in an outlandish red and white clown costume.
"Harley! Be a dear and let me down. After all, Bats was chasing me. Hmm?" I purred, ruined half way through by a hacking cough.
Harley seemed to think about it for a second, then chirped, "Naaa. I'll let Mistah J. decide what to do with you, pussycat. You just hang tight and watch the mean ol' Bat for me. Ta!" She waved, and skipped out, bells jingling on her costume's tassels.
::Nice try, Catwoman::
I coughed again, matched by one from Batman, and I gasped out, "What?"
Batman twisted in agony, and I could feel the pain he must be enduring. I cried out in sympathetic pain, as well as my own as my ankles became even number. Our coughing subsided, and I heard, or think I heard, a weak, "I said, 'Nice try'. She's as insane as he is, in her own way."
"But before, I think... I heard you... 'think it'" I wheezed.
"If true, it must be a combination of" he coughed again, "that mist we both ran into, and these fumes."
As he coughed again, I wheezed, "Harley was never the chemist the Joker is."
"If you say so. You kept such good track of me..." He coughed.
"Let's try an experiment." I hacked. "I'll think of something, and you tell me what it is."
He nodded, and I thought back to the beginning of the evening, Commissioner Gordon's office in Police Headquarters, and how he had paced, as he detailed the manhunt for the escaped Joker.
He wheezed, "Commissioner Gordon's office. He was briefing me... you... the Batman about the Joker. How Harley Quinn had broken him out."
"Yes. What color tie was Lieutenant Bullock wearing?" I asked.
"Bullock left before I showed myself. He was wearing his red tie with the ragged end, with the three mustard stains on it. Jim's tie was pulled down, and it was his blue and red checked tie. His shirtsleeves were rolled up below his elbows. He was smoking his pipe, the English Darby blend tobacco. His shoes needed polishing." He coughed again, then said, "Now me."
I looked at the inverted Batman, and closed my burning eyes. Suddenly, a scene came to life, as if Hollywood had taped it. I knelt to pour milk, smelling them and hearing their soft cries, and said, "I'm feeding cats. I'm pouring milk for Mr. Patches, orange and white calico. Four others are watching from the windowsill. They're Simon, a red-furred tom with one missing eye, George, another tom with black fur and a white nose, Melissa, a tabby, and April, whose coat is pure gold." I opened my eyes, and said, "How did I do? It seemed so real..."
Batman said, "I know. It seems we've switched bodies somehow. Two last questions. Which eye is George missing, and what am I wearing?"
I chuckled roughly. "Simon is missing his left eye. You're wearing Kevlar armor on your chest and abdomen, a steel cup to protect your, um, privates, and steel-toed boots. Anything else? What is the Cat wearing?"
Batman replied, "Black sport bra and panty set from the sporting good shop on Conway, four inch heels from the custom emporium on Third Avenue, lycra bodysuit from the same store, a cowl you've made yourself. Your whip seems to have vanished. That's from the boutique on Alexandria place."
::Excellent:: I read her thoughts of the boutique, and replied, ::I am not a prude!:: I felt her amusement, then a spike of wariness.
::Someone's coming!:: I heard the door a second after her, the jingle of Harley's bells and then her wheedling voice.
"Mistah J, see what I got you for your birthday! A bat and a cat, all trussed up and waitin' for you!"
"NOOOO! NOOO! I WANTED TO CATCH HIM! ME! ME!" The Joker screamed. "IF SOMEONE ELSE DOES IT, THERE'S NO SPORT IN IT! NO FUN IN THE KILL!" He stepped into view, and said, "Take them away. Dump them someplace. ALIVE, DO YOU HEAR? If one of you kills him, IT'S NO FUN! Then I'd have to substitute someone else!" He leaned close to Harley, and said, "Like you! Wouldn't that be nice?"
"S...Sure, Mistah J. T...That would be just...peachy!" Harley stammered. As Joker spun and whirled away, she scrambled for a control panel. Jabbing the buttons, she told us, "Maybe I should let the kitty go and just kill the bat. That'd make my rep!"
As the winch stopped with our heads inches above the bubbling, steaming goo, I shrieked from the pain that my scalp was giving me. I heard Batman's voice, "Harley, if you do that then I think you'll follow us into this vat." ::Hang on, Catwoman!:: he thought.
::I'm going to claw her eyes out!:: I thought back.
::Meow, dear! Be a nice kitty, play nice and we'll get out of this:: The Batman thought to me.
I grumbled as one of Joker's henchmen grabbed me, giving me a quick grope. I thrashed, and he dumped me unceremoniously next to him on the concrete. The other thug with Batman said, "Hey, his ropes are almost eat through!"
"Well, chain them both, and we'll dump them someplace like Mistah J wants! Do I have to do all your thinking?" Harley screeched. As my thug grumbled and started to lock manacles on my wrists and ankles, the other started to wind chains around Batman.
With a screech, we were thrown out the back of a non-descript white van. I struggled up, trying to see the license plate, when Batman thought ::Don't bother, Catwoman::
I coughed and then gave up, and thought ::Why not?::
::It's stolen. At least that's what I, err, Catwoman would have done::
::Ah. Of course:: I squirmed up to sit against the filthy brick wall, and said, err, thought, ::Look, Bats, let's call a truce. We need each other's help. Agreed?::
::Why should I trust you, Catwoman? You've been chasing me for years! What do I have to get out of it?::
::For one thing, your freedom:: I thought practically. ::How many of the Bat's enemies would love to have you in this position right now, Batman?:: I gave a snort, and thought, ::Right now, we need to rest and recover, and try to figure out a way to reverse this. I won't get far into the Batcave as Catwoman. We need to trust each other::
After a few moments of silence, a curt ::Agreed::
::Good:: I squirmed over to him and thought, ::Good thing that acid ate away most of the cape. Let me at the lockpicks on the back of the belt:: I rolled around until I was lying face down in the grimy alleyway, and the picks were in my hands. With Batman slumped against the wall so I could work, I attacked the locks with my unfamiliar fingers.
"Ah! That's better!" With a heave, Batman threw the chains against a dumpster, and bent over me. I heard the screech of tires, and a bright spotlight was thrown down the dingy alleyway. Twisting, I saw the flashing red and blue lights, and someone shouted "Halt! Gotham Police! Don't move!"
I squirmed around again, and saw a young female cop put her sidearm away, and say, "We'll take her from here, Batman, and thanks." She flicked her flashlight around, spying and grabbing the lock picks with a gloved hand, and said, "So this is the Catwoman? We'll book her on possession of burglary tools until you can come by the two five and give your usual statement." She snapped another set of cuffs on my wrists, then turned and called, "Hey Lou! Bring a set of ankle shackles for her, and help me with her. She's supposed to be a real handful."
An older, redheaded Irish cop bent over and snapped shackles on my ankles, then asked, "She Mirandized yet?" Getting headshakes, he started with the ritual, "Miss, you have the right to remain silent. Anything you do say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney..."
::Don't worry! I'll have an attorney get to you as quick as I can, um... :: Batman promised.
I sighed to myself, and answered, ::Bruce. Bruce Wayne. Tell Alfred the password is 'Elinore', and he'll help you::
::Thanks, Catwoman. I'm Selina. Selina Kyle. Don't tell them anything, not even your name. I've been arrested before, but the charges haven't stuck. They don't even know my name, I'm down as 'Jane Doe 7373'. They won't mistreat you:: He spoke up to the cops, "She needs medical attention."
"She'll get it, as soon as she's booked. You don't look too good yourself, Bats. Why don't you call it a night? Want a ride somewhere?" The rookie said as she frisked me. My bodysuit was in tatters, black bra showing through in places.
"Thanks, but no. I am calling it a night, though." Batman croaked.
::Selina, touch the upper left corner of the buckle on the utility belt together with the lower right, and the Batmobile will find you. Once you're inside it, tap the 10, and 11 o'clock positions twice on the steering wheel, wait five seconds, then the 7 o'clock three times and it will drive itself back to the Batcave. Alfred will be waiting:: I thought.
"Do you understand these rights, Miss Catwoman?" Lou the cop said. I nodded, and he said, "I need a verbal acknowledgement, Miss."
"I do." I rasped, as I saw Bats touch his belt buckle, and stagger off into the alleyway. I was lifted, and half dragged, half carried to the back seat of the squad car, where I was buckled in for the trip to the precinct. The rookie got in back to control me. I snorted to myself. ::Control me? I'm weak as a kitten!:: With a swirl of colored lights being cut off, Leo pulled out of the alley.
"Who we got?" The desk sergeant asked, keying in a fresh arrest report as I was hauled up in front of his desk.
"This is the Catwoman, Sarge! Possession of Burglary tools!" The rookie said excitedly as she threw the lockpicks on his desk.
"Miller, why ain't these properly bagged as evidence?" He looked over his reading glasses at the young woman, and with a sigh, fished out a fresh bag. With the point of a pencil, he picked up the picks and placed them into the bag. Leo came in, and he asked, "DuPont, did your partner manage to bag the Cat, or did she have some black-clad help?"
"Help, Sarge. She must have put up a helluva fight, too. Neither one of them looked too good." Leo answered. Miller glared at her partner as the sergeant snorted.
"All right. She been Mirandized?" The cops nodded, and the sergeant asked me, "Miss, your rights been read to you?"
I nodded, then got out, "Yes, sergeant. Thank you."
He glanced at me, then said, "You're more polite than some of these yahoos I work with. You're gonna co-operate with the doc when she comes?" I nodded, and then he told me, "Good. We'll get you a shower and a change of clothes. The doc ain't scheduled for her rounds until 8 this morning, so we'll find you a nice quiet cell where you can rest. Be good, and we'll be nice to ya. Unnerstood?" I nodded, and he glanced at the rookie cop. "Good. Now, then, Officer Miller. I'm gonna want a report from you on proper evidence-handling techniques. Have it ready by shift-change, and I'll be goin' over it wit' ya." She groaned, and shot me a dark look. The sergeant waved me away, and the next arrest took my place.
"If you'll be good, I'll get these leg irons off ya." Leo the cop said. "Not like Bats to use chains, though. Wonder why?" He glanced at me, and I shrugged. Leo helped me over to an old wooden chair that I collapsed into. I couldn't have put up a fight if I had wanted to. I closed my eyes for just a minute...
### Chapter 1: Of Jokers and Cops