She looked up at him with hate in her eyes so palatable the old saying 'If looks could kill' came to his mind. But she was subdued finally, a little of the attitude drained from her. It was a mask of her own, the smart retorts, the cavalier swagger, the posturing. She was covering her vulnerable underbelly with the armor of rebelliousness.
Terry stepped over and crossed his arms across his chest. With a wry smile he said, "I would have warned you about underestimating him, but then again you probably wouldn't have listened to me anyway."
"Shut up," she said with unveiled distaste.
"Terry," Bruce chided softly. "Let's not antagonize our guest."
"Guest?" she spat. "I don't think so. What are you going to do with me, call the police?" she spoke with a tone that suggested she didn't think he would dare do something so bold.
"And if I do?" he challenged her.
"Right, like you're going to risk me spilling the beans on your whole operation."
"What makes you think anyone will believe you?"
"You're kidding?" she asked incredulously.
"Do you really think I've gone this long without taking precautions? What's the word of a thief to that of elderly and wealthy playboy Bruce Wayne whose reputation doesn't fit the profile of Batman at all?" She slumped back in defeat and next to him Terry grinned, no doubt pleased to get a bit of revenge after being trounced twice by the petite figure. "You're in no position to make demands or threats, only to answer my questions. Are we clear on this?"
The little thief nodded almost imperceptibly. She really was quite beautiful Bruce thought objectively. Manticore no doubt designed her to get past the enemy's defenses using her femininity as a cover for the deadly adversary that lay beneath. She exuded a low-level, yet still powerful sexuality, like a pheromone, unlike Selina Kyle who had been very blatant and overt with her innuendos, skin-tight attire, and body language. Sex had been her weapon and she wielded with the precision of a master marksman, as fierce and dangerous with her lips as she had been with her whip.
Bruce Wayne, the former Batman, was uncomfortably aware that he was comparing the two women, no doubt brought on by the fact that Max had stolen from him the cat statuette that had been the last thing Catwoman took before vanishing from Gotham without a trace, so completely gone that even the Batman could not pick up her trail. When the statue had shown up at a Sotheby's auction several years later he knew he had to have it, and paid over three times the appraised price for it. But purchasing it had brought him no closer to the feline purloiner that he still often dreamt about. He supposed Catwoman's greatest heist had simply been his heart, though she would never know that.
"Where is it?" he growled down to the genetic wonder trussed up like a rodeo steer before him.
"Where's what?" she replied airily, looking over his shoulder.
"Don't play games with me Max. The cat you stole. Where is it?"
"Somewhere you'll never find it. Go ahead and call the cops. How long do you think they'll be able to hold me?"
"Terry," he called out to his young apprentice without breaking eye contact with the deceptively young-looking woman. "Look through her pockets."
Her eyes opened wide. "Don't you dare!" But Terry had already complied, opening the flaps of her combat-style flack vest. "Watch your hands Junior!" she yelled into his ear.
"Hey I gotta hotel room keycard," Terry said standing up, looking rather pleased with himself.
Bruce glanced at it. "Gotham Towers. Go search her room." Terry looked about ready to argue. "Now, McGinnis!"
"Okay, okay," the boy muttered, skulking off to change back into the Tomorrow Knight.
"You don't even know Logan, do you?" she accused unhappily.
"I did a background search of the statue's owners. Interestingly twenty years ago this statue was owned by the Cale family, based in Seattle, for many years, yet in 2019 Logan Cale had to repurchase it from a less than reputable source, presumably because it had been stolen. Considering Manticore's proximity to Seattle I hazarded a guess you were somehow involved in relieving Mr. Cale of his merchandise. A few years later he sold it to a legitimate buyer."
"That was after his family lost all their money," she replied quietly.
Bruce nodded. "I did business with the Cale's, Logan's father and uncle, before the pulse. I met him once when I was over there, while he was home from college. A very nice young man from what I remember, very dedicated." He watched the sadness hang off her shoulders like a bad suit. He furrowed his brow. "You were close to him," he stated, unsure of what to expect.
She looked up at him, a gaze full of strength tempered by pain. It was a look he was familiar with. "I was about as close as a person can get. We were married."
"That's…surprising," he replied.
"Really? It's not so surprising when you know all the facts. Ever hear of Eyes Only?"
With a slight nod he said, "Anonymous journalist trying to maintain justice in the corrupt aftermath of the pulse." He paused. "Logan Cale?"
"That's right. He fought the good fight. After he caught me stealing the statue he figured out immediately I was a transgenic. Made a deal with me. I'd help with his Eyes Only crusade and he'd help me find out about Manticore. But it went past that, way past that," she sighed. "He was instrumental in getting the Transgenic Equal Rights bill passed in Congress. Without him we'd all still be hunted and hated."
Bruce frowned. "I've never heard his name connected with that."
"He was strictly behind the scenes, pulling strings and calling old family favors." She smiled thinly. "You of all people should know about the beauty of anonymity."
He mulled over the information she'd given him. "What's he doing now?"
"He died last year. Cancer. Quick yet extremely painful," she replied bitterly.
"I'm sorry," he said with feeling.
"We have a daughter. She'll be ten in a few months." He waited patiently while she stared off into the dark recesses of the cave. "I wanted that statue for her birthday. It's what brought us together. It belongs to her."
"It belongs to me. I paid for it," he grumbled, but already he knew he'd never see it again.
At that instant the large computer on the other side of the cave came to life. "Wayne, come in," Terry's voice echoed eerily throughout the subterranean citadel.
He walked over and pressed a button. "Go ahead Terry."
"I found it. It was in the room safe. I'm on my way back with it."
"Uh excuse me, I don't think I heard you correctly."
"I said no. Leave it there."
"But you sent me here…"
"Stop arguing with me McGinnis. I said leave it. Return to base. Wayne out."
She was staring up at him with questions in her eyes when he returned to the supply closet. "Did you just do what I think you did?" When he didn't reply her face softened into a smile. "What a pleasant surprise. Don't worry, I'll keep your dirty little secret," she said kindly.
"Which secret?" he asked.
"That you actually have a heart," she laughed. "Oh and I have a surprise for you." Quick as lightening she was on her feet, hands held out in front, the cuffs dangling loosely from one thumb. "I'm a thief and you didn't even bother to search me for lock picks."
With a sage nod and grim smile, he replied, "I know. I hope your little girl enjoys her birthday present."
She tossed the cuffs at him, which he caught with ease. "Thanks. I owe you one." Then she moved towards the shadows, exiting the same way she came in. "Say goodbye to Junior for me."
"Let me guess," he called out to her retreating back. "They added cat DNA to your genetic mix?"
Her answer drifted back to him as if on the wings of a bat. "Meow."