"The collaborative relationship between Anton Chekov and the Moscow Arts Theatre was like no other up to that time..."
Dick realized he had begun reading this sentence no fewer than 6 times and he still wasn't taking in a blessed word of it. In one fluid move he slammed the cover of A HISTORY OF MODERN THEATRE, picked up the telephone receiver and pushed speed dial #2.

"Papa's Pizza" answered a nasal voice.

"Sorry, wrong button." He hung up and pushed speed dial #3.

"Wayne Manor" answered a polished voice.

"Alfred, It's me. Can you talk."

"Master Dick? Yes of course."

"Secure the line, then." Dick pushed an unlabeled button on his telephone and knew Alfred had done the same when he heard a distant chirp through the earpiece.

"So Bruce isn't around" he began as Alfred was saying:

"I was sorry to have missed seeing you during your recent visit, Sir."

There was a hint of reproach in the "Sir" - Alfred was as much a surrogate father to Dick as Bruce had been, and he had been disappointed (though he would never say so) to learn the boy had paid his first visit in months on the Butler's day out.
Since he was ten, Dick recognized "Sir" was the Alfredian dialect for "Listen hear young man, saving the city from the Scarecrow does not mean you don't have to put your dirty t-shirt in the clothes hamper/eat your vegetables/call when you're going to be late...
Dick realized he should do some explaining before diving into the business of the call.

"I'm sorry about that, Alfred. I hadn't really expected to be in the city - it just happened, and coming out to the manor was an afterthought. If I'd thought it out beforehand, of course I would've called ahead. I promise I will next time"

"Very good, Master Dick"

Dick sighed with relief. He knew from the other's tone that he was forgiven and his next visit home would be marked with specially-baked cookies and other unspoken expressions of affection.

"Alfred, look, the reason I was calling ...did Bruce tell you any specifics about when I dropped in the other morning?"

"He informed me that you had again made the dean's list, that you were seeing a young woman named Molly who was a drama major and a red head, and whom we would meet when you came home next month for Thanksgiving. And also that Nightwing was making quite a reputation for himself as a figure to be reckoned with."

Evidently from Bruce's point-of-view these details of Dick's life represented the big news of the day. How was he ever going to work this around to the question he wanted to ask?

"So is Catwoman living there now?" He blurted.


"I mean - she was there - Selina - she was there at the house, making breakfast - and she joked about Rod Serling and Bruce's cooking, and they were both acting like it was nothing out of the ordinary"

It was true. The curvaceous brunette had appeared in the kitchen wearing - Dick still couldn't quite believe he had seen it - a borrowed sweater of Bruce's pulled over what were quite clearly the leggings and boots of her Catwoman costume, and announced her intention to leave "so you two can talk." An uncharacteristically cheerful Bruce had escorted her from the kitchen - after which there was a girlish giggle from behind the door that Dick found impossible to reconcile with the fierce whip-wielding catburgler. When he returned a minute later, Bruce asked about his studies, his girlfriend Molly, his progress as Nightwing, and his plans for the holidays. He made no reference to Selina's unexplained appearance, nor did he allow the conversation to get anywhere near the subject.

"Sir," Alfred began - it was the third "Sir" of the conversation, not a good sign. - The formal speech that followed was not encouraging either: "a butler's first duty, to any employer, is to maintain the utmost discretion regarding that employer's private affairs."

"I understand that, Alfred, really I do, but-"

"When that employer is none other than Batman, there is an even greater duty to an even higher standard of discretion..."

"Alfred, I understand, but..."

"Even with a trusted member of the family such as yourself, Sir, I don't believe I can comment on matters the master has not, himself, chosen to discuss..."

Dick sighed. If he wanted to learn anything, he would have to find another approach.


Batman landed noiselessly on an office rooftop that afforded the second-best view of the Carmen Gallery. Across an alleyway was the residential hotel who's rooftop afforded the best view, and there - Déjà vu - he saw Catwoman carefully casing the gallery's rear entrance.

This was precisely their position two nights ago. It began weeks earlier...

An excited buzz had been circulating through the inner circle of the city's arts-aficionados: Carmen Gallery was donating a priceless emerald necklace to the Gotham Museum, where it would lose its claim to being "priceless" when featured in a silent auction at the museum's fundraiser.
Bruce Wayne, as a long-time board member, was trapped in a tedious meeting of the fundraising sub-committee in the museum's fine arts library that doubled as the boardroom. Mrs. Ashton-Larraby was droning on and on about choosing a theme for the event that would not attract the attention of one of the city's costumed criminals. The opera's unfortunate choice of a "Double your winnings Monte Carlo Night" had managed a hat-trick: drawing out Two Face, thanks to the Double reference; the Joker, thanks to a logo of ornate continental playing cards; and the Penguin, when a pre-event article pictured the feather-clad performers called "Showbirds" who would be appearing.
In an effort to relieve the boredom, Bruce voiced his opinion that a necklace valued at, conservatively, half-a-million dollars, was a tempting target regardless of any criminal's stated theme. Mrs. Ashton-Larraby told "poor dear Brucie" that, for one who had lived here all his life, he obviously had no insight to the unique theme-park nature of the criminal element of Gotham City.
Outwardly Bruce Wayne sulked; inwardly Batman seethed. The woman was an absolute moron - he knew Gotham's criminals better than anyone, and he knew for a fact that all but a handful worked exactly like Mrs. Ashton-Larraby figuring out her income tax - starting with the result they want to achieve and working backwards to make the numbers reach that conclusion.

As the meeting limped on (and on), Bruce noticed an attractive woman replacing books on the shelves in the library half of the room. She seemed somehow familiar, but he couldn't place where from.
That was uncharacteristic of him - and troubling - his success and his survival in his chosen line of work depended on observation and - WOW, WHAT LEGS - the woman had climbed onto library steps and was reaching to arrange some books as a display on the top shelf, pulling the skirt up several inches to reveal a peek of (WOW), the most perfectly formed legs Bruce had ever seen.
Maybe he knew her from a resort somewhere, could he have seen her in a bathing suit? Is that why he couldn't place her here in this setting?

"Wayne!" Bruce started. The meeting was ending and Rob Tykes was speaking to him "I said I'm heading uptown, want to share a cab?" Tykes was a dot-com billionaire who enjoyed flouting the lifestyle of the superrich by flying coach, taking the subway, and eating in delis. He was a brilliant and insightful man often dismissed by superficial people who bought into the façade of an eccentric computer geek that can't buy a newspaper without assistance - Bruce liked him instinctively.

"No thanks; Car's waiting downstairs - but I can drop you, if you don't mind waiting a minute."

"While you introduce yourself to Legs over there?" asked Tykes. Bruce started again. Jesus, the guy was sharp.

"Do you know who she is?" asked Bruce.

"New volunteer. Lisa or Laura or something. Quite the arts background from what I hear."

He did introduced himself -

He assumed Rich, Handsome, Bachelor "the world is my oyster" smile #7 and approached the stepladder.

"Excuse me," He began in Confident, Sophisticated Bachelor voice # 4, "I can't shake this feeling that I know you from somewhere..."

"Gee that's an original line," she observed in an amused voice that was **also** bafflingly familiar "Be a dear and hand me the books from that desk would you."

She hadn't turned from the shelves to see Handsome Bachelor smile #7, and it occurred to Bruce that, working where she did, looking like she did, it might not have the affect he anticipated anyway. A woman like that must have men hitting on her right left and center, and he, Bruce Wayne, society playboy and despair of a dozen matchmaking mamas, had just approached her with "Don't I know you from somewhere."

He remembered he owned a mansion and tried a new tack as he handed up the first volume:

"Actually," he said, "I do have an ulterior motive for wanting to meet you. I have a large collection of rare books and some artwork and antiques I'd like to have catalogued. Mr. Tykes tells me you're quite the expert on that kind of thing."

"I might be able to help you out" she answered politely, "what kind of collection?"

"I wouldn't know how to describe it, I'm afraid. It came to me as 'manor and its contents'."

She glanced down, and silently gulped. The man she was talking to was - not only of the Greek God variety - he was Bruce (Wayne-Manor, Wayne-Enterprises, Wayne-Foundation) Wayne.

"Alright, let me come over and take a look and we can hammer out the details."

She climbed down.

"My name's 'Lena, by the way, Lena Kyle."

"Bruc - "

He broke off. Their eyes met as she extended her hand and - piercing green eyes - eyes he had no trouble placing: Catwoman!

"Ohmygod" she blurted, not noticing that he had stumbled on his own name, "I just got it!"

Bruce froze.

" I don't believe I didn't see it immediately. You want me to **come up and see your etchings!** That's even worse than 'don't I know you from somewhere'!" She laughed with delight at her joke, and Bruce wondered vaguely if this might be some karmic payback for all the women he'd abandoned at parties over the years whenever Batman business called him away.

Because he could see no alternative, Bruce arranged for Selina Kyle a.k.a. Catwoman to come to dinner the following evening to view the art, antiques and rare books she would catalog for him. Directions to Wayne Manor were somewhat complicated, and he agreed to send Alfred to pick her up in town.

As he exited the building, past Mrs. Ashton-Larraby pouring herself and approximately 40-lbs of sable into a limousine, past Rob Tykes buying a pretzel from a sidewalk vendor, Bruce thought bitterly that he would only have to ask the IRS to calculate his income tax and hire a bloodhound to deliver a beefsteak to the complete the inanities of this day.