The Kane Academy for Girls was one of the finest private schools in Gotham City. The costly tuition guaranteed that the best resources and the brightest teachers would be available for the elite young women who donned the navy blazer and plaid skirt that served as the school uniform. While the school truly did have excellent teachers and modern facilities, Stephanie Brown could sum up the meals with one simple word.
Yecch! thought the pretty blonde sixteen-year-old as she shoved a tray aside and stared rather forlornly across the crowded and noisy dining hall. Plenty of room here. No wait time. Stench of scholarship girl may offend snooty noses! she thought as she smiled slightly at the sight of her empty table. It was a sight she was all too used to by now after three weeks at the elite school. OK, so I’m here on a scholarship, while most of the other girls are trust fund babes, she thought. Why should that make me Pariah Girl?
Three more hours, and then I go to Gotham Public Library for my after-school job, and then… homework! she thought. Do I know how to live, or what? She could joke about her isolation, since she actually relished both the job as a page at the library and her secret role as the Spoiler, a costumed heroine being mentored by Babs Gordon, the Batwoman herself.
Her thoughts were interrupted by a slight tingling sensation that came from her unique earrings. Cool! she thought. That signal means our incredibly resourceful information-broker Oracle has some info for me!
“Oracle, go ahead,” she whispered.
“I hesitated to contact you while you were at school, but my records indicate that this is your lunch period,” said a crisp-voiced woman on the other end of a highly advanced communications network.
“It’s not like you’re interrupting the Round Table of Dorothy Parker at the Plaza Hotel!” joked Stephanie.
“I think you mean Dorothy Parker at the Algonquin Hotel, but I’m glad you’re reading more,” replied Oracle. “A routine check of travel reservations indicates that Roy G. Bivolo, the Rainbow Raider, has made a reservation under an obvious alias. He’ll be coming in tonight from Central City on Gotham Air’s six o’clock flight.”
Stephanie smiled as she thought, Only Oracle would make reservation checks part of her routine! “OK, is he wanted for anything?” she asked. “And who wouldn’t use an alias if his real name was Roy G. Bivolo?”
“Very amusing,” replied Oracle. “Yes, he is wanted. He escaped from jail, in fact. Will you alert Batwoman?”
“Thanks,” said Stephanie. “I’ll let her know.”
As Oracle signed off, Stephanie frowned as she noticed a haughty girl with long, black hair watching her with a dismissive glare.
“Stephanie Brown is talking to herself!” she said loudly as two other girls laughed eagerly. “I suppose insanity does run in her family!”
“My imaginary friend thinks you’re funny,” said Stephanie. “I think you’re an idiot.” She jumped up as the bell sounded, and she made her way toward the door.
Julia Denver and her rich pals really bug me, but I can’t very well knock her head off with the martial arts moves Babs has been teaching me, she thought. That would kinda go against the whole protect-and-serve thing.
She tried to laugh off the other girl’s insult, but she knew that that kind of remark struck all too close to home. Dad is back in jail, she thought. I’m glad he recovered from the wounds he received when I met Babs and those mobsters tried to kill him, but I still can’t claim any real pride in being the Cluemaster’s little girl. (*) I wonder if Julia was just trying to be cute, or if she really does know my father is Arthur Brown, would-be super-villain and puzzle-obsessed nutcase?
[(*) Editor’s note: See Batwoman: Daddy’s Girl.]
Later that night, a purple-costumed Stephanie crouched in the shadows next to an older woman in a dark costume. Batwoman, alias Barbara Gordon, had established herself as a worthy ally of Batman’s, and she was following the Caped Crusader’s example by being a mentor to a younger heroine as well.
“Spoiler, the Rainbow Raider has several dangerous weapons at his disposal,” whispered Batwoman. “He has battled the Flash, Batman, and Green Arrow, among others, so don’t make the mistake of underestimating him.”
Spoiler adjusted the blue domino mask that covered her eyes as she tucked a stray lock of blonde hair beneath the purple hood that matched her purple leotard. “He uses some kind of invention to project colored beams, right?” Spoiler replied with a whisper. “He can also control emotions, too.”
Batwoman nodded and said, “He wears special goggles that have those functions. When he gets off the plane, we’ll follow him.”
Moments later, after the plane landed and passengers began to deplane, the two heroines spotted Bivolo.
“He doesn’t look like a thug, but then again, using the word rainbow in your super-villain name doesn’t exactly scream street cred,” said Spoiler.
Batwoman smiled and said, “Let’s go.” They swung agilely overhead as their target made his way away from the plane. “We should be able to follow him to his objective. He may be meeting local hoods for some crime,” explained Batwoman.
Before the two women could make good on their plan, Roy stopped suddenly as an airport security guard suddenly drew his gun and yelled, “On the ground, now!”
“That guard recognized him!” hissed Spoiler.
“Bad luck for him,” said Batwoman. “Get him to safety!”
She swung down as Roy Bivolo grabbed a pair of goggles from within a secret pocket of his coat. A beam of red energy sliced through the air at the guard from the goggles.
Spoiler tackled the guard and shoved him to safety as the energy beam narrowly missed him. “Is your face red?” she quipped.
Meanwhile, Batwoman had kicked the goggles out of Roy’s hand and connected with a spinning kick that knocked him cold. She quickly secured his wrists with handcuffs and soon handed the captured felon off to the airport security team.
Nodding approvingly to Spoiler, Batwoman said, “Good job. Although that guard stopped us from following him into the city, at least we were able to put him down before anyone could be hurt.”
Spoiler nodded and said, “Sure. I guess there will be some would-be henchmen searching the wants ads tonight.”
“That’s OK,” said Batwoman. “I’m going to have to go out of town for a while, and you aren’t ready for solo patrols just yet. You can hit the books, and the goons can just do without your attention, young lady!”
Spoiler shrugged and said, “And they call me Spoiler!”
The next afternoon, Stephanie Brown opened the door to the apartment she shared with her mother Agnes, only to find her mother was not alone. Agnes Brown was still wearing her nurse’s uniform, but she seemed a bit uncomfortable at her daughter’s abrupt entrance.
“Oh, Stephanie! You’re home early,” she said, glancing over at a handsome man who sat rather stiffly on a nearby sofa.
Stephanie dropped her books on the table and closed the door as she walked into the living room. “I don’t have to work today. Did I interrupt something?” she asked as she looked back and forth from her mother to the dark-haired man.
He wore a brown suit with a rather loudly colored ascot. He casually stroked his pencil-thin mustache and waited expectantly. His dark glasses and the cane that leaned against the sofa marked him as a sightless man.
“This is our neighbor, Paul Jackson,” said Agnes. “He and I have been chatting. Paul, this is my daughter, Stephanie.”
Stephanie stepped closer and said, “Nice to meet you.”
Paul Jackson smiled and nodded, as if nothing could be more pleasurable to anyone than meeting him. “Stephy, your dear mother and I have struck up the most delightful of friendships,” he said. “I am glad to meet you. I understand you attend the Kane Academy. I have heard that it is one of the city’s finest schools. It would have to be, since it was founded by the illustrious Kane family. I understand the late Kathy Kane was very active in its operation during her lifetime. It was so sad that she died at a young age. She was said to be very beautiful.”
Agnes reached over and took his hand in a rather nervous gesture. “Paul and I have been getting acquainted over the last few weeks,” said Agnes in a hesitant tone. “I’ve been meaning to tell you, but we’ve both been so busy and all.”
Stephanie frowned; she was not exactly shocked by the idea that her mother was seeing someone, but she was also a bit disturbed by the way Agnes apparently had wanted to keep her new relationship a secret. “You must be the guy who moved into 13-D across the hall from us,” she said. “You must travel light. I never saw movers or anything.”
Paul nodded and said, “My travels are often motivated by whims of passion. I do indeed travel light, as you said.”
“Paul and I were planning to grab a bite to eat at Morelli’s, down on the corner,” said Agnes. “It is Paul’s favorite. Would you like to join us?”
“Thanks, but I better hit the books,” said Stephanie. “You know how it is.”
Paul waved rather awkwardly and said, “Of course. I was young once, too!” He stood up and casually retrieved his cane as Agnes turned to offer a final comment.
“We’ll be home early,” she said. “There is some homemade soup in the fridge.”
Stephanie nodded and said, “Have a good time.”
Paul caressed Stephanie’s back as he passed by. “Lovely perfume, my dear,” he said.
Stephanie shivered and said, “Uh, thanks. It’s Energized Youth by Betty Gilson.”
“Charming, charming. I do hope you and I will get to be the best of friends,” he said as he brushed by the girl.
As the couple departed, Stephanie sank down into a chair and said, “Great. My new daddy is creepier than the old one!”
As sirens rang out in the city streets, she hurried to the window and peered out to see a police car stop directly in front of Morelli’s, and officers emerged and entered the restaurant. I wonder if they are picking up Paul, she thought. That mustache of his alone must be a felony!
She frowned as she saw the officers emerge with a fat man in a white apron. That’s Maurice the cook, she thought. I’ve talked with him a lot. I’ve even babysat his kids. He’s no criminal!
She whirled around as the sound of jangling keys preceded the opening of the apartment door, and Agnes entered the room. “We changed our minds,” her mother explained. “Paul became a bit alarmed at the sound of sirens. The poor man is so independent, but being blind does cause him to desire to avoid undue excitement.”
“The police took Maurice out,” said Stephanie. “What could that be about?”
Agnes frowned and said, “I just don’t know. He’s such a nice man.”
Stephanie nodded and said, “I’ll be in my room.”
Once safely inside her bedroom, Stephanie adjusted her earrings and whispered, “Oracle! Spoiler. I need some help. Maurice Morelli was just picked up by Gotham cops. Can you give me anything at all?”
Oracle’s reply came only moments later. “Certainly, although this does not sound like a major case to me. Let me tap into the police computers.” Moments later, Oracle added, “He was taken in for questioning because his prints were found at the scene of a robbery. Someone broke into the Beaumont Jewelry Store last night.”
“That’s crazy,” said Stephanie. “He’s no thief.”
“Possibly not, but the police seem to have grounds for at least questioning the man.”
Stephanie ended the communication, thinking, I wonder what Oracle really looks like or where she lives. Babs says she definitely has her own secrets, that none of us have access to.
She snapped her fingers and said, “Hey! Maybe she could check out Paul Jackson for me!” She picked up a pink pillow and cradled it to her chest as she rocked back and forth on the edge of her canopied bed. “No, not yet. I should at least give the guy a chance. Just because my real dad was a crook doesn’t mean every guy is a creep.”
The next day, Stephanie walked up to the counter at Morelli’s and greeted an old woman who wore her gray hair tired back in a hairnet. Stephanie was still wearing the blue and white plaid skirt and dark navy blazer of the Kane Academy.
“Mrs. Morelli, I’m Stephanie Brown,” she said. “Remember, I did some babysitting for your grandchildren. I don’t mean to be nosy, but I wondered if you needed any help. I saw what happened yesterday with your son Maurice.”
Mrs. Morelli nodded wearily. “Such a good girl! My Maurice is innocent, but the police say he robbed a store. They have his prints, and a witness says he can identify my boy as being behind the store that was robbed that same night! I don’t know what to do. Maurice has no alibi. He can’t remember where he was last night, but he wasn’t home. Will you pray for us?”
Stephanie nodded. “I sure will.” As she exited the diner, she thought, I’m going to do more than pray. I’m going to try to prove he’s innocent.
That night, Stephanie Brown slipped into the purple leotard and hooded cloak she wore as Spoiler and carefully adjusted her blue domino mask.
“I know Batwoman thinks I’m too inexperienced to patrol on my own, but this is my neighborhood — what could happen to me here? mused the teenager. I think I might just stumble on to something that could clear Maurice, if I’m lucky. I’ll head over to the Beaumont Jewelry Store and scout around. Maybe the cops missed something.
She slipped out the window and gracefully arched her back as she swung upward and landed on the roof. “Between my old gymnastics training and the lessons Batwoman has been giving me, I’m becoming a real acrobat!” she said with a grin.
Later, as she stood on a roof looking down at the darkened jewelry store, she scanned the streets and tried to make sense of the sights below. Shadows intermingled with the glow of traffic lights, car lights, and the occasional window display from some of the open businesses that lined the avenue.
Spoiler adjusted her special mask, and the night-vision lens enabled her to bring everything into clarity. “I better magnify things,” she said. “I think I see a prowler!”
She was right. A shadowy figure was emerging from a nearby store with a bag in one hand.
“Hmm, prowler, bag of loot, darkened store, and… broken lock!” she cried as she dropped down directly on top of the startled man. “I’d say you may have just won the role of most likely to serve time!” She landed nimbly and rolled aside as he tried to run.
Spoiler hurled a few small metal spheres in his path, and he crashed to the sidewalk. Works every time, she thought as she looped a rope around his arms and called the police.
As she glanced down at his face, she frowned. He was gaunt and had heavy stubble on his face. I know this guy! she thought. He works at the cabstand down the street. He blabs all the time. Last time he picked us up, he said he was retiring in a month. Why would he turn criminal?
His eyes were wide and unblinking, and he made no sound at all. “He’s in a trance, or drugged!” she realized.