The morning after the attempted robbery, Selina Kyle was once again in her flower shop, rebuilding the displays around the counter that had been knocked over during the brief fight. Shortly after ten, she heard the door open and turned to see who was coming in. Once again, it was the FPS delivery man.
“Oh, hi, Dwayne.” She gestured toward an empty tabletop. “Don’t mind the mess.”
“Wow, what happened in here?” asked the young man as he placed a stack of three boxes on the table.
“I had some visitors last night,” she said by way of explanation.
“A robbery? Sheesh, Selina, why didn’t you call me? I–” He paused as a thought struck him and smiled. “You took them out, didn’t you? Did you use a whip, or do you still have the claws?”
Selina straightened up and put her balled-up fists on her hips. “What the hell is this? Does everybody in this city know who I am, or what?” she asked indignantly.
Dwayne’s smile fell as he back up a step. “Oh, my God, I am so sorry. See, after we were talking yesterday, I thought your name sounded familiar. I went over to the university and tried this new tool they have in the library. It’s called Gopher, and it searches this network set up by the government and a bunch of other colleges. It includes news articles from the past five years of the Daily Planet in Metropolis, and that’s where I found out about you being the Catwoman. I — I hope you don’t mind.”
Relaxing, Selina sat down in one of the wrought-iron chairs that she kept in the shop for customers who wanted to discuss wedding and funeral arrangements. “No, it’s just that Chief Patterson knew who I was, too.” She smiled up at Dwayne. “And just for the record, it was the whip.”
“Cool!” he said in a breathless whisper.
“Now, what’s this about a computer network? I take it you know something about computers?”
“Yeah, I’m studying computer systems at Miami State. This network has been around for a few years, but now they’re talking about businesses hooking up to it as well.”
“I don’t think that would help me any, but I have been thinking about getting a computer for keeping my books here. The thing is, I need someone to teach me how to use the blasted thing.” She cocked her head slightly to one side. “Interested in a little tutoring?”
“Sure, I’m up for it,” he said with a grin.
“That, too,” replied Selina, lowering her eyes.
A week later, Selina and Dwayne were walking across the Miami State campus, having just left the computer science lab. “I’m going to have to cut back my hours with FPS starting in a couple of weeks, because I’ll be taking a full course load.” Dwayne looked around at the campus. “At least I don’t have to live in the dorms. Having the job lets me rent my own place.”
“I’ve never been to college, but I know that I can’t stand living with a bunch of other people.” Selina declined to elaborate on her experience in that area. Still, Dwayne had a good idea of how it was gained.
“Yeah, I can understand that.” They stepped to one side on the path as a group of five or six students passed by, some of them carrying signs. Selina noted that one of them read Remove Castro. Take back Cuba.
“Do they get a lot of protests around here?” she asked, remembering the news footage of antiwar protests from her teen years.
Before Dwayne could answer, the evening air was split by a loud shrieking sound. Selina and Dwayne watched in horror as a glowing beam of energy cut through the girl carrying the sign they had read.
“Holy–!” Dwayne started as he turned to tackle others in the group of students. More beams cut through the air above him as he flattened out over a pair of teenagers.
“Dwayne, keep down!” cried Selina as she crouched low and looked for the source of the energy beams. A pickup truck parked about twenty yards behind them, with an open cap on the back, looked like the likely source. She flattened out and rolled quickly to one side, getting out of the shooter’s line of sight. When she thought she was safe, she jumped to her feet and started running toward the truck.
Dwayne raised his head and looked around. One girl lay dead on the grass. One girl and one boy were sprawled under him. Another young man lay hunched on the ground about ten feet away, apparently holding another girl down who was screaming hysterically. Dwayne was trying to remember if there were, indeed, five or six in the group, when the boy under him yelled out, “Get down, Luis!”
Twisting his head, Dwayne saw Luis standing, frozen with panic. Out of the corner of his eye, he barely noticed Selina bounding up onto the top of a pickup truck parked by the curb as he launched himself at the young Cuban man.
Legs honed by years of leaping across rooftops and climbing walls propelled Selina easily to the top of the truck. She saw another bolt of energy shoot out of the back before she grabbed the edge of the cap and swung herself into the back of the truck. Her feet connected solidly with two bodies, sending them sprawling across the truck bed.
“What the f — urk!” cried one as she grabbed his collar and slammed his head against the side of the truck bed.
“Frank! Get us the hell out of here!” cried the other as he tried to swing an oversized rifle around at his attacker. She dropped to her back and swept the gun aside with one leg as the other kicked up at his face. His skull struck the roof, and he fell forward.
That left the driver. Not wanting to knock him out and risk even a short trip in an out-of-control truck, Selina reached through the open window into the cab and grasped him around the neck, letting her fingernails dig into the soft flesh. “You have exactly one second to hit the brakes before I rip out your jugular. Got it?”
As soon as the truck came to a stop, a precisely placed karate-chop to the neck rendered the driver unconscious. She shoved the other bodies aside and jumped from the back, running back to the group of students and Dwayne.
One of the girls was kneeling over Dwayne, who was sprawled face-down on the grass. She was holding a wadded-up shirt over a gaping hole in his back, trying to staunch the bleeding. As soon as she saw him, Selina knew it was a losing battle. Still, Dwayne managed to turn his head toward her.
“Didja get ’em, Sel–?” He coughed weakly.
“We got them, baby. We got them.” She took his outstretched hand in hers. He started to say something more, but all that came out was a gurgling sound, and the hand slipped from hers.
“Miss Kyle, could I speak to you in my office, please?”
Selina looked up from the bench in a Miami precinct house and saw a familiar face. Chief Scott Patterson waved her into his office and indicated a chair. She sat down, rubbing her eyes for what seemed the thousandth time that night.
“I’ve spoken to the students and other witnesses that were there. Even knowing your background, I’m impressed with the way you took down those punks,” Patterson said as he sat behind the desk.
“It wasn’t fast enough to save Dwayne, though. Damn it, I told him to stay down!”
“Dwayne Cooper wasn’t the type to stay put when there was danger.” The police chief saw her look up at him. “Oh, yeah, I know him. Last month, when the city was being overrun by green goons from outer space, Dwayne was out there in the streets, just like me and my officers. Saved the life of a couple of my men.”
“Is that what you wanted to talk to me about?” she asked.
“No. We found out a little about those guys. They’re part of one of these white supremacy-type groups. Anti-blacks, anti-Cubans, anti-anything that’s not white, Anglo-Saxon, and probably Protestant, to boot.”
“Part of a group. You mean there’s more out there?”
“Quite a few, though their numbers got reduced by three last week.” Comprehension dawned on her face. “That’s right. Your three boys were part of the group, too. Apparently, they were robbing shops and anything else they could find to buy that little toy they were using. One of them said something about a quartermaster. Must be someone in their group that buys their stuff.”
Selina nodded. “Something like that.” Her mind quickly raced back to a time a few years earlier when she heard of someone called the Quartermaster, but she kept it to herself.
“Now, here’s the situation. We’ve got enough information for a warrant, but that’s going to take a few hours. Someone’s got to wake up a judge, and they’re notoriously difficult to convince at one in the morning. This is the part where I’m supposed to tell you to go home, go to bed, and let the police department do their job.” He clasped his hands on his desk and leaned forward. “But I’m not big on doing what I’m supposed to do. Now, I don’t know if you’ve still got that purple dress and them fancy boots, but if you do, now might be a good time to dig them out of mothballs.” His hand slid across the desk with a slip of paper. “‘Cause, quite frankly, I’ve got a wife at home who is scared stiff for her parents, her sisters and brother, and a couple of nephews, so long as these creeps are running around loose.”
“Your wife?” asked Selina, pocketing the slip of paper.
“Consuela Escobar Patterson, born in Cuba, emigrated here in 1958 with her parents.”
“I see. You do realize that what you are doing here goes against everything a law enforcement officer is supposed to do?”
“I haven’t done anything here, Miss Kyle. You were never here, and I’m meeting with the police commissioner at his office downtown right now. Am I clear on that?”
Selina smiled, a wicked glint in her eye. “Perfectly clear, Chief.”
Selina asked the officer driving her home to stop at one place along the way. Thanking whatever powers-that-be that she had chosen a storage site with twenty-four-hour access, she went into a rented storage locker among rows of similar lockers and pulled out a large wardrobe trunk that rolled on its own casters. With the help of the officer, she loaded it into the back seat.
“I understand you had one heck of a day, ma’am,” said the young patrolman. “You sure you should be planning for a trip on top of it all?”
“I’m not taking a trip,” replied Selina. “I just need a few things out of there.”
When she arrived home, she wheeled the trunk into the work-room at the back of the shop. Standing it on one end, she swung it open. Hanging within were a dozen different outfits. One by one, she lifted each one up and looked it over.
“The leotard from my Playboy-bunny stage would suit the weather, but I don’t think so,” she said to herself. Lifting another, she mused, “No, not the green. Looked good, but never seemed right.” The next-to-last outfit was one she had never worn, a deep purple body suit. “If I ever wear that one, young boys will be tripping over their tongues wherever I go.” Picking up the last costume, she smiled. “It always come back to this one, doesn’t it?”
Stripping off the blood-stained shorts and shirt that she had been wearing, Selina reached into a drawer in the trunk and pulled out a pair of silk stockings and rolled them on. She pulled the long, flowing purple dress over her head and let it settle into place. From the back of the trunk, she pulled a pair of over-the-calf leather boots. A deep green and violet cape went over her shoulders, attached to breakaway fasteners on either side of her neck. Finally, the mask; she held it before her for a moment, studying it.
“Is this really the right way to do this?” she asked herself. She reflected briefly on the years during which this mask had been feared by people, a symbol of one of the world’s premier cat burglars, of one of the Batman’s most persistent foes. Then, for a short time, it became a part of her old foe’s war against criminals. Now, it had lain unseen for almost two years, and would return in an act of vengeance.
Vengeance? Or justice?
As she donned the cowl of the Catwoman, her lips curved up in a dangerous smile.