There were those who joked that there was no such thing as a quiet beach in Miami anymore. Those people just didn’t know when to go to the shore. By 5:30 AM, the sun was high enough in the sky for a luxurious bask in the sun, and during the summer months, the water never dropped below 70 degrees. There was a small but avid group of sunbathers who regularly came to Montrose Beach in the early morning hours. For those who worked in the many businesses that supported the resort city’s tourist trade, it was the only chance they had to enjoy their hometown’s greatest asset.
On a clear, sunny Tuesday morning, one such person was laying in the sun on a folding chaise lounge. A wide-brimmed straw hat kept the sun off her face, while a minuscule deep blue bikini ensured that the rest of her curvaceous body received as much sun as possible. As she turned the page of the latest Danielle Irons novel, a soft beeping came from an open tote bag on the ground next to her. She sighed, closed the book, and stood. She stretched her arms up over her head, stretching her entire body. More than a few eager male eyes turned toward her, some of them already quite familiar with the beautiful ebony-haired woman. She quickly gathered up her belongings and started walking away from the shore toward the parking lot. As she passed close by one young man, she leaned over and said quietly, “Better pull your tongue back in before you get sand on it.” Before he could register the fact that the object of his lust had spoken to him, she was already beyond earshot.
Reaching the parking lot, she quickly found her late-model Mercury, tossed the chaise into the trunk, and pulled on a short, terry cloth robe. She started up the car, pushed the cassette into the stereo and, as the sounds of a string orchestra filled the car’s interior, drove off.
Ten minutes later, she pulled into a space behind a row of beach front shops in one of the more upscale tourist areas. She climbed out of the car and unlocked one of the half-dozen unmarked doors on the back of the building. She stopped in a back room long enough to pull on a lightweight, pale green skirt and to exchange her bikini top for a white camisole and a green-and-white-striped blouse. Giving her long, jet-black hair a quick brushing before a mirror, she moved to the front of the shop. A schoolhouse clock on the wall was just striking nine o’clock when she unlocked the door and turned a hanging sign so that the word Open showed out the front window.
She moved quietly around the shop, humming to herself as she adjusted flower arrangements and gift displays on the tables and shelves. When she heard the door open, she turned, expecting her first customer of the day. Standing there was a tall, broad-shouldered man in brown shorts and a khaki shirt, with a large box balanced on his left hand and shoulder and a clipboard in his right hand.
“Can I help you?” she asked, in a rich alto voice.
“Just a delivery, ma’am,” said the Federated Parcel Service driver, lowering the box to the floor with a flourish. “Just need your signature.”
Taking the clipboard, she signed with a small flourish of the pen. She then handed the clipboard back to him and bent to pick up the box.
“Oh, don’t bother with that, ma’am. Just let me know where you want it, Miss, umm,” he glanced at the clipboard in his hand for the name. “Miss Kyle.”
“Oh, thank you so much,” she replied with a smile. “And please, call me Selina.”
Later that evening, Selina Kyle sat in the small apartment over her flower shop. As she toyed with the idea of calling the number the FPS delivery man had given her that morning, her attention was caught by the mention of a familiar name on a television newscast.
“Rumors have circulated for the past two months that the infamous Joker was involved in the Quraci attacks that destroyed much of the alien landing forces in the Middle East. In the past two weeks, since the return to power of deposed Quraci president Hurrambi Marlo after the death of Qatar Hussein, evidence has come to light that the weapons used in the Quraci attacks were indeed based upon the Joker’s deadly toxins. Since the Joker was last heard from in the United States just over two years ago, some have speculated that he may have been involved in the coup that drove Marlo from office.”
Selina rose from the couch and walked over to the television. Slapping the power button with a snarl, she walked out to the kitchen and started preparing her dinner.
Two years, she thought. Two years since the Joker had been heard from, and almost that long since she had last donned the dress and cowl that marked her as the Catwoman. (*) After her capture by Doctor Psycho and the craziness that ensued, she had completely dropped out of sight for six months. It was not that she was wanted, however — she had served her time and was considered an honest citizen now. Unlike many of her kind, she actually tried to live up to that name. She had traveled the country for a short time before settling in Miami. Investments from an inheritance had paid for the building that housed both her shop and her home, and she had found that she enjoyed living a more ordinary life for once.
[(*) Editor’s note: See Captain Comet’s Rehab Squad: Suicide Mission.]
Her reverie was halted by the sound of breaking glass. She froze, listening for further sounds.
She heard wood scraping on wood. That would be the window at the back of the shop, overlooking the small parking area.
There was sound of metal striking a cement floor, accompanied by more breaking glass. Intruders climbing through the window must have struck the lamp on her desk, knocking it to the floor.
She slipped her shoes off her feet, turned off the lights, and moved to the door that opened on to a spiral staircase. It led down into the back room of the shop. She reached up over the door and took down a memento of her days as the Batman’s favorite femme fatale before opening the door.
Quietly descending the metal spiral staircase from her flat above, Selina peered around the darkened work-room at the back of the flower shop. The door to the shop’s front room was slightly ajar. Moving to it, she spied three men near the counter. One was crouched down and facing the back wall: he had obviously already located the small safe in the wall. The other two were watching the front of the store, expecting any interference to come from the entrance.
Soundlessly, she slipped through the door. When she spoke, all three men jumped. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?” she asked in a soft voice.
“Jesus! Where the hell did she come from?” asked one of them, bringing a pistol to bear on her. “Hold it right there, lady!”
“Pretty nervy, ordering me around in my own shop.” Selina reached for the light switch and flipped it on, narrowing her own eyes to slits as she did so. In the sudden light, the would-be burglars were blinded. Selina leaped, her left leg extended, and caught the closest man across the throat with the edge of her foot. As he sank to his knees gasping for breath, she twisted in midair to bring her right foot around and smack the second man’s head with the top of her extended foot. He was sturdier than she thought and didn’t go down immediately. Thrown off balance, she landed on her right side. Before she could get up, the safecracker was standing over her with his own pistol drawn.
“Damn, this is one fine-looking lady. I think we can have a little fun before we leave, boys.” He started reaching for Selina when he felt a stinging sensation across one side of his neck. He barely heard the crack of the whip as it struck and recoiled. “$#!^!” he cursed, leaping back.
Selina took advantage of the moment to get back to her feet, now openly displaying the cat-o’-nine-tails that she had kept coiled in her left hand until now. “You have one chance to drop the piece,” she growled.
“Yeah, right!” he said, bringing his arm up to point the gun at her. It never got that high, as the whip snaked out and wrapped painfully around his wrist. “Ow!” he cried as he dropped the gun.
As if having a mind of its own, the whip uncoiled and reached out to tag the second crook in the side of the head. The painful stinging as it struck the temple brought him to his knees, and a well-placed foot finished his journey to oblivion. Glancing at the first man she’d struck, who was curled on the floor and breathing shallowly, Selina asked, “Ready to give it up now?”
With a guttural growl, the safecracker leaped at her. Dropping to one knee, Selina bent her right hand back at the wrist, curling the fingers down so the tips touched right where the fingers joined the hand. She drove the hand up into his chin, striking with the ball of the hand. His lower jaw slammed up to meet the rest of his skull, cutting through tongue and lips, and they impacted with a loud crack. His eyes rolled up into his head, and he dropped to the floor.
Ten minutes later, a pair of police cars and an ambulance were parked outside the flower shop. A uniformed officer stood by the door as another gathered evidence of the fight from within. The ambulance attendants were loading the last of the criminals into the ambulance under the watchful eye of a third officer as the fourth sat in the back room with Selina, getting her statement. A brown Chevy pulled up outside, and a man stepped out and strode purposefully inside. The officer at the door stepped aside for him respectfully.
“Miss Kyle? I’m Chief Patterson, Miami P.D.” He offered his hand, which she took for just a second, then let go. Nodding for the other officer to leave the room, Patterson sat down. “Looks like you’ve saved my department some trouble.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“During the past three weeks, there has been a rash of robberies in shops like this, which cater to the tourist trade. They figure the tourist shops must be cash-heavy and all. We hadn’t found anything to lead us to them until now.” Patterson smiled. “Now, we find you’ve wrapped it all up for us.”
“I’d hardly say that, Chief. You still have to link them to the other crimes.”
“Speaking from experience, Miss Kyle?” Selina stiffened in her seat. “Oh, yes, I’m well aware of your past.”
“That was quick.”
“Oh, I didn’t check on you tonight. See, my cousin owns a shop across the street, and whenever somebody new moves into the neighborhood, he asks me to check on them.” Patterson reached into his shirt pocket for a pack of Camels. Seeing Selina’s frown deepen, he left them where they were. “Had quite a talk with Gotham’s police commissioner, in fact.”
Seeing her comfortable life starting to crumble, Selina crossed her arms. “If there is a problem, how come you didn’t approach me before?”
“Did I say there was a problem?” Patterson clasped his hands together on the work table and leaned forward. “Jim Gordon told me that you had done your time, established yourself as a responsible citizen, and even helped out the Batman a few times up there. Now, you’ve taken down a trio to burglars, giving them a bit of pain to discourage them from trying this again, and you’re running my wife’s favorite flower shop on top of it all!” He chuckled. “I wish we had a couple hundred more like you around here, Miss Kyle.”
Astonished, Selina smiled. “I’m afraid I’m one of a kind, Chief. One of a kind.”