1/6/17

A Game of Bat and Mouse

Still from Batman: The Animated Series
episode - "Almost Got 'Im"
One of my 2017 resolutions was to write for fun more often. So at least twice a month, I'll post FanFiction Fridays here on my blog. 

I posted a poll on Twitter asking what my followers wanted to read first, and Batman was the clear winner. (Naturally, I had to throw some Catwoman in there too.) 

I wrote this quickly over the course of the week, which is a pretty fast turnaround. So I'm sure I'll be revisiting it to make a few edits here and there. I was surprised at how thought and conversation-heavy it turned out. Once a film noir girl, always a film noir girl, I guess. I think my superhero name would be Inner Monologue Girl.


“You know, bats are basically just puppies with wings.” Catwoman said as she feigned mock fear. The kind you might see on the cover of an old pulp novel.

Batman stood two feet in front of her on the rooftop corner of a historic building. Like so many other parts of Gotham, it had been recently repurposed into condos. The crime rate alone made it impossible to truly gentrify Gotham, but that wasn’t going to stop the developers from trying. This entire neighborhood was a playground of construction walls and scaffolding.

He waited there for minutes before she climbed to the roof, suppressing the instinct to lend her a hand as she crested the stonework. She wasn’t surprised to see him. She never was.

“Hand it over,” he said.  He placed his open palm directly in front of her face.

She smiled and calmly pushed his palm away. “Slow night? No boy scouts need saving?” She cocked her head to the side and widened her eyes.

“Return it. Now.”

She usually gave him the jewelry if he caught her. It gave her the chance to escape. Or so she thought. 

The truth is, he didn’t care to give chase. Catwoman wasn’t a danger to civilians. She’d even proved helpful a few times in the past. Batman was content to ignore her as often as possible, except on nights like tonight when he stumbled on a crime in progress. 

Nights like tonight were becoming more frequent. Maybe she was losing her touch. It was early. Not even 2:00am. He hadn’t done enough surveillance to know for sure that all was quiet on the Gotham front. He needed to move along. Quickly.

He never allowed himself the luxury of thinking about her. Here was a person who matched him in his every obscurity, and she was a small-time crook. It disappointed him. He admired her, but he didn’t respect her. His train of thought only ran for two, maybe three seconds. It was long enough for her to notice.

“Now what could possibly distract the bat?” 

He shifted his gaze to avoid hers. This is precisely why he couldn’t indulge the walking brain fog that was Catwoman. “Give me what you stole and I’ll let you go,” his tone was angrier this time.

She took a step forward, feigning contrition. “I’m really sorry.” It was too saccharine to be genuine. 

He was out of patience. “Don’t be sorry, be done. This is your last warning,” he jutted his hand out again.

“No, I'm sorry about this.” She took a slight step to the left and disappeared off the ledge of the building. Batman rolled his eyes and took a deep breath. He looked over the edge. She was already halfway around the corner of the building. He took another step forward to peer over the other side, expecting to find her climbing around, but there was nothing.

He heard the slight squeak of metal. She was carefully descending the downspout on the corner of the building. She stopped mid-slide, pushed against the building with all her strength, broke the hardware loose and hung on as it began to slowly tear from the building. She turned one-hundred and eighty degrees, holding on like a pole vaulter on a descent. She used her whip to snare the fire escape on the building across the street. She swung over, dangled for a few moments, then climbed. They faced each other again from this new distance.

“Sorry about the property damage,” she smiled.

“There’s nowhere else to go. Up or down, I’ll catch you.”

“You’ve been following too many goons, assuming I’ll be as lazy as they are. You’re losing your creativity. These old buildings have so many doors and windows. So many fire escapes and maintenance hatches.”

“Maintenance hatches?” He genuinely had no idea what she was talking about.

She took a step backwards and thrust her elbow hard into the window pane behind her. It shattered easily. “You know, those little doors that flip open to the roof.” She reached in to unlock the window.

“That’s not what they’re called.”

“Semantics. You’re missing the point.”

“Which is?”

She quickly slid the window open and disappeared into the darkness. Batman surveyed the skyline from where he stood. Everything seemed quiet. Did he continue on his surveillance route and sacrifice his pride, letting her think she won?

It took him twelve irritating minutes to track where she eventually exited the honeycomb of a building. By that time, she was minutes ahead of him. This was no longer an inconvenience; she could’ve endangered someone. His adrenaline was rushing. The hunt was officially on.

~~~

Selina took a long stretch and exaggerated yawn, adding unnecessary sound to make herself laugh. She grabbed her cell phone and checked the time. 2:47pm. That’s about right. It almost put her at nine hours. Ten was preferable, but for some odd reason, she felt refreshed. She stood up and walked into the kitchen.

“Hi, Ethel,” she cooed to her tabby as it curled around her calves. The cat asked for a scratch on the head by nudging Selina’s shin, looking up at her with big watery eyes. Selina acquiesced. Cats were so clear. If humans would stop anthropomorphizing them to represent their own negativity and fears of inadequacy and learn to speak the very clear language of felines, the world would be a better place.

The cat gave a long, slow blink, turned and walked to her food bowl. Selina poured herself a tall drink of cold water. Speaking of which, she wondered how Batsy was feeling this morning after his little brush with coma last night.

She hopped up on the counter, brought the glass to her lips and drank, kicking her feet a little bit as they dangled. The way a kid might. She closed her eyes and listened to the distant sounds of traffic far below her apartment on the 33rd floor. She smiled. Aside from the pleasant sound of Ethel purring and the usual white noise from the busy streets, all was quiet. Not even the tick of a clock.

Last night, she was climbing away from an easy grab. Some hipsters in a new condo who didn’t know Gotham had been consistently leaving their windows unlocked. They thought what everybody thought, that if your window wasn’t near a fire escape and you were several stories off the ground, your belongings were safe. She was doing them a favor, letting them know they needed to upgrade their security. She made sure to choose something valuable to take, a precious family heirloom no doubt. The loss needed to hurt for them to take it seriously.

She wondered if she had been subconsciously sloppy on purpose as she was leaving. She left the lights on in their place as she climbed out the window. Back when she started, the thrill of constant danger was enough to keep her adrenaline pumping. Now she was so certain of her own safety and success on each job that she was honestly getting bored.

She’d done all the shopping and taken all the vacations a girl could want. She owned her apartment, and a few others in far away places. She had several savings accounts stacked fat, some under different names, some offshore. The thrill was gone. It was time to quit while the quitting was good. Whatever that meant.

She could become one of those ironic Gucci-clad charity shills. Coordinating dinners for wildlife and orphans. She would’ve been good at it too. Proud of herself, even. But she wouldn’t have felt alive. Not like she did now. Not like when the bat caught up to her and she had to face the legitimate challenge of imminent capture.

During their more recent run-ins, she wondered if he was toying with her. But his growls of frustration as she evaded capture told her otherwise. She was too fast for him. He was getting too accustomed to dealing with the influx of hapless barbarians that arrived with the wave of here-today, gone-tomorrow start-ups and consulting firms.

If she hadn't been there last night when that chunk of concrete came crashing down on him...she didn't feel like thinking about it. Of course, it was technically her fault that he may have to change his name to Captain Head Wound. But she didn't do it on purpose. Maybe it was good for both of them that the cityscape was changing sho quickly.

She was his training now that Gotham was getting dumber by the minute. She kept him in shape. He needed her. And as long as he was stopping real crime, she figured keeping Batman on his toes was the greatest public service she could offer to the city she loved.

Besides, she still had one goal left. She suspected, no, she knew he loved being the bat. She was never sure why he pretended to be so dour. If he was really the patron saint of Gotham, he’d be running a homeless shelter, not doling out vigilante justice.

These little practice runs wouldn’t last forever. They were a phase and she knew it. Something to stave off boredom until the next narcissist in a suit or clown makeup decided to make some elaborate play for control of the mob or the shipping district, or, or, or…

She could wake up tomorrow and decide she was done. She could pack a bag, put Ethel in a carrier and be on the next plane to anywhere she wanted. But not until she caught him smiling. Just once.

~~~

Bruce awoke to the pounding of his own heartbeat resonating in his skull. He wasn’t the type to whine or even call for assistance, so he sat up, gently opening his eyes. The curtains were still drawn. Good man, Alfred.

Instinctively, he looked to his bedside table. A tall glass of water, a glass of green juice with a long silver spoon and a cup of coffee were waiting for him. Oh, and three small pills. Very good man.

Bruce downed the water and took the pills with his juice. Then he leaned back on his headboard, closing his eyes again. Mental discipline was important. One can’t take the morning off just because one is mildly concussed. He began mentally reviewing the events of last night.

First, he was tracking her. Then he was chasing her. He was stronger, no doubt. But his size forced him to take the long way around the tight spaces she tended to favor. It frustrated him how easily she could slip away.  Which is exactly what she had done, once again.

He tracked her to a construction site. She was standing there, almost as if she was waiting on him. She ran underneath some scaffolding. He followed. Tonight was too much. He needed to bring her in. The public menace routine was getting old.

She disappeared after exiting into a clearing. He followed. Then…nothing. She must’ve struck him on the head. How could he have been so sloppy? Alfred must have come for him, but how could he have known? And where was she? Another sharp spike of pain, like someone had stabbed him in the jaw with a pencil.


That’s enough for now. Time to let the body do the work of healing itself. He put head back to pillow. He wasn’t sure if the image of her standing over him and looking concerned was the beginning of a dream or the end of a memory from last night. Either way, he was too tired and too injured to fight it. 

As he drifted off to sleep, he smiled.

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