JANUARY 8, 01:19 EST
“Remind me again what it is we’re waiting for?” Bette Kane asked. She was lying on her back, staring up at the sky and twirling her curly blond hair around her index finger.
“You’ll see,” Barbara Gordon replied, watching the streets below through her binoculars.
Several more long minutes passed in silence. Bette was glad it had been a warm day in Boston, because at least it meant she wasn’t lying in the snow. Of course, that also meant she had nothing to do up there on the rooftop, not even make snow angels.
“There. Look. See anything interesting?”
Bette sighed and rolled over onto her stomach, taking the binoculars from Barbara. “Babs, you dirty dog. We drove all the way to Boston to spy on someone having some kind of back alley booty call?”
“Don’t be disgusting,” Barbara said, snatching the binoculars back. “It’s not what they’re doing, it’s who’s doing it. Don’t you recognize the man?”
“Not from this angle, and frankly I’m a little concerned that you do.”
“It’s Floyd Lawton.”
That surprised Bette. She grabbed the binoculars again and peered down at the couple below. “Are you sure? Isn’t he supposed to be in jail?”
“Supposed to be,” Barbara said. “He’s been AWOL for over a week now.” She was grinning broadly as she spoke. Bette was put in mind of a cat that had just caught its prey with a final successful pounce.
“How did you find him?”
“It wasn’t easy,” Barbara said. “But then it dawned on me: cherchez la femme. Come on. We’re not going to catch him much more vulnerable than this.” Before Bette could even get to her feet, Barbara was already on her way down the side of the building.
In the weeks since they had become costumed superheroes, Barbara had become quite the little spider monkey—in a climbing and swinging way, not in a flinging poo way. Bette had silently turned it into a competition. She had the superior gymnastics training. There was no way she was going to let Barbara outstrip her in agility that easily.
Despite starting second, Bette hit the ground half a second before Barbara. She mentally added another point to her own column.
Barbara removed a pair of bolas from her utility belt and helicoptered them over her head to work up momentum. As soon as she released them, Bette sprinted after, using a series of handsprings to build up her own momentum. When the bolas hit Lawton just below the knees, Bette pivoted in midair, grabbing him by the shoulders and pushing him down on top of his paramour.
Bette only had about a split-second to applaud herself on that excellent maneuver when the woman with Lawton pushed him off and got to her feet like nothing had happened. Bette took a fighting stance while Barbara caught up and began to hogtie Lawton.
“You don’t want to do this,” the woman said.
Bette thought she was sort of pretty, in a person-who-would-hook-up-in-an-alley kind of way. She was really tall, and about half of that was leg. Her hair was thick and curled into perfect silky ringlets, but it was snow-white, which didn’t really go very well with her complexion and added unnecessary years to her appearance. Also her weird drapey hooded robe thing did nothing for her figure. But she had a killer beauty mark just under her right eye that she was totally working.
“Lady, I’ve been waiting all day to do this,” Bette told her.
That was when the woman punched her in the stomach and sent her flying back down the alley. If it hadn’t been so painful, Bette would have thought it was very cool and action movie-like. As it was, she hit the ground hard, and she was pretty sure she would be developing bruises in places that would make it hard to sit down comfortably for a while.
The woman didn’t follow up her attack, though, and Bette knew she must have gone after Barbara. So this lady was a lot stronger than they’d been expecting. It was still two on one.
Barbara was focusing mostly on evading and avoiding. Bette couldn’t blame her; getting hit hurt. Then she realized that she was trying to move the woman away from the alley and out into the street—away from Lawton.
Bette knew from previous encounters that Lawton was essentially always armed, usually with hand guns but sometimes with even heavier-duty stuff. She thought Barbara could handle herself for a minute while she disarmed Lawton. A punch hurt, but a bullet to the chest would be a lot worse.
“Hooking up in an alley while you’re supposed to be on the run from the law? Seriously, who does that?” Bette tutted while she patted him down.
“She does,” Lawton growled.
“Classy,” Bette said. Once she was sure Lawton was unarmed, she emptied the three guns of bullets (Barbara had made her learn how to do that before the new year), then chucked the guns as hard as she could. Two of them caught on nearby fire escapes; the third, she was pretty sure, actually made it onto a roof. Bette made a fist to show off her arm muscles, honed through years of gymnastics and tennis, to Lawton. “Now that’s what I call a gun show.”
Someone screamed. It took Bette only a split second to realize it wasn’t Barbara, and a fraction longer for her to realize something was terribly, terribly wrong.
She fell to her knees, clawing at her ears without even realizing it. She wanted to rip her own face off, anything to stop the noise. Behind her eyelids there was the glint of something sharp. She tried to get away, but she knew she wasn’t going to be able to avoid the axe coming at her head.
The scream cut off abruptly, and just as suddenly Bette was aware of her surroundings again. Floyd Lawton was nearby, still tied up but now unconscious. (Had she done that? She didn’t remember knocking him out.)
There was no time to waste wondering. She ran for the street where she found Barbara and the woman—or at least, something that resembled a cross between the woman and a life-size version of the lady who told you to hurry back and be sure to bring your death certificate at the end of the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland. Whatever this woman was, it wasn’t human. Suddenly Bette wished that Lawton had been alone, even if it meant catching him with his pants on. She’d rather face a couple of loaded six-shooters than Night of the Living Dead.
Barbara was on the ground, getting to her feet slowly. She was bleeding from her nose and Bette didn’t have to ask to know she’d taken a hard hit there.
But what really caught Bette’s attention were the two other people in the street with her. One of them looked like a blond teenage girl version of Superman, which was a really weird thought for a few reasons, and the other was dressed in some kind of bumblebee suit. The girl Superman was going hand-to-hand with the creepy undead woman, pummeling her with punches and taking as many in return without flinching. The bee girl was flying around with the help of a pair of wings on her back, shooting what looked like little electric zaps at the woman.
The undead woman opened her mouth to scream, and the piercing sound caused all four girls to stumble. Bette knew immediately she’d been the one to emit that incapacitating noise just a moment ago, because she was starting to see the exact same images.
By the time the noise stopped and Bette recovered, the girl Superman was already on her feet, helping the bee girl up, and the undead woman was gone—along with Lawton.
“She grabbed the guy and got away before I had time to react,” the girl Superman said. Her blond hair was long and straight, which made Bette more than a little jealous; no matter how much product she used on it, her hair always stubbornly stayed at least a little wavy. The other blond’s eyes were a bright electric blue, clear and sharp, and she looked at Bette with the same undisguised curiosity Bette was feeling.
The girl in the bee suit was black, with natural hair tied in two buns on either side of her head. Bette thought it was cute in a middle school kind of way. She had gorgeous pouty lips and heavy-lidded dark eyes, though, and Bette could tell she was a real stunner when not in that dorky costume.
Barbara used one gloved hand to staunch the blood coming out of her nose. “Right. And who are you? Some kind of Superman fangirl?”
“Look who’s talking, Bat-ginger,” the bee girl shot back.
“I’m K—Superman’s cousin,” the blond said quickly. “Are you a friend or relative of the Batman?”
“I hope not,” said the bee girl, folding her arms across her chest. “Batman would’ve cried if he’d seen how bad they just did.”
Bette thought this was more than unfair. Sure they hadn’t done great against the creepy woman, but clearly these other girls hadn’t seen her performance with Lawton in the alley. She’d been smoother than peanut butter. The smooth kind, even.
“Forgive my friend,” Superman’s “cousin” went on. “She hasn’t been having a spectacular day.”
“Neither have we, really,” Bette said amiably, opting to go the debutante route. Her mother would be so disappointed if she allowed the poor attitudes of others to cause her to be impolite. “I’m Flamebird, and this is Batgirl. What do you go by? Supergirl?”
“Supergirl, Batgirl,” the bee repeated. “What is this, the Justice League cheerleading squad?”
Bette could tell by the look in Barbara’s eyes that she was more than a little pissed off, but Barbara wasn’t one for ranting and raving. She just ignored both of these strange girls, turning on her heel and stalking off into the night.
“I better follow her. She’ll walk all the way back to Gotham City otherwise,” Bette said. “It was nice meeting you, Supergirl, uh… Bumblebee girl.” She ran after Barbara without waiting for a response.
“I’m not a bumblebee!” the bee girl shouted after.
“Ba—Batgirl, wait!” Bette called.
But, impossibly, Barbara had vanished. Bette looked up, scanning the rooftops for signs of a shadow moving among them. There was nothing.
Bette got on her Vespa and drove around the back alleys, calling out for Babs. But after several minutes without so much as a sign of anyone else, Bette started to get worried. She tried calling Barbara’s phone, but there was no answer.
Bette tried to shrug it off. Barbara could take care of herself. She probably had left her phone on silent and gone off to have a sulk. Bette would keep trying to call but there was no point in hanging around this area. Still, it seemed pretty rude to drive all the way back to Gotham City alone and leave Babs without a ride. Her parents would never notice if she didn’t come home for the night. Besides, there was a place in town she knew she could crash.