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Batman, Book One

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Batman: The Hidden Cat!

The yacht sat in the sea outside Gotham Harbour, fat and happy. It’s guests, with three exceptions, had no idea what was about to transpire.

One of those select figures was the teenage Dick Grayson, Bruce Wayne’s youthful ward. He wore a powder-blue tuxedo with a white button-up shirt and black bowtie, masquerading as a steward aboard the luxury ship. Dick had a round, boyish face; black, curly hair; and small dark eyes. He carried in his hands a silver tray loaded with drinks.

Dick scanned the crowd, paying careful attention to the wealthy patrons. The yacht was registered to one Mrs. Travers, one of Gotham’s elite. She’d driven the yacht out to sea for what was ostensibly her birthday party.

The problem Dick and Bruce faced was that Bruce, in his costumed identity as Batman, linked Mrs. Travers to an international jewellery smuggling ring. Every so often, Mrs. Travers would go out on her yacht with her precious jewels and come back, laden with cash. Bruce couldn’t prove that she’d swapped the jewels for fakes and a load of cash; the ones Mrs. Travers wore looked real enough. But on their last trip to Europe, Bruce had found a pearl necklace identical to one Mrs. Travers usually wore. It made Bruce suspicious, and what made Bruce suspicious Batman and Robin investigated.

Not that corrupt among Gotham’s elite surprised Dick Grayson. The mobster Tony Zucco had murdered his parents, after all, after old man Haley had refused Zucco’s offer of protection for his circus. And it was Zucco’s friends and family among the upper crust, like Carmine Falcone, that made sure Zucco got off scott free. Until Batman and Robin caught up with hi.

It was that double murder that orphaned Dick and left him under the care of the infamous Batman, not that Dick was complaining too much. He’d found Zucco and put him behind bars shortly after becoming Robin. And now was his chance to further the war on crime and corruption; to make sure no other child suffered as he did.

Dick Grayson scanned the crowd again. There, towards the stern, stood Mrs. Travers and two others. Dick walked over to them to listen in.

“Ah, Denny, my favourite nephew! Where have you been?” Mrs. Travers said to the man beside her. Mrs. Travers was a plump woman with a round face, white hair, pink skin and a short, pointed nose. She wore a green dress with a purple cape and a gold laurel wreath in her hair.

Denny, for his part, was tall and lean and bony. He wore a tan tuxedo jacket over a white shirt and bowtie and dark pants. Next to him was an old woman with grey hair in a blue blouse and skirt with a checkered blanket draped over her shoulders.

Denny said: “Hello, Aunt Martha. I want you to meet Ms. Peggs. She’s a guest of mine. I hope you don’t mind me bringing her aboard.”

“Nonsense!” Mrs. Travers said, shaking the other old woman by the hand. “Glad to have Ms. Peggs aboard.”

“Thank you,” Ms. Peggs said. “Ever since I sprained my ankle Denny has been escorting me about. A fine boy, your nephew, a fine boy.”

“Would the ladies or the gentleman care for a drink?” Dick said once he’d reached the party.

“Certainly,” Denny said, grabbing a champagne glass off the tray.

“I don’t suppose there’s a ginger ale on that tray, is there, son?” Ms. Peggs asked.

“No,” Dick said. “But I can get the lady one, if she’d like.”

“Oh, thank you,” Ms. Peggs said.

“One for me as well, boy,” Mrs. Travers said. “Well what are you waiting for? Get it too it, boy!”

Dick Grayson left to get the drinks, but not before overhearing Denny and Ms. Peggs call out Mrs. Travers for her treatment of him. Smirking, Dick reached the bar where a young redheaded man with freckles, pale skin and brown eyes was working.

“Travers take a strip off you again, Rick?” the man said, using Dick’s undercover alias.

“Ah, she’s nothing to worry about Charlie,” Dick answered. “Besides, her nephew stood up for me. He seems nice enough, escorting that old lady around.”

“Denny? He’s a rat,” Charlie said. “He’s probably hanging around to get some dough out of her. He’s always hitting his aunt up for money. They all do,” Charlie added, pointing back to the party Dick had just left. Somebody else had joined them, a fat man with black hair in a blue tuxedo. “See that guy who just walked over? That’s Travers doctor, Wallace. He gambles away all his money, then borrows from Travers. I tell you Rick, most people use Travers like she’s some kind of piggy bank. And her family’s the worst.”

“No wonder she’s so cranky all the time,” Dick said. “How do you know so much, Charlie?”

Charlie shrugged. “I’ve been working for Travers for a while,” he said. “You pick up things when the boss likes to think of you as invisible.”

Ain’t that the truth, Dick thought. Out loud, he said: “Right now, I just want to pick up two ginger ales.”

“You got it,” Charlie said, reaching under the bar for the sodas. “You doing anything after shift?” Charlie asked.

“That depends,” Dick said. “Have you called your boyfriend yet?”

Charlie scowled. “You aren’t my keeper, Rick,” he said.

“You’re right,” Dick agreed. Nor did he mind the attention from Charlie. Dick was handsome, even for a teenager, and he knew it. And he had a weakness for redheads, man or woman. But he was here on a job. And… “I’m just a guy with a desperate need not to get involved in a domestic dispute, if you know what I mean.”

“Yeah, I suppose,” Charlie sighed as he poured the ginger ales into a pair of glasses and placed them on Dick’s tray. “Okay, Rick. You win. I’ll call him and sort things out.”

“Good,” Dick said and carried the tray back to the waiting guests.

Charlie had called it. By the time Dick reached Mrs. Travers and company, Travers and her doctor were both white with anger.

"You selfish, greedy old miser!" Wallace shouted, spittle flying from his mouth.

"I've been called worse by better people," Travers responded, arching an eyebrow and standing firm against her doctor. Her stock went up a little Dick's book. "You should stick to doctoring, Wallace. You're obviously not good at anything else."

"I've done everything for you!" Wallace screamed, jabbing his finger at Travers. "I've put my career on the line for you time and time again, and this is how you repay me!"

"I am not a bank, Wallace!" Travers snapped. "Not that any of them will help you any more. What is it you owe them? Fifteen million to the First National? Another fifteen to O'Neil and Sons? No, Wallace. You are cut off."

"Your drink, madam," Dick said, slipping in behind Wallace with his tray. A mistake on Dick's part, for Wallace swept his hand back over the tray, spilling the glasses and breaking one. Dick flinched from the shattered glass, but not quick enough: a shard cut him on the cheek. In doing so, he almost dropped the tray he was carrying.

"Look what you did, boy!" Travers fumed, pointing at the spilled drinks. "You had better be able to pay for all that! The uniform, too!"

"Oh, hush, Travers!" Miss Peggs spoke up. "It was your doctor that spilled the drinks, not this poor boy."

"Miss Peggs, if you were not my nephew's guest, I'd..." Mrs. Travers began, but Miss Peggs cut her off.

"...throw me overboard, I'm sure," the old woman said with a dismissive wave of her hand. "I'm too old to worry about such things. And you, Travers, are too old to treat your staff this way. Come here, son. Let's see if we can't get you cleaned up."

Dick dutifully followed Miss Peggs away from the group.

She sure moves well for someone with a sprained ankle, Dick thought. As an acrobat and crime-fighter, he knew how debilitating even a small injury like that could be. But Miss Peggs didn't seem to have much issue with it.

"Come closer," she said once the two of them were far enough away. "I'm sorry you got caught up in all that. High society isn't what it was in my day." She took out a handkerchief and mopped up the blood and ginger ale.

"It's all right, ma'am," Dick said as she cleaned him off. "I should have waited until Mrs. Travers finished her discussion with Doctor Wallace."

"You would have been here until tomorrow if you had," Miss Peggs said as she finished wiping off the blood and champagne. Then she reached into her purse and grabbed a band-aid.

"Hold still," she said as she prepped the bandage and made to put it on Dick's face. Dick obliged her. "What's your name, son?" she asked.

"Richard," Dick said. "Though I usually go by Rick."

"A pleasure to meet you, Rick," the old woman said. "Now you be careful. And stay out of Mrs. Travers way. She's in a foul mood tonight." Miss Peggs walked back towards the group, and again Dick was struck by how well she moved for someone with a sprained ankle.

There's more going on here than Bruce and I thought, Dick mused as he made his way to the laundry room on the lower deck to change into a different tux. I'll have to keep my eyes open!

 

 

***

 

A little while later, Dick was off shift and heading down to the crew quarters. He yawned and stretched. Waiting on people wasn’t any worse than the stuff he did with Batman regularly,  but it was still exhausting. His feet were stiff and sore from walking all day, and he fancied a nap.

While he was passing one of the passenger cabins, Dick heard a quarrel.

“No! I won’t lend you a cent Roger, and that’s final!” Mrs. Travers said, shouting loudly enough any passerby could hear her.

“Dammit Martha! I need it to cover my losses in the stock market!” Another voice said, one Dick didn’t recognize. Dick snuck over to the cabin window, peering over the windowsill to see Mrs. Travers arguing with a white-haired man in a blue tuxedo.

“Just because you’re my brother doesn’t mean I must finance all of your stupid plunges in the stock market!” Mrs. Travers countered, jabbing her finger at her brother.

"I'll be ruined!" Roger said, raising up his arms and bringing them back down again. "And you'll be the cause of it all! I'll get that money somehow, someway!"

That's a threat if I've ever heard one, Dick thought from his hiding place beside the window. Roger stormed out of the room. Mrs. Travers turned to a safe hidden in the far corner, opened in, and placed something inside.

If teens could gamble, then I'd bet that's where she's hiding the jewels, Dick thought. If it was my rocks, I'd put them in the ship safe with the captain. But maybe Travers doesn't trust her captain? For all I know he's after her money too! I'll have to come back and check that safe later. Maybe it'll have a clue how Mrs. Travers intends to offload the jewels.

Dick snuck away from the window, careful to stay crouched until he was sure Mrs. Travers couldn't see him. Once he was out of the old woman's sight, Dick straightened up and continued on his way towards the crew quarters.

Only to spy Denny Travers leaning over a guard rail, something in his hands. Dick hid behind a part of the ship's wall and leaned outward to observe the rawboned man.

Now what has he got in his hands I wonder? Dick thought. According to Charlie, Denny's as desperate for his aunt's money as the rest of them. And I did just hear Roger Travers make a thinly vieled threat about his sister's money. Could Denny be planning a theft, too? And if so, does he have an accomplice?

What started out as simple smuggling was getting complicated, fast. If somebody was trying to steal the jewels, then they'd have to be desperate. Or suicidal. Assuming Bruce was right about the smuggling ring, Mrs. Travers paid a cut to the Falcone Crime Family. The Falcone's had suffered a lot of defeats since Batman first appeared on the scene, but they weren't dead yet. And robbing them was a good way to paint a giant target on your back. Though given the arguments he'd overheard that day, Dick believed there were people on this yacht desperate enough to steal from the Falcone's. He just wasn't sure what to do about it.

Denny stood up from the guard rail and threw whatever it was he'd been holding overboard, then left. Dick made to follow him, but was distracted by the discarded object being blown back in his face. It turned to be a crumpled up ball of paper.

Talk about a break, Dick thought as he uncrumpled the piece of paper. It's not often a clue lands right in your face like this. I wonder what Denny's up too?

The note read:

Keep your aunt away from room! Will try then.

Catwoman.

Dick's heart sank like a stone as he read the note. He'd heard about the cat burglar calling herself Catwoman; everybody in Gotham had. She could seemingly get into any vault or safe without leaving a trace behind, and she liked to target people connected with the Falcone's. And according to this note, she was here on the yacht to make another heist. This time for Mrs. Travers jewels.

Because things aren't complicated enough as it is, Dick thought. Now we have a professional cat burglar in the mix! Oh man. Bruce is just going to love this.

Dick snuck into another cranny of the ship and pulled out his cellphone. This was a special phone, with end-to-end encryption better than the military's and a satellite connection generations ahead of anything the public would see built in. Dick liked to call it a 'Bat-phone', which got him a scowl from Bruce.

"Redbreast to Flying Fox," Dick whispered into the phone. "Redbreast to Flying Fox. Come in, Flying Fox."

"This is Flying Fox," Bruce answered. "Report. Where you able to find evidence of a smuggling ring?"

"Not yet," Dick said. "We have a bigger problem. Kitty cat is on the boat and is planning a heist. I repeat, Kitty cat is on the boat and planning a heist."

Bruce was silent for a minute before asking:

"How do you know?"

"I intercepted a message from one of her accomplices," Dick answered, checking around to see if anybody else was there. There wasn't, so he continued:

"Delta Tango threw away a note from Kitty asking to get away his aunt away from her room to steal the jewels. And there may be other accomplices, too. Both Roger Tango and Doctor Whiskey made demands for Mike Tango's money earlier today. Doctor Whiskey made his demand in full view of half a dozen witnesses, too." And got me in trouble with Mrs. Travers, Dick thought, but didn't add that part.

Bruce was silent for a few minutes. Dick assumed he was cross-checking the code names Dick had given him with the guest list they'd acquired. Then Bruce spoke up again.

"Did Delta Tango bring any guests aboard?" he asked.

Dick shrugged, even though Bruce couldn't see the gesture. "Sure," he said. "A sweet old lady by the name of Miss Papa. She has a sprained ankle, but I saw her move pretty good earlier today. Why?"

"There's your prime suspect," Bruce answered. "Intercept her and prevent her from stealing the jewels. I am on my way. I think I know how Travers is smuggling the jewels. I will meet up with you in a couple of hours." Then Bruce hung up. Dick stared at the phone for a few minutes before stuffing it back in his pocket, muttering:

"Gee, thanks Bruce. One lone teenager against a cat burglar whose thwarted the entire GCPD? Why not? It's not like there's anything that can go wrong with that. At all. Uh-huh. Why couldn't I have been adopted by a normal eccentric billionaire instead of a guy who fights crime in his pyjamas?"

Still, all complaining aside, Bruce's deduction made good sense. Assuming Denny Travers hadn't just happened on that note, his most likely accomplice was that old woman he'd been helping get around so much. Which meant it was time for Rick, boy steward, to disappear and Robin, the Boy Wonder, to leap into action!

***

Dick, now dressed in his Robin costume, snuck his way back towards Mrs. Travers room.

Dick had designed the Robin costume himself. It comprised a red bodysuit with gold bars on the front and a yellow R in a black circle; green leggings, sleeves, and gloves; black boots; a yellow utility belt and a black cape with a yellow underside. For a mask, Dick wore a simple domino mask and a black wig. That had been a point of contention between himself and Bruce. Bruce insisted Dick wear a cowl or face mask; Dick complained he couldn't breathe under the mask and any protection offered by such a mask would be useless if he collapsed from the lack of oxygen.

It didn't matter now. What mattered was that Dick got to Mrs. Travers room in time to stop Catwoman from stealing the jewels. He was sure Denny had kept his aunt out of her room; or, if he hadn't, something else about the yacht party had kept the old woman away from her jewels and given Gotham's most infamous cat burglar the perfect opportunity to rob Mrs. Travers' safe and get away scot-free.

If I was being honest with myself, Dick thought, I'd probably vote to let Catwoman keep the jewels. Anybody willing to hurt the Falcone's as consistently as she is can't be all bad. The problem is the Falcone's, once the jewels are gone, will just kill everyone on the yacht to 'make an example' to anybody else who thinks about crossing them. And however slimy, disgusting, selfish and greedy these people may be, they don't deserve to end up in a mass grave somewhere, courtesy of Sofia Gigante! No, I've got to stop Catwoman. The question is... How?

Dick pondered this question all the way to Mrs. Travers quarters and didn't come up with an answer. When he got to the quarters, Dick saw the door was already open. He crept up to the doorjamb and peered into the room.

There in the middle of room between the door and the bed lay a light skinned woman with black hair dressed in a brown suit with a Walther PPK pistol lying just in front of her. Dick assumed the woman was one of Mrs. Travers bodyguards, assigned to guard the safe. From the looks of things, she was unconscious. Which meant Catwoman was already here.

Dick slipped silently into the room to find he was right. There before him was the infamous Catwoman, bent over to search the safe, her heart-shaped derriere filling Dick's view. She wore a grey catsuit with black thigh boots, a yellow belt and black full length gloves. A bullwhip hung from her belt on her left thigh.

"Isn't that the trouble with cats? They're always getting into places they shouldn't be," Dick said. Catwoman paused and drew herself up from the safe, turning towards Dick and giving him a good view of her front. She had perfect tear-drop shaped breasts, and on her face she wore a grey cowl with cat ears that revealed her bright green eyes and her full, pouty lips covered in red lipstick.

Dick shook his head. Yes, she's gorgeous, he thought. But she's still an experienced criminal, Dick. If you're not careful, she'll hand you your ass!

"Well, well. If it isn't the Boy Wonder himself," Catwoman said, her voice a deep contralto. She looked him over with a single bat of her eyelashes, and Dick blushed bright red. "Or should I say Teen Wonder? Still a little young for me, though. Go on, find somebody your own age to play with and leave this to the adults."

"You know lady," Robin said, settling into a fighting stance, "I was almost going to let you go. But then you had to go insult me like that. And if there's one thing I can't stand, it's a condescending adult."

"Oh, so it's going to be like that is it?" Catwoman smirked and unhooked her whip. "Trying to prove yourself a man by taking in little, helpless old me? Such a brute. What are they teaching young gentlemen these days?"

"Okay, that's it," Robin said, matching her smirk. "I've had all I can stands and I can't stands no more!" He charged at her, dodging her retaliatory whip crack. Unfortunately his skirting of the strike left him off target and Catwoman slid nimbly out of the way, causing Dick to crash into the bed. A quick handspring landed him upright on the bed, just in time to avoid another whip strike from Catwoman.

"Oh, you're good little bird. Did the big bad bat teach you all that?" Catwoman asked, whip ready in her hand.

"He sure did," Dick answered, wishing he had his Escrima sticks with him. He and Bruce deemed them too obvious and likely to get Dick caught, but they would have come in handy against that whip. "He taught me a few other things, too. Want to see some of them?" Dick grabbed a pair of smoke pellets from his belt and threw them at Catwoman. Catwoman reacted as quick as lightning, slashing the smoke pellets with her whip and causing them to explode in mid-air.

The smoke pellets served their purpose. Dick launched himself through the air, slamming into Catwoman's chest with a well-placed kick. Catwoman went down hard and Dick sprung off her, using another handspring to kill his momentum and twist around to face Catwoman again. Now he was once again between Catwoman and the door, preventing her escape. Though Dick suspected she wouldn't leave without those precious stones.

Catwoman picked herself up off the floor. "That'll teach me to underestimate a teenager," she said, shaking her head. "You're not half bad, little robin."

"I could say the same about you," Dick said, settling back into his fighting stance. "Though I think I liked you better as Miss Peggs," he said, trying to psych her out.

It didn't work. "I thought I recognized those boyish good looks," Catwoman said, grabbing her whip off the floor and holding it in a ready stance. "You're that young steward Rick, aren't you? Did the Batman send you here all alone, little robin? What kind of man sends a teenager to do his dirty work?"

"I volunteered for this job, lady," Dick responded, but he was nettled by how quickly she'd picked up on his fake identity. He tried to charge her again, but Catwoman was ready for him and used her whip to drive her back.

"A good man doesn't endanger minors, little bird," Catwoman countered. She faked a charge at Dick, who stood his ground and drove her back with a series of punches and kicks. "But maybe the Batman isn't a good man after all. Why are you trying to stop me, little robin, from stealing from these people? You saw what old Mrs. Travers was like, what her greedy grasping hangers on are like. Do they really deserve this money? They'll just use it to get more, to crush more people under their boot heels. Upper-class my left eye! There isn't a single drop of class among the whole scheming lot."

"Lady, you are so right," Robin said, panting. "And if it were up to me, I'd let you rob them blind every day and twice on Sundays. But the Batman and I think Travers is jewellery smuggler for the Falcone's. And if Sofia Gigante finds out her jewellery is gone, she'll massacre everyone on this boat as an example. We can't let that happen."

Catwoman dropped her whip to one side and placed a hand on her hip. "I suppose you're right," she said. "Still, I don't like the idea of Martha Travers walking away with all those beautiful gems. Especially if she's working for the Falcone's."

"Help us bring them in," Dick said, leaning forward, his eyes wide. "Travers and her whole rotten family. We can put them away for good; we have some friends who aren't afraid of the Falcone's."

Catwoman shook her head, her lips twisting into a half-smile. "You're persuasive, little robin," she said. "But..."

Whatever Catwoman was going to say was cut off by the distant sound of gunfire. Both Catwoman and Dick turned towards the sound.

"I think that's your massacre, little robin," Catwoman said.

"Rude of them to start it without me," Dick said. He made to leave the room, but hesitated and turned back towards Catwoman. "Are you coming or not?" he asked.

"Oh all right," Catwoman said, stepping over the unconscious woman. The woman stirred and picked herself up. Catwoman bent down and picked up the Walther, removing its magazine and ejecting the round from the round from the breach. Then she pocketed the magazine and left the gun.

"Stay here," Dick said to the woman.

"We'll be back for you shortly, we promise!" Catwoman said as she and Dick walked through the door. They locked it behind them and ran towards the gunfire.

***

 

Around the same time as Dick was off chasing Catwoman, a skiff approached Mrs. Travers yacht. The skiff was commanded by a middle-aged man with a beer belly, salt-and-pepper hair and a black beard wearing a thick black knit wool sweater, grey pants, dark socks and rubber boots. He looked down the skiff at his similarly dressed crew and said:

"All right people. I know you've made this run before, but this time is a little different. Mrs. Travers and her family have become a liability to the bosses, so we're going to take care of them. And by take care of them I mean kill every last motherfucker aboard that yacht and send them overboard. The yacht's in international waters, so it's not like their deaths are ever gonna get to tied to us."

"What are we going to do with the jewellery once we kill everybody?" one the crew asked.

"The same thing we always do," the pirate captain said. "We'll take them to our contact and they'll give us our cut. So if any of you fuckers were wondering, no. We don't get to keep the jewellery. Or the guns. They get thrown overboard along with everybody else. And if we ever do get picked up, the cover story is we robbed the yacht, but everybody was alive when we left. Clear?"

"Clear!" the pirate crew answered.

"Good," the captain said, and turned back towards the front of the skiff. The skiff's pilot maneuvered the pirates through the calm seas and up to the awaiting yacht. The skiff's crew didn't have to hail the yacht; they were expected after all. A rope ladder dropped down from the side for the pirates, and they climbed aboard the ship.

Meeting them at the top of the ladder was the yacht's captain. The yacht captain stood in his blue uniform with his hands clasped behind his back, offering no help to the pirates as they clambered aboard the yacht. Once he was onboard, the pirate captain greeted the yacht captain by saying:

"Mornin' captain. Permission to come aboard?"

"Granted," the yacht captain said. "Mrs. Travers is expecting you. If you will follow me, please?" The yacht captain turned towards the front of the yacht and headed to the bow. The pirate captain walked beside him, engaging the other captain in meaningless small talk to hide the guns the pirates were bringing aboard.

The two captains reached the front deck where Mrs. Travers and her guests milled about. Upon seeing the pirates, Mrs. Travers clinked her glass for attention.

"Attention everyone, attention! Our guests are here. You all know the real reason for this trip, so collect those gaudy baubles and hand them over. You will be compensated afterwards."

The yacht's guests assembled and pulled off their jewellery to dump into the waiting sacks held by the pirates. Some of the jewellery were indeed the gaudy baubles Mrs. Travers claimed they were; bought or stolen with the intent of selling them for more than their market value to make obscene profits. Others, like Doctor Wallace's pocket-watch or Roger Traver's cufflinks were both subtler and of greater sentimental value. But even they went in the sack, deposited by desperate men driven by a combination of their own greed, poor decisions, and Martha Travers ruthlessness. The old matriarch smiled as she saw her brother's, nephew's and doctor's jewellery go into the sack.

The pirate captain saw Travers smug smile and fought to keep a sneer off his face. He knew the old miser sometimes bought the jewellery he and his men stole off the black market for a fraction of the price its owners paid for it. He had no doubt she planned to do so again.

Well, she can make any plans she wants, the pirate captain thought. It's no skin off my nose. And it's not like she'll live long enough for it to matter, anyway!

Once all the jewellery was gathered, the pirates herded the guests and crew further onto the front deck, so they could kill them and dump the bodies more easily. The guests didn't notice this or didn't care, but some of the sailors did, and fingered hidden knifes and pipes of their own.

"Is that all of the goods?" the pirate captain asked, scanning the crowd.

"There are some other trinkets in my safe," Travers said with a dismissive wave of her hand. "I have a private investigator standing guard over them. You cannot trust this group of thieves and moochers! I will signal her now."

"Don't bother," the pirate captain said. His men had finished handing out the guns and were arrayed around the guests and crew. The pirate captain drew his own pistol and pointed it at Mrs. Travers.

"What is the meaning of this?" Travers demanded, her eyes wide.

"You've become a liability," the pirate captain said. "Sorry, Travers. But you got greedy, and you got obvious. The boss is shutting you down. Now. About the crew. Is this all of them?"

"You will never get away with this," Travers said, narrowing her eyes and sticking out her chin. "I will see you hanged as pirates!"

The pirate captain pointed his gun up to the sky and fired. Travers flinched. "Now," the pirate said, returning his gun to its original position, "I'm going to ask again. Is this all of the crew?"

"There's more down below decks, resting," Travers said, pointing to the stern.

"Thank you," the pirate captain said. He gestured to two of his pirates and said: "Go get 'em. If you need help, holler."

"Right," the two pirates said. They turned and marched down the starboard side towards the rear of the ship, only to be hit with a pair of bolas.

"Where the hell did that come from?" one pirate asked. Before any of the pirates could react, three of them were disarmed by sharp metal boomerangs. The pirates looked up to a teenage boy in a red and green costume with a black and yellow cape standing of top the yacht's central tower.

"You know, it's a good thing we intervened," the teenager said. "Otherwise, you guys would have gotten yourselves killed firing at each other in a circle like that. Isn't that right, Catwoman?"

"Couldn't have put it better myself, little bird," the grey-clad cat burglar said as rounded the starboard corner, using her whip to disarm two more pirates.

"Oh shit," one pirate said. "It's Robin!"

"And Catwoman!" another added. "I didn't know they were working together!"

"Who cares?" the pirate captain screamed. "There's only two of them! Kill them and let's get off this boat!" Turning back to Travers, his hand shaking, the pirate captain said:

"I don't know how those costumed freaks found us, and I don't care. It's your fault, and I'll you before I deal with the two of them!" But just then, another one of those metal boomerangs hit the pirate captain in the hand, forcing him to drop his pistol. Mrs. Travers, bully that she was, never missed an opportunity to hit a helpless opponent and slugged the pirate captain in the jaw. The pirate captain spat out blood and retaliated with a headbutt, knocking Travers out. He turned to scan the deck. Catwoman and Robin were routing his men effortlessly and working their way up to him.

"Retreat!" the pirate captain called out. "Everybody to port! We'll blow through the Boy Wonder and get to the skiff!" The pirates heard their captain's call and tried to follow his orders, they were impeded by Travers crew and guests, while Catwoman cleaned up the starboard side. By the time the captain made it to the skiff, it was clear more half his crew weren't coming with him.

"Get us out of here!" the captain said once he landed in the boat. The crew obliged, and the skiff sailed away as fast as it could.

***

 

"... we couldn't stop them all. Sorry, Batman," Dick said over the radio.

"It's all right," Bruce Wayne, known and feared by the criminal underworld as Batman, said from the cabin of the Bat-boat as it raced through the open sea.

Bruce was a wiry man, six-two, with a sharp, pointed chin; slick back black hair; a hawk-like nose; deep-set black eyes; sharp cheekbones and a thin, lipless mouth. He wore a grey unitard with a black silhouette of bat inside a yellow oval and blue-black trunks; blue-black gloves with three scalloped blades along the outer edge; blue-black boots; a yellow utility belt; a blue-black cape with a blue underside that fashioned at the shoulders and blue-black cowl with triangular white lenses and bat ears on top that left his mouth exposed.

"You stopped the pirates from killing anybody, which is the important thing," Bruce continued. "And you stopped Catwoman from stealing Mrs. Travers jewellery. You did good, Robin."

"Yeah, about that," Dick sighed over the radio. "I didn't stop Catwoman, exactly. I kind of convinced her to help stop the pirates. Instead."

"Oh?" Bruce said as he steered the Bat-boat along the computer plotted intercept course for the pirate's skiff. "She probably wants Travers jewellery in exchange for her help. Don't let her out of your sight, Robin."

"I won't," Dick assured him. "Though she didn't ask about the jewellery when I convinced her to help out. Or any other kind of payment. In fact, she seems kind of like us, you know? I think she wants justice."

"Just like Robin Hood, huh?" Bruce said with a half smile. "Don't believe the hype, Robin. Thieves like her always want something. If it's not the jewellery, it'll be something else. Like looking the other way for her next heist."

"If you say so," Dick said. "Anyway, I think you should get here as soon as you can. The guests are getting restless and I don't like the way the sailors are looking at us."

"I'll be there as soon as I can," Bruce assured his adoptive son as the pirates skiff showed up on his targeting computer. "I have something to finish first, then I'll be right there." With that, Bruce shut down the radio and fired the Bat-boats harpoons. The targeting computer, designed by Lucius Fox, calculated the hit perfectly and the twin harpoons pierced the skiff's sides, dragging the other boat in towards Bruce and the Bat-boat.

Bruce unbuckled his seatbelt and left the cabin to stand on the Bat-boat's flat surface. The pirates noticed him.

"Holy Christ, it's Batman!" one pirate said.

"Well don't just stand there! Kill that motherfucker!" the pirate captain screamed.

The pirates readied their guns, but Bruce was ready for them. A quick flick of the wrist sent batarangs flying into the pirates hands, disarming them. A follow up shot from Bruce's grappling pistol snagged one pirate, allowing Bruce to pull the hapless pirate right into Bruce's fist. Then Bruce raced along the harpoon cables and socked another pirate in jaw. She went down for the count.

That leaves eight more, Bruce thought. Their boat is big for pirate craft, but not that big. And Robin and Catwoman already softened this lot up. This should be easy.

Another pirate lunged at Bruce with a metal crowbar while a second charged him, hoping to grab Bruce around the middle. Bruce dodged the crowbar, but couldn't dodge the tackle and went down. The pirate grinned and made to pound Bruce while he was flat on his back. Bruce countered with a headbutt, breaking the pirate's nose and forcing him off Bruce. Bruce slid to his feet just in time to see the crowbar wielding pirate come in from Bruce's right. Bruce grabbed the tackling pirate and threw him into the crowbar pirate's path. Both pirates went down with a heavy thud.

"Get him! Get him!" the pirate captain screamed, jabbing his finger at Bruce. Two female pirates reached into their waistbands and pulled out heavy combat knives. They advanced on Bruce, knives held steady.

Four down, six to go, Bruce thought. When I take these two out, we'll be down to just four. It's a shame the boat isn't quite wide enough for three of them to come after me. Then I could take them out in two waves instead of three.

Bruce reached into his belt and pulled out a capsule he threw at the pirate to his left. The capsule exploded, covering the pirate in sticky foam. The pirate screamed and fell overboard.

"You killed my sister!" the other pirate shouted.

"She'll float," Bruce said. "The question is, will you?" The pirate let out a war-cry and lunged towards Bruce, who stepped out of the way and clothes lined her. The pirate went down with a thud.

"Four of us left, boss," one pirate said, wiping his brow of sweat. "Maybe we should just surrender?"

"Motherfucker!" the pirate captain screamed. "We fucking surrender, we die! If you fuckwits can't kill him yourself, I will!" The pirate captain picked up a knife with his right hand, dropped it, then tried again with his left.

Robin or Catwoman must have injured his right hand trying to disarm him on the yacht, Bruce realized. A good thing, too, because he doesn't seem as coordinated with his left.

As if to prove Bruce right, the pirate captain came in with slow telegraphed strikes that Bruce could easily avoid or bat aside. Two punches to the captain's chest and the captain, too, went down.

Bruce turned to the remaining three and said:

"Seven pirates down, three left. And I haven't broken a sweat. Anyone else want to try?"

The three remaining pirates laid down their weapons and got to their knees, hands on their head. "Just rescue the chick you through overboard, hey?" one pirate said. "Dyin' of hypothermia is not a fun way to go." Without a word, Bruce aimed his grappling pistol and fired once again, snagging the foam covered pirate and dragged her back into the boat.

"That was kind of fun, actually," the pirate said as Bruce placed her awkwardly in the boat, due to the foam covering her arms and legs being too stiff to bend. "The floating in the foam bit. Not anything else we did today."

"Amen," the three remaining pirates agreed.

"What did you want with the Travers jewellery?" Bruce asked, turning to the three remaining pirates.

"We can't tell you," the one who'd called for surrender said. "We'd be dead if the boss ever found out we talked!"

"You mean Falcone?" Bruce said, folding his arms across his chest. The pirates refused to answer. Bruce walked up to one and grabbed him, talking the pirate and wrapping him in rope. Then he walked to the stern of the boat.

"Whoa! What are you doing?" one pirate Bruce didn't grab asked.

"You're pirates, I'm sure you've heard of keelhauling," Bruce said as he lowered the pirate into the sea.

"Whoa, whoa! Okay, okay! We'll tell you!" the pirate said. "We're part of a smuggling outfit, okay? We go to the Travers yacht and pretend to rob the place. Instead we give them cash for their jewels and fakes, usually. This time, though, we were told the old broad had become a liability. So, we were supposed to kill them."

"Who told you to kill Travers and her guests?" Batman demanded, holding the tied-up pirate in one arm while he scowled at the pirates.

"The captain!" the pirate who had spoken up said, trembling as he did so. "Look, I swear that's all I know, okay? He never told us who he took his orders from! I swear I don't know anything else! Please don't keelhaul anybody!"

"You've been most helpful," Bruce said and dropped the tied-up pirate. Bruce then tied-up all the other pirates and went back to the Bat-boat.

He needed to get to Travers yacht, fast.

***

 

Bruce sailed the Bat-boat and its cargo to Travers yacht. Once there, he fired his grappling pistol onto the ship's guardrail and pulled himself up. Then he went forward to the bow of the ship to find Robin. As he turned the corner, he ran straight in the most brilliant pair of green eyes he'd ever seen.

"Oh hi," the person attached to those eyes said. Bruce tore himself away from their hypnotic gaze to see a woman with an hourglass figure dressed in a grey catsuit with a cowl that exposed the bottom half of her face and had cat ears on top. "You must be Batman," she added, her voice low and husky.

"And you must be Catwoman," Bruce said, his voice deepening. His heart pounded in his chest like Gene Krupa on drums.

"I must be," Catwoman said, her eyes locked on his. She stepped in closer; Bruce remained rooted to the spot.

"Robin told me you helped him," Bruce said. He thrust out his chest and stretched his neck, trying to make himself taller. A sea-breeze blew in and Bruce caught her scent on the wind. He licked his lips, trying to taste it.

"Hmm, I do try," Catwoman demurred, looking up at him through her long, fluttering eyelashes. Bruce glanced away, breaking the gaze to get a hold of his emotions. Catwoman stepped in even closer and traced his bat-emblem with her finger. Bruce though his heart would explode. Now she was so close, Bruce could hear she was breathing heavily, too. Her lips parted, and she leaned in close. "In fact, I could probably be persuaded to help again..."

"We're grateful for everything you've done today," Bruce said through stiff lips. He ached to touch her, to hold her. "Name your price." Catwoman jerked away from him, her green eyes hard as emeralds.

"Your bird has better manners than you," she informed him, and stalked away to the front of the ship. Bruce watched her go, hypnotized by the sway of her hips. Before she could disappear around the corner, Catwoman glanced over her shoulder, eyes narrowed.

"Are you coming or not?" she demanded. Bruce hurried to catch up to her, staying just behind both to give her some space and to continue watching her rear.

They reached the bow of the ship where Dick in his Robin costume was dealing with the rest of the tied-up pirates and the guests. Batman breathed a sigh of relief at seeing his young ward. Catwoman had him all twisted around inside; her scent alone kept his heart racing like the cars at the Le Mans. Sweat pooled under his gloves and he couldn't stop licking his lips. Hopefully spending sometime with someone who wasn't Catwoman would clear the cobwebs out of his head.

A woman Bruce recognized as Martha Travers stood there haranguing Robin.

"You worthless young scamp!" she said, jabbing a finger at the boy who rolled his eyes at her antics. "Don't you roll your eyes at me! You let the pirates escape with my jewellery! Why I--"

"Gratitude, it seems, is no longer a disease even of dogs," Bruce said, coming up behind Travers. Travers whirled around to face Bruce, only to back off once she saw him. "Even Carmine Falcone appreciated those who saved his life," he added, something Bruce knew from personal experience.

"And he didn't pick on people younger than him or abuse his servants," Selina added, putting on hand on her hip. "Wow. Talk about being lower than a snake's belly."

"I will not be judged by freaks in costumes," Travers said, drawing herself up to her full height. Her eyes were still wide with fright though. "And we were never in any danger."

"How do you know that?" Batman asked, interrupting Travers. "Could it be because the pirates and you were on the same payroll, both working as jewellery smugglers for Sofia Gigante? If that's what you're thinking, I suggest you reconsider. The pirates had orders to kill you."

Travers glared at him before giving Bruce and company a tight-lipped smile. "I don't know how you figured that out, you flying rodent, but it doesn't matter," she said. "I assume you've taken care of those ruffians already. Once we've taken care of you three, we'll recover the jewellery, sell it and make enough of a profit to smooth over any imagined slights with Sofia. Now get them!" she added to the crowd. The sailors, including the captain, all rushed forward armed with chains and knives. As did Denny Travers. Doctor Wallace and Roger Travers, however, stayed put.

"What are you doing you worthless layabouts!" Travers screamed, swinging her purse in their direction. "Get up and fight!"

"No," Doctor Wallace said, folding his arms across his chest.

"You drove us to sell our heirlooms with your selfishness and greed," Roger added. "We never wanted any part in this. As far as I'm concerned Martha, you made your bed. Now lie in it."

"Why you!" Travers began, but Dick elbowed her in the stomach, followed by an uppercut to the chin. Travers slunk down to the deck, unconscious.

"Sorry," Dick said, not sounding at all apologetic. "But I've been wanting to do that for days."

"Just don't hit women who don't fight first," Catwoman said, unhooking the whip from her belt.

"Yes, mother," Dick said, rolling his eyes. Turning to the mob, he said:

"What's the plan, boss?"

Bruce dug out six smoke grenades from his utility belt, held them between the fingers on each hand and said:

"Hold your breath." Bruce threw the grenades into the crowd, forcing them back.

"I knew I should have worn my goggles today," Catwoman said as she disarmed Denny with a whip strike followed by a lunging punch to the face that sent the gaunt young man sprawling to the ground.

"You can borrow mine," Bruce offered as he disarmed one sailor by breaking his arm and took another out of the fight by kicking in her knee.

"So you aren't as insensitive as you first appear," Catwoman said, landing a straight knee in the stomach of one guest and an elbow in the face of another. Bruce stopped fighting for a moment, distracted by Catwoman's grace and beauty as she mowed through the crew and guests.

"Catwoman, I'm sorry I--" Bruce began, then stopped, unsure of what he should apologize for, only that he should apologize. A guest tried to take advantage of Bruce's distraction, but ended up running into Bruce's backhand instead.

"For what? For implying I was some cheap mercenary?" Catwoman said, delivering a one-two punch to her opponent to her opponent before flipping over another guest and tripping them with her bullwhip. "That I was some common hireling, to be bought and sold with pretty baubles?"

"For all of that," Bruce said, grateful for Catwoman’s articulation of how he had angered her. His momentary distraction gone, Bruce worked his way over to Catwoman by punching his way through a group of crew and guests until he and Catwoman were standing side-by-side. Her scent seemed to rejuvenate him, and just being near the grey-clad feline helped his muscles relax. "Robin tried to tell me what kind of person you are, and I didn't listen. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to offend you."

"It's okay," Catwoman said, breathing heavily. "I guess I overreacted, too. Given my reputation and profession, most people would have made the same assumption." She glanced over her shoulder and flashed Bruce a quick grin. "Still friends?" she asked.

"Uh..." Bruce stammered, surprised by the question. "Sure. Still friends," he added quickly, not wanting to insult Catwoman more.

"Good," Catwoman said, flashing Bruce another quick grin. Bruce felt a pang in his heart from her smile.

"Oy! If you two are done kissing and making up, I could use some help here!" Dick called out. Bruce looked over to where his ward was surrounded by a large group of armed guests and crew. Working together, Bruce and Catwoman cut a swathe through the crowd like a whirlwind through a wheatfield and linked up with Dick. The three of them, now working back-to-back, finished off the rest of the armed and dangerous crew. Then the three of them worked together to tie the yacht to the Bat-boat.

"Can that hydrofoil of yours really haul all this, Batman? Travers yacht isn't exactly small," Catwoman asked as she finished the last of the knots.

"Oh yeah," Dick bragged, putting his arms behind his head. "The Bat-boat has enough power in it to haul three yachts this size, no problem."

"Bat-boat?" Catwoman asked, smiling. "Who named it that?"

"Robin did," Bruce testing the ropes to make sure they were all secure. And to touch something Catwoman had, but he wouldn't admit that to himself.

"That's cause you have no imagination, boss," Dick said, scanning the ocean ahead of them. "Do you want someone in the yacht to drive?" he asked, turning to Bruce.

"Yes," Bruce said, straightening up from the ropes. He grimaced and looked down, away from Catwoman. He didn't want to do this, but he had to. Otherwise, what was his crusade for? "We need to get back to Gotham as soon as possible. And, Catwoman, you will need to answer for your previous crimes. I'll put in a good word with Jim Gordon, he can..."

"Hm, that sounds like fun, honey, but I'm afraid I need to go," Catwoman interrupted. Batman turned around to see Catwoman standing upright on the yacht and a smaller yacht passing beneath them. "That's my ride!" she said and ran towards the edge.

Dick moved to intercept her. Bruce moved to intercept Dick. They ended up crashing into each other while Catwoman escaped onto the other yacht, laughing. The two costumed-crime fighters picked themselves up from the deck.

"Batman, what did you do that for? I could have grabbed her!" Dick said, turning to scowl at his boss.

"It was a split-second decision, Robin. I made the best one I could," Bruce said, folding his arms and looking away from Dick.

Dick narrowed his eyes at Bruce. "You let her go," he accused. "You like her and you let her go."

"I have no idea what you're talking about," Bruce lied. He turned to the yacht's superstructure and began walking. "Come on. With Catwoman gone, you will need to steer Travers yacht."

"You totally let her get away because you like her, and I'm never letting you live it down," Dick said, brushing himself off and following Bruce.

***

Selina Kyle, also known as Catwoman, landed with a roll on the deck of her yacht and moved towards the bridge at the top of the yacht's superstructure. There, inside the cozy little space reading a book, sat Holly Robinson, Selina's own ward and sidekick. Though Holly would object to be called a 'sidekick.' Holly was five-foot three, light skinned with blonde hair in a butch cut, a broken nose, broad shoulders that tapered down to a narrow waist and muscled arms and legs. She wore a blue hoodie with the sleeves cut out, red sweats and red shoes. She smelled of sweat and hard work, so Selina assumed Holly had been working out before the yacht arrived.

"Hi, Selina," Holly said without looking up from her book. "How did the job go?"

"It was fantastic!" Selina exclaimed, taking off her cowl to reveal long curly black hair. Selina shook her hair and plopped herself down on a nearby chair.

"So you got the jewellery?" Holly asked, putting down her book and turning in her chair to regard Selina.

"Um, no," Selina admitted, looking down and away from Holly's gaze. "I left the goods there."

"So your definition of 'fantastic' is some Martian definition where you fail to do what you set out to do?" Holly asked, arching an eyebrow. Selina's ears burned. "Damn it, Selina! It cost us a lot of money to set up that job. Money we aren't going to make back, now!" Holly pointed out.

"We can afford it," Selina said, dismissing Holly's concerns with a wave of her hand, though her ears still burned and her face was now, too. "You aren't on the streets anymore, Holly. You don't have to worry about money every single day of your life."

"Rich people can still become poor people if they spend more than they make," Holly pointed out. The younger woman pulled up her legs, so she was sitting cross-legged in the chair and spun around to make sure she was looking square at Selina. "Okay Selina. What was so 'fantastic' about this job that made leaving behind half a million dollars worth it?" Holly asked.

"I met Batman," Selina said. Even just the memory of him was enough to heat her body up like a blacksmith's forge and start her heart beating like frenzied war drums. A slow smile spread across her face.

"No way," Holly breathed, leaning forward in her chair, eyes wide. "You met Batman? The Batman? What's he like?"

"Amazing," Selina said, stretching her arms out across the chair and sinking further into it. Her smile grew wider, and she panted. "He's got these eyes that burn right through your soul, like some ancient tiger god. And he's gorgeous, Holly. I don't mean like those pretty boys that are so popular these days. I mean a hunk. I mean cut. From marble."

"Okay, I get the picture," Holly said, laughing and putting her arms up to stop Selina from talking anymore. "You like, I get it already. But does he like you? You know, is the feeling mutual?"

"I think it is," Selina said, the smile fading. "He let me go after all. Even bumped into his own sidekick to make sure I escaped!"

"Total betrayal of his own principles," Holly said, nodding. "Yep, definitely a good sign." Selina laughed and threw her cowl at Holly, who dodged it and went back to steering the ship.

Selina kept smiling. She couldn't help it. Every time she thought about Batman, a warm, happy feeling flooded her.

She looked forward to meeting him again.

END CHAPTER