Mon, 24 Sep 2001
"Blinky the Tree Frog" blinkythetreefrog@ihug.com.au
Howl [Catwoman, Azrael]

Well, after writing fics about characters that absolutely no one knows about, I've graduated to writing fics about characters that at least most people know about. Woohoo!

As always, feedback is muchly appreciated :-). Enjoy...

Disclaimer: All DC Universe characters are owned by DC Comics, oddly enough. I freely claim that they aren't mine and, since I'm not trying to make money off this, hopefully it'll all be okay.


Howl

Blinky the Tree Frog

 

This is, of course, a very bad idea.

I'm not exactly sure why I'm doing it, either. After all, I'm a criminal, the Bat patrol are most definitely good guys. Helping them should be out of the question, and may possibly get me killed. Ergo, a bad idea. Oh well, at least I can be comforted by the fact that then it's not just for them this little kitty risking her neck. Half of a stolen conversation overheard in a seedy downtown joint has made me want to find out what the heck's going on in this place, so I guess it's also a case of curiosity killed the cat. Isn't it lucky that I've got nine lives?

The place isn't exactly a bastion of security, that's for sure. Easy to disconnect the electronics, and there are guards, but they're quite disgustingly oblivious. Hell, maybe I'm just wasting my time. After all, overheard conversations in bars are hardly concrete sources of information. Some half-drunk patron bragging that he knows someone who's got the key to all of the Batman's secrets hardly means that he's in any real danger. Idiot. Am I that hot and bothered about the Bat that I'll go running off with the slightest provocation just to try and impress him? This is way too much loyalty for a cat.

I'm just about to quit in disgust when there's a chorus of shouts, thumps and general expletives from one of the smaller buildings in the compound. My curiosity wrestles futilely with my disgust and wins out, at least for the moment, and I glide through the shadows to see what's going on. Beating out the guards, most of who are just waking up and wondering what's going on. Pathetic.

I try a small peak in through the window and then a larger one when I realise exactly what it is that I'm seeing. Ouch. Two men in labs coats are lying on the floor, various limbs twisted in ways that look entirely unnatural. Scattered glass and metal from the remains of what looked like some kind of medical lab. And a guy in the middle of it all, tearing the place apart like a miniature hurricane. Shreds on the remains of a costume cling to his body too, and I realise that it's one I know. Azrael. I've worked with him a few times, during my rare moments of semi-heroism. One of the Bat's. And apparently a really bad guy to piss off. Don't recognise the face, though. Pity, but it's one to file away. Now lets see what's going on with him then...

In retrospect, slipping through the window and walking up to the guy was an insanely bad move. Pity that you only tend to appreciate these kinds of things when you're lying on your back with a nutcase trying to shove a 6 inch shard of glass down your throat. I guess I was thrown by his whole "good guy" status. Still, very dumb. I wish I could be very smart in my next move and come up with an amazingly witty phase, but the only thing that springs to mind is:

"You moron! I'm not your enemy!"

That's it Selina, insult the guy who's about to kill you. That'll make him change his mind.

Fortunately though, it does. He stops with the glass two inches from my throat and stares at me as though he has no idea who the hell I am. And his hands are shaking like leaves, and his pupils are dilated, huge blackness filling his eyes. And there are needle marks all down his arm, showing through the shreds of his costume. Oh shit. He's been drugged. He's so out of it he has no idea what's going on and it looks like they've pumped him full of stuff that's acting like two ton's of adrenalin in his system. Nasty.

"...catwoman?"

Recognition. That's good.

"I'm not here to hurt you for god's sake. Will you please just get off!"

He stares at me for a few more seconds, and then the expression on his face just seems to snap back into sanity. He stares in a kind of numb horror at the shard of glass in his hand. Then he throws it in to the corner and throws himself right after it.

I get up gingerly and watch him shake in the corner. A few seconds later his expression twists with rage and he slams his hand two inches into the wall and stares fixedly at the blood seeping from it. Definitely out of it. What the hell am I going to do? More that half of me is saying just to get right out of here. This has nothing to do with *me*.

But...

I can hear the guards outside. If I go now there's either going to be a massacre or they're going to pump him full of tranquillisers and go back to doing whatever they were... Oh hell. "Someone who's got the key to all of the Batman's secrets". They were trying to break him and get out everything that he knows. And he's an ally of the Bat, which mean's that he probably *does* know enough to cause severe problems. And heck, practically speaking I'm going to have a harder job of it if the Bat isn't around - he gets rid of some of the more sadistic thugs that might want to home in on my territory. There, I've come up with a rational reason as to why I'm doing this to benefit me and not just out of the goodness of my heart. I do feel a lot better...


An hour later we're finally out of there and I've dragged him into the nearest bolthole that I can acceptably disregard after this is all over. It's pretty much useless if *he* knows about, after all. He left the complex a bloody mess, broken bodies strewn everywhere. I don't *think* anyone died but I wasn't inclined to stop and check. To busy trying to coerce him into following while trying to avoid getting too close.

He seems to keep snapping back from being fairly coherent to tearing into the nearest thing in a fit of helpless rage. Another reason for finding a place that I can write off as a loss. If he stays here the place will be wrecked by morning and at the moment that's the only thing I can think to do. If I just let him go someone who doesn't deserve it is going to get hurt. There's nothing I can think of that's going to hold him in this state and if I go off to find one of his batty friends there's no guarantee he's going to stay here. I could try ringing, but who? Guess I could try some of the dubious chemical experts I know but how much could they do? I have no idea what those people gave him, all I know is that it must have been one hell of a potent brew to do *this*.

*Arrgh*! I *hate* being backed into a corner, I *hate* not knowing what to do and I especially hate having to do something because my conscience pressures me into it. Damn!

I take another look at him. At the moment, at least, he seems... stable. Curled up on the couch, arms twisted so tightly around his legs he must be almost cutting off the oxygen. Okay, partially stable, anyway. Although he looks like he's going to explode any second.

"How are you feeling?"

His head snaps up and he stares at me with eyes that are far too bright.

"Hello? Is anyone in there?"

The expression on his face twists and becomes almost... harder. He continues to stare.

"Look, I know you're not..."

He explodes from the couch like a bomb going off, and before I can react he's yanked me to within two inches of his face. And then he says, in a voice that is very deep, very dark, and very disturbing:

"I - want - to - hit - something."

I'm not frightened. Not at all. For god's sake, I've been up against Arkham's psychos, this is *nothing*. I'm not frightened. Just think. Something to hit. Okay...

"There's a punching bag next room, it's a gym. Just let go of me you..."

I don't even get to finish the sentence. He's outta there. Two seconds later I hear my punching bag getting more stuffing kicked out of it than it's had in the last year. I give myself a pat on the back for that one. Now hopefully the damn thing will hold out.

For an hour and a half non-stop I watch discreetly while he pummels the hell out of my punching bag. Half an hour in the chain snaps and after an hour the whole thing's been ripped open but this doesn't seem to worry him overly so I wisely don't mention it. He just seems to need something, *anything* to focus his rage on. To hit until it's literally ripped apart. I briefly picture a human being sitting there instead of the bag and then carefully push it out of my mind. Ouch.

I'm just beginning to wonder whether it's safe to run out for take out or something (I hadn't eaten for *hours*, damn it), when he stops. Finally. I watch cautiously as he stands in front of the ruined bag, panting and dripping sweat.

"Okay, so are you feeling better n... "

"GO AWAY!"

He literally screams at the top of his voice and throws himself against the wall, sliding to the floor and curling into himself, his hands thrown desperately over his head. I wince and grab my ears. For gods sake!

"Will you just quit it! Do you want the whole neighbourhood to hear this? If you're that against being here, fine, go. I don't even know what the hell I'm..."

"please... father... just go..."

"...doing and... And you what?"

"I... I keep... seeing..."

Hallucinating. He wasn't even talking to me. Great.

After a few seconds of playing hidey on the floor, he lowers his arms and lifts his head slightly, and his eyes this time look... well... clearer, at least.

"Catwoman?"

I don't move from my perch on a crate across the room. I've learnt enough to not stay near him right now. "That's me. It's still me, in fact."

"...sorry. I ... I'm sorry..."

And then his face twists again and he once more he slams his battered and bloody hands against the wall.

"I HATE THIS!" Only this time, he seems to deflate somewhat, and he collapses back onto the floor in a heap. "I hate this, I hate it.... I don't have any control again... I can't make it stop and I keep *seeing*..."

Okay, at least he seems vaguely lucid. Maybe conversation will help. It'll help *my* nerves, if nothing else.

"Visions of your father?"

He turns and stares blearily at me. "...yes."

"Just out of curiosity, was that why you felt the need to beat the heck out of what was once my punching bag?"

"...yes."

"You must have had a great childhood."

His gaze looks incredulous. Okay, maybe his brain isn't processing sarcasm right now.

"I meant that in an ironic way."

"...oh"

He flinches and stares at something invisible over my left shoulder.

"Look, there's nothing there, okay. Just try to relax and tell yourself that if it shouldn't be there it just needs to be ignored..."

To my extreme surprise, he gives a short burst of laughter.

"What?"

"If you see something that shouldn't be there, try to ignore it."

"That's what I said."

"Sorry, it's just... a friend of mine told me that once too."

"Oh, so having hallucinations isn't an unknown thing for you. How... nice."

He fidgets slightly, and then jumps up and throws a flurry of kicks and punches into the air. After two minutes of this he collapses again and hugs the floor.

I watch silently, and then ask "Too much adrenaline?"

"..yes."

"Oh well, feel free to punch anything that isn't me." More serious, I add. "They must have given you some pretty bad stuff."

"I think... yes."

"So, have you any idea who it was? And why?" Not that I haven't guessed that, but it'd be nice to have it confirmed.

He frowns at me. "I... I don't know whether I should..."

"I'm not asking for any of *his* secrets, okay? But a brief overview of why I'm risking my butt would be nice."

"..."

"Well fine then, just..."

"They were trying to find out... about the Batman."

"I did think that."

"They ambushed me when I... wasn't suspecting. And they had gas. And lots of guys..."

"I've no doubt. They must've had an arsenal to manage to grab hold of *you*."

He looks vaguely proud at this. Compliments. Best way to get people to open up. Not that it isn't true...

"They were led by a guy... he thought... I mean..." He trails off again, and closes his eyes. Maybe I shouldn't press but dammit, I'm curious!

"He thought what?"

His eyes snap open again and there's a trace of the weird hardness in his eyes. But it doesn't last, this time. After only a few seconds he shakes his head, hard, and hisses through clenched teeth "...go away, just go away, I don't want you now I don't need you now and I don't even have the mask on so for god's sake just go!"

"Am I allowed to ask what that was about?"

"I... it was..." he frowns and stammers.

"So who was the guy who had you kidnapped?" Another good way to get information. Ask them something they *really* don't want to answer first.

"His, his name was the Tallyman." He pauses. "Well, I don't know if that was his actual *name*..."

"He'd have to have a pretty weird mother."

A small smile "...yes." And then he frowns again. "He wanted to find the Batman so he could get revenge. He... he thought that the Batman did something to him, a while ago, something bad..."

"Anything in particular?"

He looks miserable "Yes. He... he thought that the Batman had... that he'd carved his symbol. In his chest... With sharp things... he, he..."

"That doesn't sound like the kind of thing that the Batman would do."

"He didn't."

"Well thank goodness."

"It was me."

"...Ah."


I hop off the crate and take several careful steps back. He doesn't seem to notice, just keeps looking despondent and rambles on.

"I didn't mean to. I just... it was worse than now... I couldn't... I just felt like a puppet... like I was on the outside looking in while the system just... just made me..." he shakes his head and trails off.

Okay, previous hallucinations and now he's confessing to carving bat symbols into people. I think I can officially class this guy as a loon. Which makes me wonder why the hell Batman would...

Wait a second. Bat symbols? Why would he...? Unless...

Oh, you've got to be kidding me. There's no way he could be...

But still, there's no harm in asking, is there? After all, the most he can do is flip out completely and tear me apart. Sure, no problem.

I watch as he pulls himself to his feet and goes through another demented martial arts routine. Then it's back to hugging the floor.

Definitely too much adrenaline. And possibly too much homicidal mania.

"Still feeling like hell?"

"...yes. I... yes."

Oh, what the heck. "So, can I ask a small unrelated question here? Ought to keep you distracted if nothing else..."

Again the head snaps up, and his eyes narrow in a very disturbing way. "It depends."

"Still cagey about revealing too much about the big boss? You are a good little soldier."

The expression on his face is not one of amusement.

"But you're not exactly the most stable guy on the block, are you?"

Silence. His face is absolutely emotionless and focused steadily on me. It's... distinctly creepy.

"Did he know that when he asked you to take over for him two years ago? That was you, wasn't it?"

I'm actually really curious to see what his response is to that, so it comes as a bit of a disappointment to me that he doesn't get to reply. It's at this point, you see, that the wall behind him explodes.

"Fuck!" I really wasn't expecting that. I snap into "survival mode" and throw myself into the nearest shadow. Harder for the bad guys to hit you if they can't see you. Damn it all! Who the hell is this and how did you find us? I was keeping an eye out for tails and I'm not an amateur! Some kind of tracking device? Or just a guy who's really good at following old trails? Damn, damn, fuck!

Safely hidden in the shadows at the edge of the gym, I look towards the jagged gap in my warehouse and assess the situation. There's a gaping hole in the wall on the seawards side, giving us a nice view of the docks. Looks like explosives of some sort, maybe someone tossed a grenade down the side. Azrael's covered in dust and small bits of rubble, but he looks okay. Heck, to be honest he looks better than he was before. Alert, focused and looking towards the source of the disturbance. It's hard for me to tell that this is the same guy who was curled on the floor whimpering thirty seconds ago. Weird.

The dust settles and...there's nothing. No triumphant bad guy striding through the rubble, no team of crack troops appearing with guns blazing. Which can only mean that this was meant as some kind of...

"I recommend that the both of you keep absolutely still. These guns may look small and inoffensive, but I assure you they pack a punch that you won't survive."

...distraction. It was a distraction; the guy set the explosives and then went around the back way. And I fell for it! Idiot, idiot!

"Slowly turn around and put your hands up. Both of you! And get out of the shadows, kitty-cat, I want to see you properly."

My mind races, but right now the only thing I can think to do is bide my time. The guy's tone is that of a professional and he's watching me like a hawk. I could run for better cover but...

Not worth the risk. Reluctantly, I put my hands up and step forward. At least I can get a good look at the attacker now. He's an odd one, decked out like a guy from Victorian London with a mask that looks like it came from a masquerade ball. I don't recognise him.

But Azrael does.

"The Tallyman!" The voice has gone deep and scary again. Standing in the rubble, perfectly still, he hasn't put up his arms and doesn't look like he's inclined to. Great. Just great.

"You know my name, how gratifying. Now put them up!"

"Azrael does not obey criminals."

Third person? Why the hell is he talking in the third person? Good grief, this guy is a lunatic.

"You think so? Well right now I think that Azrael would do well to remember who has the upper hand here. You're not dealing with my incompetent goons now." His brow creases in annoyance. "I should never have left your interrogation in their hands. Something was bound to go wrong."

"They attempted to harm me. They paid for that transgression."

"That doesn't matter. I'm an assassin; I work better alone anyway. I don't know why I even hired them."

"You knew that you could not take me down alone. You are weak."

Tallyman's eyes narrow. "Considering your position, I don't think you can make any comments."

"Weak and cowardly! Hiding behind a gun. That will not save you."

Ho boy. I think it's time for me to butt in now, before sweet little Azrael manages to tick off this guy enough to make him shoot. Because quite frankly, I'm the most disposable one here and I'm not at all thrilled with that idea.

"Excuse me, Tallyman, is it?"

"The Tallyman."

"So sorry. The Tallyman. You want to give me some kind of clue as to why you've busted into my building and threatened to shoot me?"

"You know why! I want him."

"Well, fine, whatever. Take him. Just leave me out of this!"

He looks somewhat surprised at this. "You went to all that trouble to rescue him and now you're willing to let him go?"

That's it, pay attention to me. Azrael dearest is wound up like a spring; he's going to try to pounce sooner or later. I think we've both got a better chance of living if he catches you by surprise.

"I rescued him because there wasn't much risk to it. Your "incompetent goons" live up to their names. I'm not willing to take a gun shot for him, though. Take the bastard, and let me walk away. I won't stop you, and if you kill me you'll have a whole bunch of my allies to deal with. It's not worth the headache."

Yeah, like there's a crowd of people willing to avenge my death. A little white lie here and there never hurt anyone, however...

He looks like he's considering it. He also looks like he's let his attention stray. Now if I can get the Angel to take advantage of that...

"I'm not sure if you..."

And he doesn't get any further, as the Angel swoops in for the kill. The Tallyman roars with rage and fires with both guns, but I'm already dodging behind the nearest piece of junk, and in any case, his aim is thrown wild when Azrael lands on him from a ten-metre long jump. Good one, Choirboy. Go get him.

I'm not a coward, but I do think these guys are perfectly capable of sorting things out for themselves. It's not like it's my fight, for heaven's sake. And if the Tallyman isn't quite professional enough to deal with what he's stirred up, then that's just too damn bad. I dodge from shadow to shadow and then dive into the other room and wait for the sounds of combat to stop.

I have to say, this is turning into one hell of a night.


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