Batman: Ornamental | Issue 6 – Three of a Kind by Drew Van Dyke

Image source: “senoritayahoo”, of Thailand. (Her website is https://www.deviantart.com/senoritayahoo. + @senoritayahoo.)


From this seamless, crystalline beam, the newly remodeled Iceberg Lounge PLUS ripples in after-hour shine; a gaudy chandelier (my intelligence tells me, the gift from Victor Fries that closed a lucrative deal for sole possession of all future cold-themed décor and contracting needs the boss may have).

2:15 a.m.. 

I watch him – Oswald Cobblepot – make the long trek down from his office perch atop the winding, clear-blue staircase. He heads for the cash register up front. Though the current top Gotham mob boss, he still only trusts himself with the club’s daily intake.

Cowardly and superstitious.

And always on time.

When his portly frame reaches the second-to-last step, I cut the lights.

The chandelier breathes in hollow bone chimes. I wait for the crash, and then…

I throw back my cape. 

…Showtime.

*     *     *

{GOTHAM POLICE DEPARTMENT. RESCUE NIGHT.}

“So, let me get this right…”

Gotham Police Commissioner James Gordon took this one, himself. The Ornamentals case had been on his docket since he was first promoted to this post. It was his case – for the last few years, it was his case – they all saw it as his case.

My biggest failure.

No. Our biggest failure – this place. A shadow, like inky wet black; coffee grounds, scattered on the table.

The papers will have a field day with this one: “BANKER WITH BRIO BESTS BOYS IN BLUE”.  Another day, another smear on this goddamned incompetent, corrupt-ass…

“Straight.”

…department.

“What?”

Harleen Quinzel – bald, bloodstained, bruised – leans on both elbows from the plush chair at the corner of his office, then sits back.

“’Let me get this straight,’” she says – throws her hands behind her head; her pretzel-stick arms out like flogging wings. “People say ‘let me get this straight.”

“They say both of those, don’t they?” Gordon says.

“I mostly hear ‘straight,’ I think,” she says. Stretches from side to side.

“Straight, then,” Gordon says, and he grins back at her. He sits down in his chair; it rolls a bit, lost from his control. He grabs the desk, pulls it back. Drums the pen on an outstretched drawer – rat-a-tat-a. “Let me get this straight—”

“Go on,” she says.

He laughs; comes upright. “I’m trying.”

She pulls herself straight as well. Crosses her legs, and lowers her arms.

“You’re doing great,” she says.

*     *     *

{THE FOLLOWING MONDAY…}

The door to Dibny Studios swings open.

They had saved her a spot.

Monday, she thinks, and they’re here. Thank God they’re always here…

She tosses down her mat between one, green, and another in rich purple. Kicks it open with her foot. The cylinder unwinds like a checkerboard – red and black in opposing patterns.

“Oh, God, darling!” says the woman who’s lying on her back in a full leotard. From her view, the world at the door is entirely upside down. “I looooove what you’ve done with your hair!”

“Selina!”

Pamela Isley, bent double in her stretch, kicks sideways at the upside-down woman – at her shoulders – then adjusts her glasses; the frames are so thin, they don’t seem to exist at all.

“I just want her to know the joys of the short-hair club,” says Selina Kyle, who bats at the foot with her open palm – follows it with her eyes. “Makes you…quicker!” Pam kicks her again and squints upward, not leaving her positon.

“Oh, shit, Harl.” Harleen’s shoulders drop at the surprise in Pam’s voice. “She’s right! You kinda rock that…”

“Right? Like Sinead O’Conner…only blonde.”

Harleen smiles and sits down. “I was thinking more like Joan—”

“—Of freakin’ Arc, yes!”

The instructor is an angry lithe – comes through by way of curtains in the back and pounds the gong for silence in one sweeping, angry motion. He throws himself into a bound angle pose on the floor. The sudden metallic sound cause Harleen to flinch.

Beautiful angels.

Pam starts to laugh, then gets quiet when she sees her friend’s face. She goes back into her stretch. Selina is belting the lyrics to “Nothing Compares 2 U” with reckless abandon.

The instructor reaches for the mallet to hit the gong again, but it has rolled beyond his reach by now, and he does not appear wanting to get up.

“Namas—” he begins. Then louder, “NAMAS-TEEEE!”

“Not sounding too peaceful today, Mr. D,” Selina muses.

The room comes up in giggles – Harleen included – as they all fold their legs to mimic his pose. He immediately switches to hare. They follow.

“So let me get this straight, then,” Pam whispers…

*     *     *

The sewers of Gotham remind me of home, in their own stale, suffocating way. Speaking through them is an echo of empty rooms. Like a mausoleum – a maze of never-ending mausoleums, their memories sunk and heavy and sloshing about your feet. I try Jay through the com in my breather, but he hasn’t been speaking to me since rescue night.

Probably can’t hear me through all this brick, anyway…

I throw my flashlight down a side-tunnel, though I know it to be empty. I’ve already got him tagged. I already know where I’m going.

Such is the way with memories.

“…Born on a Monday…”

The deep vibration of his voice comes from my left, meaning it has ricocheted, and I turn right here.

I try the com again. Silent whirs.

Maybe it got wet. Check the condensation later…

Round the corner, the liquid reaches up to my thighs. I’m wading, and feel so very heavy.

“…Christened on Tuesday…”

The scanner on my belt is rumbling – signaling the tracker is close by.

Should be the next corner.

“Grundy?”

His grey skin is like stone when it meets my light.

“…Married on…Wednesday…?”

*     * *

{GOTHAM POLICE DEPARTMENT. RESCUE NIGHT.}

“…and they held you in,” Gordon looks at her written statement, which he is obviously holding behind his file folder, “one single cage? My God…all together?”

“Yeah, sir,” she says. Clears her throat. “Yes. It was like…swimming. Or, like…drowning, you know? Ever been to a beach before?”

Gordon furrows his brow. “It’s…been a while.”

“Okay, but, like, if you stand still, you know how the water will push the sand in around your feet sometimes, when the tides come in?”

Gordon shrugs.

“Well, imagine that…only it’s people.”

“Sardines,” Gordon says.

“Smelled like it, too…”

*     *     *

{DIBNY STUDIO. THE FOLLOWING MONDAY.}

“…But you used a gun, right?” 

Selina, in her wobbling tree pose, looks over at them. “Like, the paper said you swiped a gun off them. Did you shoo—?”

“Needle…gun,” Harleen groans.

“Needle…?” Selina drops her foot, and the instructor hits the gong. She puts her hands on her hips and smiles sweetly up toward the front of the room. Returns to her pose. “Thanks, Mr. D. Wouldn’t have…caught…that if not for your cunning eye.” She drops her voice and nearly falls while rotating her feet back toward her group. “Like, what doctors use?” she says.

“Yup.”

Mr. D hits the gong again.

Selina raises a big thumbs-up above her head. “You broke out with …syringe?”

Harleen smiles.

“Hmm…If I say ‘yes,’ is that more or less impressive?”

*     *     *

{GOTHAM POLICE DEPARTMENT. RESCUE NIGHT.}

“…More,” Gordon says, “than one of the victims recovered from the scene called you the sole reason for their escape. You say you just, and I quote, ‘gave them the tools to succeed’. What do you mean by that, exactly, Miss Quinzel?”

Harleen strokes her chin, then looks up at the ceiling.

“Can you repeat that for me?” she says.

He holds the folder inches from his nose. Is reading over his glasses. “’I just gave them the tools to succeed,’ you said.”

She scrunches her eyebrows in deep, feigned thought, before saying…

*     *     *

{DIBNY STUDIOS. THE FOLLOWING MONDAY.}

“…Exactly. That…”

Mr. D hits the gong.

“…was when I ran back.”

“Noooo,” Pam says, eyes large. “I feel like I’m in a horror movie. Like, ‘get out, bitch!’”

Harleen nods. “They all just kept going the other way, though, so I ran back for the cages. Like, why would I leave them all there, Pammy?” She bends down into a chair pose. “It’s like you don’t even know me anymore.”

Selina awkwardly tries to bend; says, nonchalantly, “I woulda just left.”

“No, you wouldn’t have,” Harleen says.

“Yeah,” Selina says. “Probably not.” She stands up straight, hands on hips again, then winds up and swings her arms together in a singular motion; pretends to hit an invisible gong. Mr. D echoes her motion. “I’d leave you, D,” she whispers, through gritted teeth, waving. “Apparently we aren’t doing any cat-cow’s today. Who wants smoothies?”

“But we aren’t done!” Pam says, deep in her squat. “I paid for this. We need to finish…”

“I’ll pay. We need to…”

*     *     *

{GOTHAM POLICE DEPARTMENT. RESCUE NIGHT.}

“’…Get out!’ But they just wouldn’t listen. Eventually they did, but I had to…”

Her voice drifts off. Commissioner Gordon leans forward, over his desk.

“I’m not trying to get you in trouble, you know?” he says. “There’s no charges on you. You’ve helped us out a great deal here, young lady. I’m just making sure we aren’t…missing anything.”

Harleen hugs her knees to her chest, and suddenly, she’s the saddest he’s ever seen of a person.

“I…should be in trouble, I think,” she whispers.

“And why would you ever say that?” he says.

Her answers is tears – frustration. “I’d rather…not…”

“I’m just trying to understand what—”

“No…”

“You didn’t do any—”

 “Please, Commissioner!” she says, with so much force, the man is all but cut from his words. It’s quiet for some time, before she says, “Let me just…say something, and you just listen to it, okay?”

Gordon nods his head. She shrinks further down into herself.

“Look what they did to me,” she says. He turns his head for the window. “Look, Commissioner.” He does. “It’s so embarrassing…how somebody can get in your head and just make you into something you look at and go…” She rubs her sandpaper head, cannot complete the thought – cannot find the word she wants to say it properly. “Even when you can see it coming… I’m not an idiot, sir.”

“No,” he says. “You’re not.”

“I start clinicals next week – psychology, of all things. The bank job’s only so I can pay my rent.” She smiles mischievously. “Rent’s high as hell in this Crackerjack box, B-T-Dubs. Why don’t you look into that next?”

“Maybe I will,” he chuckles.

Harleen sighs, still rubbing her head. “They take a lot from you.” Her eyes drift off – far away. “You do some…some bad things to get out of that place sometimes – to take any bit of that back.” The lightning flashes outside. “My mom and dad are going to see this on the news, Commissioner. They…nobody’s going to understand it. Sometimes, when you see it, you don’t even understand it.”

“Yeah,” Gordon says. “But you did nothing wrong. And you didn’t let them do any of that to you. You know that, right?”

She sniffles. Nods her head, but he isn’t quite sure she believes it. “And what would you know about that, Gordon?”

He shuffles a pencil from one side of the desk to the other. Thinks to his first wife.

Poor Barbara…

“I’ve been the one who’s done the taking, once,” he says, quietly. Grips the pencil in his tight fist. “A long time ago. I…I’m ashamed of it. Live with what I did every day.”

Harleen looks to the man – the saddest she’s ever seen of a person.

She stands up to leave the room. Turns.

“Just think of what they have to live with,” she mumbles. And then, she is gone. He lets her leave.

*     *     *

{CRAZY QUILT’S RAINBOW SMOOTHIES. THE FOLLOWING MONDAY.}

“They wouldn’t get out!” she says, and takes a loud drink.

“Of the cages?” says Selina.

“Of the cage,” says Harleen. “There was only one.” The sun should have been hot – late spring hot – but the rain clouds still hovered the rooftops, three days old. “No matter how bad it stunk. No matter how uncomfortable they were. Being trapped, even? It was sticky and slimy, and I’m not just talking about the Hatter and Ventriloquist…”

“Yeah, Tetch’s always a bit pervy,” Selina says.

“I steer clear of them both,” Pam says. 

“What?” says Harleen.

“Nothing,” they both say, in near-perfect synchronicity. Pam squeaks her straw up and down. They look at each other. Look back at Harleen. Take a drink of smoothie.

Damn, that’s good!” Selina says. “I deserve this.”

“Uh huh,” Pam grumbles.

“Well, wait…How did you get them out, then?” says Selina, turning the conversation back over to Harleen.

“I just…gave them the tools to succeed,” she says.

“Uh huh,” Pam grumbles.

“What does that mean, exactly, darling?” Selina says.

“Uh huh,” Pam grumbles.

“Oh, just trade me!” Selina says. She grabs the cup from Pam’s sulking hands, replacing it with her own.

Pam sits up straighter in her chair and smiles wide. Selina takes a drink from Pam’s cup, and gags. 

“Wha—? Oh…OH!” She launches the smoothie for the nearest trashcan. An adjacent worker frowns when she misses. “Wha’ ish? I don’t wan’ to swawow i’!”

“Swallow it………..all,” Pam moans.

“Don’ be disgus’ing, Pa’mewa,” Selina says.

“I told them ‘no spinach’.”

“I’ was…UGH…all spinach. I just drank the grass.” She picks up and napkin and starts wiping her tongue. Looks back to Harleen. “Nah-w, wuhaat di’ yew mean, swee’hie?”

*     *     *

{GOTHAM POLICE DEPARTMENT. RESCUE NIGHT.}

“She just comes up to the cage, this needle shooter in her hand, and is like, ‘we’re leaving,’” the woman says. She tells them her name is Renee. 

They’re still searching for any missing “Renees” in Gotham City. 

“And we’re all like, ‘hell no,’ you know? Because she’s all covered in blood, and they could be out there, you know? And if they catch you trying to get out, well…they were gonna make us into angels, they said. Imagine what they’d do to a devil…”

*     *     *

{CRAZY QUILT’S RAINBOW SMOOTHIES. THE FOLLOWING MONDAY.}

“So, I says to them, ‘Is this your life?’”

“I feel it,” Pam says.

“But they’re fine with it, I guess, because nobody answers. So I kick the cage door open – just kick it – and some of them try to pull it back shut, so I kick it again.”

Yaaaas, queen!” Selina says.

“And I lean down, and I show them the blood that is all over my hands. I say…”

*     *     *

{GOTHAM POLICE DEPARTMENT. RESCUE NIGHT.}

“Rub. Grab. Stab…”

*     * *

“Yeah, it’s the only thing they all keep saying, Commissioner…”

*     * *

“Rub. Grab. Stab.”

*     * *

“Yeah. She told us to rub, and to grab, and to stab things…”

*     *     *

{CRAZY QUILT’S RAINBOW SMOOTHIES. THE FOLLOWING MONDAY.}

“Wait…I don’t follow,” Selina says. “Is that supposed to…mean something?”

“I dunno,” Harleen says. She takes another long drink, and says, “Maybe use what they were trying to take from them…like, lure them in, then take it back and use it against them, you know? Rub, grab, stab?”

“I’ll rub and grab yo—”

“Seriously, Pam?” they both say.

She looks over her shoulder rather conspicuously and takes a long draught.

Selina motions with her hand for Harleen to go on. 

“I asked if they were listening in there, then I told them it was Hatter’s blood on my hands—” Both Pam and Selina lean in at those words. “—that he couldn’t hurt them anymore, because I had done that to him – and that if he was the worst of our fears, then what worse could come?” She pauses, then adds, quickly. “Then I…sorta wiped his blood on my face and they all started cheering…”

“You WHAT?” Pam shouts. “Honey, there were kids down there!”

“Yaaas, QUEEEEEEEN!” Selina is jumping up and down in her chair, laughing hysterically. Pam looks mortified.

“They let go of the bars and just started pushing each other up,” Harleen says. “The kids first. And I handed them anything I could find – a rope, or a piece of wood. When the women got up, they took the cage bars and just started yanking on them.” She leaned back in her chair. “Turns out, all the times they slammed those bars down had weakened the welds to the point of cracking. That’s what they told me at the station, at least. Anyway, so yeah…jagged metal leaves quite a scratch, if you know how to use it.”

“And if you don’t know how to use it!” Selina says. She moves her chair around next to Harleen – puts on her smokey eyes. “I think I’m in love with you,” she growls.

“Oh?” Harleen laughs. “But what about this mystery man you keep telling us about?”

“Screw him. Nooooooooothing compaaaaaaaares…to youuuuuuuuu!”

Stop it, you two,” Pam says, noticing the crowd around them staring. But she, too, begins to laugh. “There were guards, though?”

“Oh, yeah,” Harleen says. “They came almost immediately when they heard us chanting. The Janes pounced on them like buckshot, though. Didn’t get one shot off. They started to run from us.”

“As they should.”

Harleen smiles. “I thought so.”

“Then you, what? Just ran out?”

“Well, I heard the alarm go off, and red lights started flashing everywhere, so HELL YES, WE RAN OUT, PAM!” Harleen and Selina are cackling.

“But you took them to the roof, you dunce. What was your big plan?”

“Divine intervention, I guess,” Harleen says. “There’s only so much a humble saint can do, ya know?”

*     * *

{THE BATCAVE.}

You’ll think your shipment’s come. I lock the coordinates into the Bat-computer. Look around me. So empty. So dark.

I’ve tracked this order from Tai Pei. Shell corporation. CEO Grundy hadn’t heard a thing about the recent transaction, though (I don’t think…).

Penguin tipped me off to it. “We always check the sewers for shit business first, Batman,” he proclaimed, as I convinced his monocle into more fitting icicle shards over his nose. 

You’re clever. Cargo’s harmless…in the right amount.

Tracked your warehouse through that new driver you hired last month. Didn’t switch his route. Predictable attempt at backtracking when he realized his error. Desperate people will do that – make desperate errors.

I set the confirmation code to register from an address you can’t track. Well…you could. It would just lead you to an apartment above the sewer where I found Grundy hiding…through a re-route via the (now-defunct) former Iceberg Lounge PLUS. They’ve recently undergone another bout of…renovations.

A cave inside my cave. Blindspot, Inc. My own shell corporation. 

I can be clever, too.

Got your number just by chance. Hey, sometimes, you have to be lucky, too.

You’ll walk right into my danger.

After that, if what I hear is true, I just need your confirmation.

I need it…

I hit the button.

…And I’m going to make you talk.

*     * *

{CRAZY QUILT’S RAINBOW SMOOTHIES.}

Her phone goes off – a beeping rendition of the Zorro theme. Cheeks flush. She flips it open and then shut.

“Speak of the devil,” Selina says. She grins, then pockets the device. “Looks like I’ve got a date tonight.”

“Oh,” Harleen says. “I start clinicals tomorrow, and was going to see if you guys wanted to—”

“Looks like I’ve gotta run, too, love,” Pam says – picks up her own phone, and throws a shoulder hug around the both before walking off, down the street.

“’Kay…?” Selina says. 

“Call me about your date later?” Harleen says.

Selina winks. “G or PG?” she purrs.

“You know the answer to that, Puddin’,” she coos, and picks up her book bag. “Arkham-Arkham, here I come!”

“Ugh…don’t remind me. Even after all this?”

Harleen hesitates, the strap just over her elbow. Shoulders up. Shoulders down. She turns around. Smiling. Selina sees her – the happiest she has ever seen of a person. “Especially after all this.” 

Selina smiles back. Shrugs. “Buy some bear mace, then, will ya?”


*     * *

{THREE HOURS LATER.}

“Did we really have to do this in broad daylight, handsome?” she says, slinking in from around the corner masonry.

I step out of the shadows. “Wasn’t time. Knew I had something you’d want in on.”

Selina comes closer. Places a hand on my chest.

“Oh, darling…you’re not even wearing the cape. I love the cape.”

I sigh, roll my eyes upward. This is a bad idea…

“Just say it,” she breathes.

“Say what?”

“I can see it in your eyes, sad boy. You need me. Just…say it.”

I grab her chin between my thumb and forefinger – tilt her head up. So weightless. So powerful. I need you.

I take her lips in my own. Reach my hand back into the hair that just kisses on back her neck, then flows out like gentle, circle waves. I need you. Feel her bite back. I need you. Hold until I can no longer keep the pain.

When I recoil, though, it’s not for want of more.

“Care to help me find,” I whisper, “a zookeeper?”

In the waning afternoon sunlight, she purrs.

TO BE CONTINUED…

in BATMAN: ORNAMENTAL 

Issue 7 – The Rabbit Hole 


C.D. DyVanc currently lives in the Midwestern United States. He is an award-winning journalist, and, in his free time, enjoys jumping out of airplanes, reading comic books, and being the epitome of the living dad joke with his wife and stepson. His works have appeared or are upcoming in Drunk Monkeys, Rue Scribe, Dream Pop Press, and Five:2:One’s #thesideshow. His chapbook, rhi(n.)oceros, won the 2017 Midwest Chapbook Contest, and is currently available through Greentower Press. You can find his horrible use of GIFs on Twitter (@CDDyVanc), if you’d like. 

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