The fuzz in my head cleared slowly. Somehow I was outside, in an alley behind the Garfield Museum. The first thing I noticed were the red and blue lights bouncing in crazy patterns on the brick walls. As my eyes focused, I saw both a worried EMT and the scowling face of Captain Don Winslow. The soft glow of his ever present Laramie limned his chiseled face.
"Have you EVER heard of backup? You know, like assistance?" asked Winslow, frustration evident on his face.
"Well captain, I have considered it, but the laws have regulations that make it hard to have a teenage sidekick--things like child labor laws, curfews, delinquencies and so forth."
His scowl loosened one notch and he continued. "My guys are pretty efficient Owl. In fact, I don't think I would need the SCU to stop a simple Cat Burglar." He sized me up again. "Though one who could do that to you might be a bit more than they bargained for."
I glanced down at the tattered rags that had once been my costume. The once pristine white Nu Silk had been stained red with my blood and underneath the tatters I could see and feel the deep scratches healing and retreating. "At least she left me a shred of dignity," I said. "Though my tailor is going to have a fit."
"Feeling better?" asked Winslow, the compassion coming back into his voice. I nodded.
"Good. Maybe you can explain this, then." He shone his flashlight on the side of the museum and I read, "Keep Back and consider yourself lucky! PP"
"We had some guys thinking it was gang related," apologized Winslow. "But its too literate for that."
I sank back against the debris, the cold brick rough against my exposed back. "It's the Pink Pussycat," I said. "She's taking a friendship of mine far too personally. I think it's time for me to Scat this cat--hopefully into your cells."
"The Pink Pussycat?" several officers snickered. "I'll bet she's terrific!" I heard.
"Knock it off you dopes, we got ladies present!" growled Winslow and the catcalls died down. He turned back to me.
"I should be," I replied.
"I can have someone drive you home. You aren't really dressed for flying, you know."
"I looked at my costume and frowned again. "I have spares. Honestly, I'll be all right."
Winslow thought a minute, then said, "Wait." He rummaged in the backseat of his car and produced a blue and gold SCU sweatshirt. "Here, it may be a bit big though."
"How thoughtful! I'll bring it back soon Captain!" I pulled the dark fleece over my head and smiled as it fell to my thighs. I looked up and grinned.
"Look! I'm a squad car!" That brought a smile to Winslow's face.
"Well as long as you're making wisecracks, I know you're all right."
But I wasn't. I'd been taken like a raw rookie by a cunning burglar with jealousy issues. What's more, I remembered Val saying that she had a partner and I completely glossed over it. I got home and dropped the shredded costume into a bag for Mr Wickersham. I was certain he'd want to study the shredding to see if there were any way to improve Nu Silk.
I showered and stood in front of my full length mirror, studying the scratches. They were almost gone, a testament to my healing factor. That there was still evidence of those cuts indicated the ferocity and depth of the Pink Pussycat's attack. I stepped into my spare costume, smoothing away the wrinkles and frowned. I desperately wanted to call Val and pick his brain; but I didn't much feel like hearing "I told you so."
The same feelings applied to using the Guild's resources to track down the crazy cat lady. Val would know. I risked losing the man I loved all because I was to confident in my own abilities and underestimated my opponent.
Or maybe not. A plot suddenly filled my head--a method for drawing out the Pink Pussycat, and I wouldn't have to tell Val about my initial failure.
The next night, I found the Guild teleporter on the rooftop of STAR labs. Working quickly I reset the controls from the Guildhall to Bayport. A moment later, the incredible skyline of the big city on the ocean shined in front of me.
"Athena?" Virgil was incredulous as I stepped into his bachelor digs atop the Coleman Foundation.
"I don't think I was very receptive the other night Virgil," I said. "So I'd like to make it up." My hands were working on the buttons of his shirt, peeling it back and exposing that gorgeous scarlet and gold outfit.
I stepped to his balcony and winked coyly at him. "Care to patrol Bayport with me?"
Moments later, we flew past the Bayport theater district and then over the Bayport commons. In both places, shrieked excitedly and pointed. I was flying close to Val and hugging him tightly, carrying on like a teenager in love. But when we flew past the Bayport Daily Globe, I leaned in even closer and drew him to me. We hovered in place, kissing as if we were the only two people in the world. Beneath us I could see the flashes of cameras, and heard the whirring of the motors.
I could tell Val was amused, but he didn't say anything until we wound up in the master bedroom at his penthouse.
"All right, what was that about?" he demanded.
I scrunched down under the covers and pulled the feather comforter over my face, hiding the smile. "Not telling." I said.
"Oh yes you are," said Virgil, grabbing my bare foot and tickling it ever so gently....
"AHHHHH!!! HA HA STOP!!" I shrieked. "I'll tell! I'll tell!!" Tears were rolling down my face.
I caught my breath, then said, "I wanted to announce our love to the world. I don't think we should be secret anymore!"
"Is that it?" he asked, seriously.
"Yes! Why else would I do it? I want to prove you don't have to watch over me twenty-four, seven. I'm a big girl and a big heroine, and I love you Virgil Coleman! Why shouldn't the world know that?"
He sighed and settled back next to me, cradling me under his arm. I stroked the soft hair on his chest, wondering how the next bit of my plan would work out.
To be continued...`