Thursday, October 29, 2009

Cats Paw Part two...

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.

"You OK?"

"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...`

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Cat's Paw

After a long and frustrating day at the museum center rebuilding an entire Hopewell burial mound construct, all I really wanted to do was put my feet up on the couch and relax with my favorite comfort foods and music. So I got off my bus three blocks early and wandered into the Goldline Chili in my neighborhood.
Even though I'm a part owner of the chain, for some reason this store never had an inkling who I was. I used it for quality control checks and secret shopping. Alex thought it was a great idea and approved it. Anyhow, I ordered my food and walked the three blocks home with my order in one hand and a large diet Zesti in the other. The smell of the chili was overpowering and though I was footsore, I hurried home and up the five flights of stairs to my "penthouse" apartment.
Daisy met me at the door, yowling and hungry, impatiently racing me to the kitchen. She slithered in between my legs as I opened the can of cat food and set it on her plate. Daisy sniffed the dish daintily, then buried her pink nose into the "Super Supper." I smiled, stroking her back and watching it arch as she purred and fed. "Enjoy, kitty," I said, grabbing the gold and blue bag and slipping to the sofa. I kicked my pumps across the room, then opened the Styrofoam box where the cheese coneys sat in all their gooey glory. I took a sip of the diet Zesti, then clutched the nearest bun. The combination of chili, hot dog, onion, mustard and cheese was almost intoxicating, especially as I hadn't eaten since breakfast. I downed the first coney without even thinking.
I was reaching for the second coney when I heard a knock at my door. My Patio door. As in, I'm five floors up and only have one entrance to the street, and it's not the patio. I figured it could only be one person. Grumbling, I get to my feet and open the door. "Virgil Coleman," I scolded. "I have a secret identity that I care about protecting, even if you don't!" Virgil brushed his blond hair back out of his eyes and grinned at me over his glasses.
"Things were really slow in Bayport tonight, so I buzzed over to Queen City to see my best gal," he said by way of explanation. "And I move too quickly for most radar, so I don't think your neighbors are going to see anything." He moved his lean, muscular frame into my living room and sat on the couch.
"There's more to this than you're telling, Virgil," I said. "Slow night or not, Captain Valiant just doesn't up and fly to Queen City for no reason."
He sighed, then pulled out a copy of a national tabloid, The National Blade. The front cover had a well enhanced telephoto picture under the headline, "A Heroic Affair." Up until now, there had been rumors, but no evidence. This photo however had been taken three weeks earlier as we left the Guildhall. Captain Valiant and White Owl, in mid-flight, kissing (and not chastely, I hasten to add).
"So we're official," I said. "But that's hardly a reason for you to come. After all, Virgil, we've been dating for months; so there's nothing to connect you and me to Captain Valiant and White Owl."
He hesitated. I'd never seen him so uncertain of himself before. "It's not Athena I'm worried about; it's White Owl. I'm darn near invulnerable, Athena. There isn't much that can harm me. But my friends. That's a different matter. Now that people know we're an item, they'll attempt to hurt you to hurt me."
"Oh come on now, Virgil, that's ridiculous and you know it. I CHOSE to be a superheroine--and was chosen too, I might add. I think YOU told me danger was my business. Besides, didn't we have this conversation before I left for Egypt?"
"And look how that turned out," he retorted. "Some crazed madman with superpowers tied to kill you."
"And I survived and got away," I said. "We handled it. And it's not like I haven't faced some dangerous people on my own."
"You have, but when it comes to my villains, you're in another league. My villains are worldbeaters, Athena, and they're deadly.
"You mean like Frosty Fred? I seem to recall saving you that time."
Virgil scowled. "Fred's an exception. You have some low powered enemies too, I believe."
I smiled. Even though I was upset with his overprotective behavior, I couldn't STAY angry. After all, how many women have the world's most powerful protector as a boyfriend? Every woman wants a shining knight; very few have them as shiny as Captain Valiant.
"OK," I said. "Truce. I'm flattered by your devotion to my protection. But I think I can handle most of your crowd, and if not, there's the Guild, right?"
He nodded. Then he reached into his pocket and pulled out his Blackberry. "Here, take a look at my gallery."
"You collect pictures of your enemies?" I asked.
"Know your foe," he smiled. "Besides, what does the man who has everything collect?" I took his phone and thumbed through the list. Doctor Solar, Plague, Frosty Fred, the Buffoon (he seems to show up on everyone's list) Megiddo, the Astronomer, Stonewall, the Baffler...My finger paused at an image of a woman in a pink leotard.
"Pink Pussycat?" I asked.
"She's ah...well...a cat burglar I'd guess. But she's more. She commits some outrageous robberies, and executes some even more audacious escapes. But she's also has a crush on me."
"My rival for your affections?" I asked with a hint of a smile.
"Not hardly. I think she's in love with the costume, and really doesn't care for the man inside. I'm nothing more to her than another shiny bauble. But she's convinced we're fated to be together, and her crimes seem designed to pull me to her. She's actually defeated me once or twice, threatening to destroy parts of Bayport if I didn't give myself to her."
"Did you?" Now he had my curiosity.
"No, both times I was able to figure out an elegant solution, and escape. But usually SHE got away too. Other than that photo, I have no idea who she is, Athena. But she's been quiet for a long time now. I think she's laying low."
I nestled into his arms, and kissed him gently. "Well, I thank you for the lessons Virgil. But I think I need to get some rest. It was a long day today, and I think tomorrow may be as bad."
"Can I spend the night?" he asked.
"I said I needed to rest, remember?" Virgil laughed
"You can't blame a guy for trying," he said.
I kissed his nose, and said, "Good night." He smiled and a split second later, he was gone.
I slept comfortably that night and woke the next morning dressed for a work day at home. The day consisted of writing and I was going stir-crazy. I decided to patrol as White Owl for a while.
I flew downtown, overflying the Garfield museum. Though it wasn't a part of the city's museum center, the Garfield had a remarkable collection of late Egyptian antiquities, and I'd spent some time with the curator there as Athena. But I noticed the open skylight. I dove through the open space and landed near an older, balding guard, who was just sitting up.
"Are you all right?" I asked.
"I think so--she moved so quickly!" he said. Then he added, "Hey! You're White Owl! My name's Wendell."
I nodded."Yes I am. Pleased to meet you Wendell. What was taken?"
He did a quick look around the room."Cat mummies."
"WHAT?" I asked, incredulous. "Cat mummies?"
"And the Opal of Bubastis."
I mouthed a silent "O".
"Did you see who did this?"
Wendell nodded and said, "Yes. It was her." He pointed over my shoulder and I whirled.
A blond woman in a pink suit stood there, juggling a cat mummy.
"Catch" she said, heaving the cat at me.
I stretched and caught the cat, then heard the snap of a leather whip snaking through the air. The whip snapped tight around my wrists, causing me to drop the statue. The Pussycat pulled the lash and I tipped off balance.
"It will take more than a whip to stop me, Pussycat."
"Like this? NOW WENDELL!!" I felt a hand clamp down on my face.
"MMMPPHHH" Wendell's fist slammed into my stomach and I gasped for breath. The chloroform on the rag over my nose burned my throat, and I felt my legs trembling. I struggled against the whip and the chloroform but it was no avail. My knees buckled and I dropped to the floor.
"I'll teach you to steal my man," was the last thing I heard as all went black...
To be continued...