Categories > Comics > Batman

Man in the Venetian Mask

by Sharkbites 0 reviews

Part two of sorts. Continues from Catharsis.

Category: Batman - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Drama,Fantasy,Romance - Characters: Catwoman,Joker - Warnings: [!!] - Published: 2010-08-23 - Updated: 2010-08-24 - 5431 words - Complete

The Gotham Metropolitan Museum was host to this year's annual fund raiser to the Annie Marchill foundation for Bone Marrow research. Gotham's elite was to join the soiree, from playwrights, entertainment consultants, members of the yacht club and a few more peacocks were making a pledge to donate to a charitable cause and at the same time, fluffing their PR. Sounds like an honorable cause, right? For Selina Kyle, it was nothing more than an overrated tax write off. Was it really charitable when your company had a small snip from Uncle Sam? Was it really done from the bottom of their hearts when their business and name were mentioned in bold while at the same time, the owners were trying to downplay some bad publicity brought upon by union complaints and investigation from Prime Time News?

The coincidence was almost suffocating. Amidst the smiling faces, expensive designer gowns, swan ice sculptures and chamber music courtesy of the Gotham Philharmonic, these people were true to the core animals. Underneath the sophisticated flair, college degrees and Armani suits were the real thieves. When she was twenty one, she stole a loaf of bread because she had weighed less than a hundred pounds and her glycemic levels were low. Explain to her why she got beaten by dirty cops while the real crooks were standing in front of her, practically savoring their juicy morsel underneath their hypocritical faces and trophy wives and girlfriends who would not even touch them if their FICO scores were lower than 600? Still, she could not help but blend in. After all, it was a tried and true method for lions on the savanna when they went out on the hunt. She preferred calling it camouflage and not actually conforming because that would say that she shared their 'values' and views on minority rights and oil on the Gulf. Conforming was what you did in high school because you wanted to get on the clique's good side and be a part of them. The very thought made Selina Kyle shudder. Conforming basically was giving up her own unique set of values which were as sacred to her as the Eucharist and Body of Christ was to a nun. Here, she was studying her prey. That was a better way of putting it. She was not a part of them but she was amongst them.

She made mental notes of guest houses, chateaus on the countryside, residences on Nice and any other little vague clue so that she can use and investigate their treasure trove of throwaway goods that were more suited for museums and would fund causes she supported instead of taking up space and collecting dust in some yuppie's living room. For Selina, her brand of stealing was not selfish. She had a slightly more refined term for it. Being selfish was buying an Aztec calendar and keeping it on your wall to show your golf buddies to make the wall on your den look smaller. Stealing was keeping the ring of Queen Hatshetpsut and showing it off to your friends on the yacht club in Beverly Hills instead of donating it to the Smithsonian so that everyone could enjoy a piece of history.

Besides, there was always a nice 'pay off' for the private donator if these corporate rich dummies were not going to do it.

Tonight, she was here as a special guest representing the Big Cat Sanctuary project that she was promoting. Thanks to her connections in Gotham's high society and contributions to wildlife preserves, Selina became a notable figure in Gotham's elite. At the same time, she still retained an aura of mystery which made her that much irresistible to lonely and hungry bachelors and the ire of other women. It did not bother her. Those were petty issues that belonged on those trashy E! TV specials. Although she kept her distance, Selina Kyle found herself to be very forgiving of a certain TV personality slash celebrity blogger who made a comment about how she should be more like a certain actress who also happens to be a member of the UN and cherry picks children from African orphanages like a slave in the old South. Even the compliments on her fashion were not enough to deter the dislike she had developed hence why she declined interviews and preferred doing small ones for independent magazines when she could. Needless to say, Selina's coolness towards interviews earned her some ire and comparisons to a notable playboy she was all too familiar with.

The thought cooled the swelling and stifling feeling she had gotten since arriving at the gala. Bruce was a reminder that not all blue bloods were snobs with the empathy of a viper. He was a reminder that there can be good apples in a sea of rotten ones. He was a staunch example of a human-like quality that missing in this mass of empty and soulless vessels that were as transparent as the veils on some of these dresses. Selina took a sip of her wine, it was a Bianco. She headed away from the main lobby. As more guests arrived, the place started to sound more static. Besides, nobody would air their dirty laundry in an open place like that. They would be on the balcony or someplace away from extra eyes and ears. Right now, they were talking about the AFA championships. It's not that Selina hated sports. She watched the occasional Steelers game but this was a bull session she was not interested in partaking.

She was still able to master the art of public persona and private hobby. Like a cat, she slipped through various members of the media. Vicky Vale was here on assignment to cover the charity ball auction for Annie Marchill's leukemia.

"This is Vicky Vale reporting live from the arts center, now back to you in the studio!" The red haired anchor woman smiled.

"Perfect Miss Vale!" The camera man said from behind the complex and sophisticated looking techno-system.

"Howard, I am parched. Could you please get me some water, and a croissant?" Vicky said in a voice that was less good girl and more 'claws in waiting'.

"Right away Miss Vale," the scraggly looking intern replied as he made himself scarce.

"God, it's such a dump. You find more life in a graveyard…." Vicky muttered to herself as she adjusted her rather large broach. It was from Karen's Karats. It was a feature in last month's High Living catalogue with the Princess of Monaco on the cover. Oh, how Selina coveted that treasure. To see another woman with it was like seeing her steal your man.

"Having fun, Vicky?" Selina purred lowly. Vicky's icy blue eyes turned towards the stunning woman in a black gown. Perfectly embroidered by a well known fashion designer she had just interviewed for her Fall collection. She had to admit, Selina practically owned that dress, rather than that dress was on her. The sapphire collar which had stones the color of pink rose and quartz raised a feeling that all women had when someone had attained something that they could not have. Even on her salary, Vicky could not have gotten such a treasure which was fit for European royalty.

"Just doing a special for the new Society special on GTV. How are you?" Vicky asked, trying to downplay the unspoken rivalry both women had but understood.

"I'm doing well, thanks." Selina said confidently. Even if they had met in an empty alley where anything goes, Selina would keep her distance. In her own way, she admired this other woman. At least she did not go around on the news networks talking about how she bagged Bruce. Truth be told, it was Bruce who told her about Vicky. She seemed like a good fit, at least. Ivy League trained, summa cum laude and she did a special on one of Selina's pet project so she had to throw her a bone. At least she was not like other loose lipped mistresses. Vicky was a professional and Selina had to respect that. "How is the search for the next intern at GNN going?"

"It's going well. We picked a few candidates and the final round is next week. So you have been watching our contestants on The Apprentice?" Vicky asked before she took a sip of her drink.

Selina bit her lip.

"Actually, I only heard it in passing on the morning news."

"Oh," Vicky said softly. "I was going to ask you for a review and feature it on tonight's newscast."

"I don't watch much TV. I watch Good Morning, Gotham for the cute weatherman." Selina smiled, trying to bridge the two of them. This was not going to be a fight but a cordial communication. Vicky, however, seemed a bit unimpressed.

"Oh," she said in a tone that knew she was rejected and was bitter about it.

"I don't watch much TV, I guess…" Selina said as she held her glass while placing her hand on her elbow, half thinking that the gesture meant something. She did not have time for PrimeTime, anyway so that was not her fault.

"That's perfectly fine." Vicky said in a dejected manner. Selina knew it was because she probably took her comment about the weatherman. Well, sorry but he is cute in a Sam Champion sort of way.

"You don't need me for ratings. You are very successful in your own right…." Selina tried to amend the wounds but it was too late for Vicky had another assignment in mind.

"That's not your fault. I'm short on time anyway. There's Rod Bergman, owner of the Gotham Mustangs. I have to get a word from him. These things are cutthroat." Selina nodded.

"Perfectly understandable."

The words were thin air as Vicky sulked in silence. Whether or not she took the words as intentional, Selina did not want to think about them anymore as it was almost time for the coup de gracie of the evening, the ballroom dance. It was her chance to fill up her card with mental notes. It was like speed dating but better. Because of her name and reputation, there was a better chance for some of these suckers to open up and spill a detail they might not have said to someone like Vicky. That was not a snipe, that was cold hard truth.

The room was packed with various members of Gotham's high society. College chancellors, Fortune 500 CEOs and doctors were present at Koln Hall. For five thousand dollars a pop, these people were going to partake on this century's version of Quadrille. Hey, it was for charity. Most people would not realize it but these suckers would spill out details that would not have gone noticed on an untrained ear. Words, names, any kind of association she could make was like giving out a number to a vault. That's how skilled she was. The way that lions picked out the tiniest nuances in the brush, Selina was the same when it came to who was who in Gotham society and beyond even.

For the most part, she recognized the faces. They stood out to her like the third party at a year book. There were a few faces she did not recognize. They must have been new money. Some of them had masks. They must have been very old fashioned. There was nothing wrong with mystery. She found it a bit appealing and that was one reason why she found Batman irresistible.

The room began to quiet down as the owner of the Metropolitan art gallery walked towards the podium. Kerry Wilton made his fortune in importing exotic carpets and other fine spices from the Far East. He used to be a proponent for Canadian seal hunting but a personal expedition a few years back made him change his stance. He stopped doing that but he still kept his hobby of Quail hunting. These were the kind of people she ran into here on a basis. Wasn't there anyone who said they were for eco reform but were not hypocritical about it? Pamela Isley does not count.

"It brings me great pleasure to be amongst your most generous hearts tonight. We celebrate a worthy cause for a little girl whose dying wish is to be an astronaut and contribute to our NASA foundation. I am proud to say that Little Annie has indeed found a donor and will be recovering."

A round of applause reverberated around the room.

Selina caught sight of a man who had the most ostentatious looking Venetian mask.

"Little Annie has touched all of us in our hearts and with your generosity, we pledged over ten million dollars for Annie Mirchill's cause which will go to proceeds for the children's hospital and pediatrics ward. On behalf of Gotham Metropolitan and the Goldking Co. as well as the children's hospital, I would like to thank all of you for contributing."

Another round of approval was present. Selina nonchalantly clapped.

"I would also like to have the opportunity to express my gratitude to the other notable figures for their large donations. You are a fine breed that gives Gotham its beauty and splendor." Oh, great, just what they need, more pimping for their names.

"My humble thanks extend to those who represent the very best of what Gotham has to offer. I would like to congratulate Mr. Aaron Fisker or FiskCorp for their pledge of two hundred thousand. A blonde tanned man waved to the adoring masses. Selina had a date with him a few years back. A large collection of stocks and bonds could not make her forget about his embarrassing foot fetish. He was not guilty of anything bad aside from an annoying personal habit. He spent more time talking to her toes than to her face. Chest was understandable but that was a little too weird for her taste and she had seen quite a bit during her early years.

"Miss Grace Jones, heir to her father's fortune at CalGrove for three hundred thousand" All eyes turned on the twenty seven year old. Selina gave her props because she was frugal and at least she kept out of the public eye unlike certain heiresses. Her only crime was giving the tabloids something to joke about thanks to her gap tooth and glasses. With that kind of money, she could have gone to a good orthodontist but Grace was consistent on natural beauty so who was she to judge on how she wanted to live? The rumors of her and the Princess of Sweden did not help her family's traditional clean cut image but if what she was here to clean up after than whatever.

"Finally, I would like to touch upon a charity that is close to my heart. You might say that it was an epiphany." Warm laughter greeted the man. "When I used to hunt seals in Canada's wilderness, it never occurred to me of the cold and detached nature of this industry. My heart was as frozen as the Alaskan tundra, that was until my eyes were opened by a certain woman. Her actions and love for animals inspired a change in me. She has been featured on various magazine articles. You know her name, her face, and what a face…."

The crowd laughed at the middle aged man trying to be young at heart. Even Selina could not help but stifle a laugh because she knew who he was talking about.

"It is a great honor for me to extend my gratitude to Miss Selina Kyle for her various projects. Her love of all things nature is truly awe inspiring."

The crowd turned towards the dark haired woman in a tight black dress. Who would have thought that one of Gotham's premiere criminal artists was right here amongst them, eying their gems and other various prices to go home and steal from later?

"Selina, please do come up."

Odd, the other two did not have to do that. She made her way towards the stage. Her black gown made her look like she was flowing. Her elegant walk was graceful, never missing a bit. She looked almost feline as she did so. Selina smiled at the sea of faces back. Although she preferred the mystery of the shadows, she could not deny the power of being on a podium like this. Such command, she thought as she settled and waited for the applause to calm down.

"This is such an honor. This is my first time on a pulpit so please disregard if I am not fire and brimstone enough." A generous laugh waved through the crowd.

"Animals are not just organisms that lack the conscience that we have. They are living and breathing creatures that rely on us as much as we rely on them. From the seeing-eye dog to the cat that lowers the blood pressure of their owners to the African grey parrot who was able to tell police where she came from, animals are a precious resource of love, companionship and respect. It is in the eyes of my cat that I can gaze into the mystery, wonder and magic of her heart. Either that or 'feed me'". Smiles and chuckles once again. "Thank you for giving me this gift of acknowledgment. It means a lot to the Hausmann Leopard sanctuary project which I will be representing in the near future."

Wilton was handed a piece of paper from the audience and proceeded to go to the pulpit. Selina walked away from the center.

"Thank you my dear. That was lovely. I would like to take this opportunity to announce a last minute pledge. It's made by someone by the name of a Jack Norton. He does not represent a company but through stock portfolios and a hell of a lucky hand in the theatre and arts district, Mr. Norton had pledged half a million dollars to Selina's project. That's the biggest one tonight."

A mass of impressed nods of approval shushed the audience.

"Um, Mr. Norton, will you please come up to the front, yes?" Wilton prodded on. There were about two thousand people in this hall but even then, all eyes turned towards one man. Selina turned toward the same direction. Who was the mysterious stranger who donated such a bounty? If his thing was art, then he must have been really desperate. The least she could do was dinner and a movie at least.

Either that or he was like Aaron, a psycho in his own way.

Out of the audience, a lone figured walked towards the front. Selina tilted her head to get a better look. It was the man in the exotic Venetian mask. It was adorned with rich color, some feathers and gold. It was artistic, to be sure. The man himself was tall and very thin. That's how they were in the theatre district. He suit was either a navy blue but Selina caught a hint of mauve. A rose adorned his lapel. She could not tell what color his hair was but that did not matter. Who was this mysterious stranger, she thought and why would he be so interested in her cause? She did not recall seeing his name in Forbes magazine. He's probably from Europe and wants to have this air of mystery to him which she could respect. Still, that was very generous of him. He was not of any European stock that she could figure out but he dressed like royalty nonetheless. Proudly he stood before the audience, like a Prince waiting. It only needed a fairy tale ending.

"Selina, would you like to begin this evening's ball?" Wilton nodded. Selina cleared her throat. As if being pushed into the spotlight for the last minute speech was not enough, she was expected to dance with a room full of strangers? She felt like a fish out of water but the thought subsided when the man extended his hand in a manner that said 'I will not harm you, you can trust me, angel.'

Selina responded by extending her hand and reached out to the man's doeskin gloves. He had exquisite taste and that cologne was not going to be forgotten anytime soon.

"I've been waiting a long time for this, Selina…." The man said in a low voice.

"Excuse me but…who are you? How did you?" With a jolt, he pushed her towards him, claiming her and with a low rumble in his tone, he whispered.

"An old friend, just play along…." The masked man said in a rumbling tone that reminded her of male lions when they were in the company of the lionesses. The strings began to build up, soon they were followed by more strings and some horns. It was a crescendo of sound that added to the anticipation and excitement. She knew something was coming but could not put her finger on it. She was not sure if it was good or bad. Her goal now was to try and pry information out of the man's history. Her fascination with him was not unlike the time she first encountered the Batman back when she was a cat burglar novice.

"So, theatre, huh?" Selina tried to break the ice. "Ever done anything for Rogers and Hammerstein?"

The other scoffed and she could tell, underneath the red feathers that he was smiling.

"Let's just say I have never been on the Playbill but you have heard of me." He had the tiger by the tail and now he was going to turn the tables on her.

He twirled her around a couple of times before they touched again and danced. She held onto his shoulder for support. He was a wonderful dancer, to be sure. His timing was impeccable and he kept to the tradition of the dance and added some flair to it by adding a bit more movement of the hips which Selina could not help but follow. He was in control.

"Really now?" Selina queried, trying to play along. She was both annoyed with the man's vague answers and at the same time exhilarated with his movements and the way he touched her body. As independent as she was, as much as she was used to dragging men's hearts at the floor, this was a pleasant change in routine. Not even Bruce was this…dominant.

He pushed her away and both of them stretched back. Their hands were connected but their bodies in motion opened up, like the wings on a butterfly before they closed in again. More couples began to join them. Perfect camouflage, he thought and at the same time, it stifled any sense of intimacy.

"I prefer the classics, you know Gable, Astaire, Brando." The man said in a breathy tone. He tried to keep his voice ambiguous but he could see that she was in pursuit.

"Ah, Hollywood. Well, why didn't you say so?" Selina smiled as the man turned her around. When he did that, it was like he was showing her off to the other guests.

"I am fond of the active creative arts. I think you would agree." The man said underneath his mask. Selina barely caught a hint of jade green underneath the two little openings of the Venetian mask.

"I wouldn't know and why do you talk so low?" Selina asked before she felt him push her down and her back arch at the touch of his hand on her.

"Don't you like playing this little game? We have both done it before…" the man said cryptically. He pulled her up and touched her jaw in a slow and sensual manner before pushing her away. Selina was not exactly fond of this confession. It did not matter to him for she became a bit more lively in their exchange.

"What are you hinting at? Who are you?" Selina said with an arched brow.

"Like I told you before, I am a great admirer of your work. That half a million should say something, does it not." The mysterious man said warmly. He had to keep her on her toes. That was the name of the game.

The words breached Selina's mind the way you would remember a vague feeling but could not be sure what to do with it. He stretched her arm out and led the both of them for a bit. Selina followed in unison. She relied on him for the dance steps. The best thing she could do was club dancing and that was when Holly asked her to join. He turned around and planted a kiss on her shoulder before pulling both of them slightly back. Score one for him and he was in delight.

"You do that again and I will feed you your own spleen." Selina growled.

"Such feistiness. I love that in a woman." The masked man began to turn his hand down from Selina's stomach and tried to go lower but Selina slapped him.

"Don't even think about it," she said in a bitter voice.

"I'm sorry, I just can't contain myself in the presence of such beauty…." The man said calmly. Their movements were getting more jolted, more complicated. There were more steps and both were losing their breath.

"I do enjoy dancing. You know, old blue eyes said that it's like making love standing up." The masked man reached onto Selina's hip but she pushed it upward.

"Did he, now…?" Selina said in a dark and sardonic tone.

"Oh yes, but I am not partial to blue eyes. I find the ones found in nature to be far more appealing you see."

The masked man arched Selina down. She did not take any chances and took it upon herself to remove the mask.

The same features, the same aquiline nose, prominent chin and rainforest colored eyes gazed back at her. She noted them going down to her cleavage. The only difference was that he was wearing flesh toned make up and some minor prosthetics. Joker was savoring the moment. He kept Selina at a balance beam and there was no way she was going to try and scratch his eyes out now. She had no choice but to follow his lead.

"I should have known. What are you doing here?" Selina said in a low tone. She tried disguising her disgust with a fixed stare.

"I told you, I am here to visit." Joker said in a sly manner. He was obviously enjoying the contours of the Catwoman underneath his hands. She was well built, just as he remembered.

"You are not a bad dancer but that does not give you the right to follow me around." Selina said warningly. She hoped no one had picked up any of this. He was lucky she was not going to attack him then and there. Should she have indulged in what her inner savage beast desired, she would have been tabloid fodder until the next Presidential election.

"I can't help it. You have turned me into a lovesick puppy." Joker said with a low laugh, tying to suppress that trademark cackle that would have no doubt terrorized the graceful audience had he added a few timbres to it.

"Then use Quinn or your hand." Selina said sternly.

"I love it when you talk dirty. Now, if you can do that between the sheets, my life will be perfect." Joker purred as he leaned the both of them down and he planted a kiss on her cheek. It was a quick peck time wise but for Selina, it had just a bit of passion in it. She was half surprised he did not leave a Scooby Doo slobber trail. "Can I mount you?" Joker giggled.

"In your dreams…." Selina declared, happy that he pushed her away for a few seconds before he grabbed her arms and pulled her towards him. Her back was against his stomach.

"My wet dreams, yes. That's where you are."

"You just know how to say the wrong things, don't you?" Selina replied coolly.

"Look who is talking, little Miss I have a dark history…." Joker purred lowly.

"That was my old life and frankly, I don't see why that is any of your business." Miss Kyle snapped back.

"It is my business. We both have histories that we would rather keep under wraps. We both have an affinity for a certain rodent, chardonnay and the waltz and we both look good in purple, especially me." Joker smiled.

Even in flesh toned make up, Joker looked creepy.

"You forgot one detail, Joker." Selina retorted.

"Oh, and what is that, love?" The clown asked in a concerned manner.

"You kill people, I don't." She said simply.

He took an opportunity to once again push her down. It was no real surprise why he did this. It was the closest thing he could get to look like he was bedding her.

"I could change, you know." Joker said with wide innocent eyes.

"Yeah, right. I bet you said that to Harley….." Selina hissed.

"Let's not talk about her. Talk about us….." The clown said in a low sensuous tone she could not ignore. She let out a shivering sound and Joker caught it. He was like a vampire who had caught the scent of blood. He leaned down, his chin was almost touching Selina's chest.

"And anything surrounding that…." Joker reached out and petted her hair away from her face.

He was driven, he was passionate and he knew away around a woman in a dance. Joker had demonstrated things to her that she would not have thought otherwise possible. She could tell when he was faking it. His insistence, however, his grace and more notably demeanor challenged her preconceptions on him. Their previous encounters were little but left enough scars on her. That was years ago. There was a time when Joker was known for his more silly gimmicks than his sociopathic nature. Although she had not had any close encounters with him recently, save for that exchange on the rooftop, even she could tell that this was not the Joker she remembered. Before he was a psychological mess or at least that is what she read about him on the Times when she used his face as kitty litter. The man before her was suave, sophisticated and knew his way around a cigar. He had kept this façade up for too long to be a fake. Then again, he was a good actor. She wanted to believe that he was pulling out a trick. He was such a pro at it too. Now that she remembered, she never heard Harley mention Joker as affectionate or attentive, even when they were 'courting'. Selina had known Joker long enough to know when he was pulling a rabbit out of his hat or not.

The last encounter as well as the one tonight left a marker on her mind that she was not sure if she would ever forget. He had been acting different lately. The flowers and the candy were one thing but to donate to one of her pet causes? She did not even know he had a Swiss bank account. Even from a distance, she note a more polished and refined man. That did not excuse him crimes however.

She felt like the time she met Stark who had a checkered past. Selina knew Joker was a lady's man but she never would have taken him for having an interest in her, especially like that. This was a first.

"I must bid you good night, darling. Remember me next time you listen to Bizet." He gave her one more peck on the cheek. They were dancing to Habanera, l'amour un oiseaux rebelle. He let her go and the applaud thundered

A Romantic opera connoisseur too? Joker, you are full of surprises.

He gave her the rose from his lapel and slowly backed away from her in a curtsy. Suddenly, the issues she had from earlier this evening were small, almost irrelevant now.

"Theatrical arts, huh?" Selina said in a low tone.

"Well, you can't say we didn't give them a show…" Joker responded.

In case you are wondering, I chose that aria by Bizet because it sound serious but it also has just a teensy bit of that mischievous sound to it. Maybe it's just me but I liked how it sounded.
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