NORA CLAVICLE'S RETURN
Dedicated to Tereus, the one person whom, I hope, will appreciate this story.
Batgirl and Robin crouched behind the Batgirl cycle, across a dusty road from a seemingly deserted warehouse on the outskirts of Gotham City. They had spent almost an hour following the large black limousine which was now parked next to a door on the near side of the warehouse. Their journey into the night seemed to be near an end.
Inside the limousine had been Nora Clavicle, former women's rights' activist and convicted attempted mass murderer. Once a respected advocate for all females on a variety of issues, Ms. Clavicle's life took a bizarre turn some time ago. A wild scheme to destroy all of Gotham City for the sum of only ten million dollars was thwarted just at the last minute by Batman, Robin and Batgirl.
Batman was out of Gotham City at the request of the national government to investigate a recent escape from a maximum security federal prison. Within hours of his departure, Dick Grayson received a call from Commissioner Gordon informing him that Nora Clavicle had been removed from Gotham State Penitentiary in a remarkably similar break out. After a quick change to his Robin costume and a fast drive in the Redbird, he arrived at Police Headquarters. Robin was surprised, and happy and relieved, to find that Batgirl was there waiting for him.
Nora Clavicle was one of Robin's least favorite adversaries. Robin had endured innumerable tortures and traps at the hands of an unending list of villains, but the Siamese Human Knot that Ms. Clavicle had tied Batman, Batgirl and him in was the worst ordeal through which he had ever gone. Though it lasted little more than a few hours, to be forced to remain motionless or be crushed and strangled was indeed "torture at its most bizarre and terrible" for the active, athletic teenager. In addition, she came close to killing everyone in Gotham City, including Alfred and Aunt Harriet.
Independent on-line searches by the Batcomputer and by Batgirl on the Internet of recent real estate transactions and purchases of equipment of the type used in the two escapes, gave Robin and Batgirl several leads as to where Nora Clavicle might be headed. It was decided among the young crime fighters and Commissioner Gordon that Robin and Batgirl could check out the leads more quickly than the police. If Robin and Batgirl found Ms. Clavicle, they would radio the Commissioner who would then send squad cars as backup.
Just as the Redbird and Batgirl cycle approached the third location on their list, Robin saw, through the night vision and telescopic enhancements on the Redbird's windshield, Nora Clavicle entering the limousine. It almost appeared as if she were waiting for their arrival to depart, but neither she nor the limo driver gave any indication that they had seen the Redbird or Batgirl cycle. That was believable, as both were running without headlights and in stealth mode.
Talking over their communications system, Robin and Batgirl decided they would follow Ms. Clavicle to her destination and attempt capture there. That might give them some indication as to who was behind her prison break. They also decided that they had a better chance of remaining undetected if Robin joined Batgirl on her motorcycle. This pleased the Boy Wonder, as he always enjoyed riding with Batgirl, something he had not had much chance to do since he got his own car.
The limo took a long, circuitous route, as if trying to lose anyone following, but at a leisurely pace. Robin noticed with concern that the last several miles took them first through tunnels, then along a dirt road next to some high-tension electrical wires. He doubted that a radio message to Commissioner Gordon could get through or that any other means of tracking them would be possible.
As Robin feared, the electricity in the air made their radio useless. He whispered to Batgirl, "What do you think we should do now?"
Batgirl, flattered that the more experienced, though probably younger crime fighter should ask her opinion, considered for a moment, then replied, "One of us could ride clear and get out a message, while the other keeps this place under surveillance."
"Well, we could do that, " Robin answered. "The problem is, if Ms. Clavicle goes on the move again, we would lose her. Why don't we sneak in and reconnoiter? I doubt that she has had either the time nor the inclination to hire any henchmen." The limo driver had been slightly taller than Nora, but dressed in a way that made it impossible to tell whether the chauffeur was a man or a woman.
"Robin, are you implying that female thugs couldn't give the two of us a hard time?!" Batgirl asked, half teasingly and half seriously. "What about Pagan? What about Eva Green and Holly? What about me?" Batgirl could see that her rebuke had hurt the Boy Wonder's feelings and that he was properly embarrassed.
After an uncomfortable, but short, silence, she went on, "Even though we don't know who has broken Nora out of jail, I agree we should move in. We can't take the chance that Nora might escape." Batgirl had a score to settle with Ms. Clavicle. As a young girl, Barbara Gordon had idolized Nora Clavicle and her efforts. In some measure, Nora was responsible for the creation of Batgirl. Like practically all of Nora Clavicle's former followers, Batgirl felt personally betrayed by Nora turning to crime and Nora's blatant disregard for human life.
Robin, feeling better now that his suggestion had been taken, led the way in a dash across the dark, dusty road. There were no windows on the side of the building where the door was that Nora and the limo driver had used, nor on what Robin could see of another side. The door was about three-quarters of the way down the side of the warehouse. The only feature besides the door on this part of the dull, grey building was a broken light fixture that hung limply over the entrance.
Robin and Batgirl took positions on each side of the door. Robin motioned with his green-gloved hands that he would open the door and go through first, with Batgirl to follow closely behind.
It was almost completely dark in the room, with the only illumination provided by the light of the gibbous moon streaming through the doorway. Robin briefly considered putting the night vision lenses from his utility belt into his mask, but decided that the risk of someone turning on lights and blinding him if the lenses were in place was too great. Batgirl followed him into what turned out to be a long, narrow corridor with rows of doors on both sides.
On the left the doors were about fifteen feet apart, while there was more space between the ones on the right. Each door appeared to be virtually identical, with a pane of opaque glass about two-thirds of the way up. As Robin's and Batgirl's eyes adjusted to the darkness, they noticed that a dull light emanated from a door on the right near the end of the corridor.
Cautiously they approached the door that appeared to lead to the only occupied area in the building. Repeating the procedure they used outside, Robin entered, followed by Batgirl.
This room was large and crowded with crates of various sizes, some stacked to more than ten feet high. High overhead fluorescent fixtures dimly lit the area. Batgirl and Robin were careful to close the door behind them and to make sure that no one was hiding behind the crates they passed on either side. They also kept a careful watch out for trap doors and anything that might drop on them from above. As the Dynamite Duo slowly advanced deeper into the room, they noticed a bare space about ten feet square approximately fifteen feet in front of them. A small drain was visible on the floor in the middle of the closest side of this open area.
Suddenly the lights brightened. Simultaneously, out from behind a large crate to the right of the open space, stepped Nora Clavicle. "Welcome Batgirl and Robin!" she cackled in a voice filled with excitement.
Ms. Clavicle had already changed out of prison garb. She was wearing the type of attire for which she was noted: a conservative business suit, but with a miniskirt and high heels. It was the type of outfit a female attorney would wear, if she was inclined to use her appearance to distract the judge and opposing counsel.
Batgirl struck her familiar crime-fighting pose, with her hands on her hips and her legs slightly spread apart, as she answered, "Welcomes are not in order, Ms. Clavicle. It's back to prison for you!"
"Oh, but not before I introduce you to the rest of my little party, " responded Nora. A strange procession then followed Nora out from behind the same crate. First came two nearly identical girls in their early teens with an African-American woman between them. The apparent twins were each holding one of Nora's razor-sharp knitting needles at the throat of the woman.
The victim of this jeopardy was wearing only a bright yellow bikini, which contrasted with her perfect chocolate-colored skin. She had closely cropped hair, with large circular earrings dangling from each ear. Around her neck was a diamond-studded collar. A diamond bracelet circled her left biceps. She had sharp fingernails on both hands. Around her abdomen at the level of her navel was a thin, gold chain. Athletic-looking without being overly muscular, she gave the impression of being a rather tall gymnast.
What both Batgirl and Robin first noticed about her, however, were her eyes. She did not have the look of a helpless victim. Instead she stared at the costumed crime fighters like a trapped animal. Her dark pupils were almost lost within her wide, wild eyes.
The final member of this bizarre parade was the limo driver. The lights and the fact that the chauffeur's cap was now removed, revealed the driver to be a woman. She appeared to be a bit younger than Nora Clavicle, who Batgirl and Robin knew to be in her late thirties. Handsome without being strikingly beautiful, she wore her hair in a way that revealed she had no ear lobes.
"You didn't expect me to have a hostage," stated Nora triumphantly.
"How do we know she's really a hostage?" retorted Robin. "She easily could be a member of your gang, pretending to be a captive so that you can capture us!"
"Well, Boy Wonder," Nora spat out "Boy" with as much disdain as possible, "I'm sure her status will become clear when she is . . . tied with you into a Siamese Human Knot!"
At this Batgirl noticed that Robin turned pale, as the blood seemed to drain from his face. The driver moved toward Robin, while Nora advanced toward Batgirl. Batgirl retreated slightly.
"Come, come Batgirl. Surely you don't want Jennifer and Jessica to use Thumper's neck as a pin cushion. Not only would an "innocent" lose her life, but these two girls would be guilty of murder. You wouldn't want that, would you? Besides," Nora continued slyly, "you and Robin escaped from the Human Knot once before. I'm sure you think you could get out of it again, even without Batman's help."
Neither Batgirl and Robin liked the sound of that. Nora had some new trick in store for them, they could be certain. She was right, however. They would not jeopardize the hostage's life. Batgirl and Robin did not resist as Nora and the driver began the process of tying their bodies into a Siamese Human Knot.
"For "old times' sake," we'll put you in the same positions as before," Nora taunted. "Thumper can take Batman's place."
Robin was forced to sit just to the right of the middle of the bare space on the warehouse floor. The driver, who was surprisingly strong, forced his legs as far apart as possible. The twin teenagers sat the woman Nora identified as Thumper up against Robin's left foot. His heel dug into her bikini trunks, while his lower left leg pressed hard against her muscular right buttock. Nora repeated the procedure with his right leg and Batgirl. Robin could now not bend either knee. His groin felt like a wishbone about to be snapped. He found it impossible to move his legs farther apart, while moving them together only increased the pressure on the two women.
Next the driver bent Robin's left arm at the elbow so that his left hand was over his crotch. Nora then threaded Batgirl's right lower leg between Robin's left upper arm and his side and over his left forearm. One of the twin girls pulled Thumper's left arm down behind and around Batgirl. Thumper's left hand was then joined with Robin's.
The tying together of hands in the Siamese Human Knot is almost incomprehensibly intricate. Batman had shown Robin how the torturers of ancient Thailand had discovered a way to link the fingers of two hands that could not be undone without moving the arms. One rainy afternoon Dick Grayson had Bruce Wayne tie Dick's hands together using the technique. Hours later, Dick had to admit it was completely impossible to escape without moving his arms.
Now, as Thumper's hand pulled on Robin's, Batgirl's lower leg pushed on Robin's left side. The Boy Wonder was being forced to hold Batgirl's right leg in place. To further immobilize that leg, Thumper's bare right leg was forced over Batgirl's right thigh. Nora then put Batgirl's left leg over Thumper's leg, in effect jamming Thumper's right leg between Batgirl's legs, while Thumper's ankle and foot pressed against the small of Robin's back, behind his cape. Batgirl's left ankle was placed on Robin's left shoulder, leaving Batgirl at a particularly uncomfortable angle, with her left foot almost as high as her head.Meanwhile,Thumper's left leg was splayed behind Batgirl's butt and placed over Robin's right leg, further locking that limb in position. Thumper, now too, was unable to move either leg, while her body was pressed by Robin's left leg on one side and by Batgirl's body on the other. Batgirl was caught between Robin's right leg, Thumper's left leg and Thumper's body, while Robin was caught viselike between Batgirl's lower right leg and Thumper's leg, ankle and foot.
As painful as all this was, Batgirl and Robin knew the worst was yet to come. The sadists now turned their attention to the four remaining free arms. They began to manipulate these limbs in such a way as to bring their victims to the brink of strangulation.
Thumper's right arm was placed on the right side of Robin's neck. Batgirl's left arm was put on his left. When the hands were joined together behind Robin's head, the Boy Wonder was in a precarious choke hold. In addition, Batgirl's left ankle now pushed against her left wrist, adding to the pressure around Robin's neck.
Batgirl's right upper arm was now bent back underneath the front of Thumper's neck, just above the African-American's diamond-studded collar. Batgirl's forearm went back around Thumper's head, where her hand was joined with Robin's right hand. Batgirl, Robin and Thumper were now tied in the Siamese Human Knot.
Thumper was now on the verge of strangling on Batgirl's biceps. At the same time, Batgirl's throat was being forced into Robin's right forearm, as Batgirl's body was being pulled forward by the tug on each of her arms and pushed forward by the pressure of Thumper's arm across her back and of Robin's and Thumper's legs on her backside.
"Oh, Ms. Clavicle, I love it!" gushed one of the teenager girls. Both of them looked on with obvious delight, enjoying their handiwork.
"I'm glad, Jennifer," replied Nora. "And this is just the beginning. But first . . . Batgirl . . . Robin, if you will allow me, I will explain your predicament for the benefit of Ms. Thumper."
Batgirl and Robin continued to stare silently straight ahead, as they knew they dared to do nothing else. Expecting no reply, Nora went on, "You are wise to stay motionless, or you will all be terminated. You may blink and swallow, but I suggest shallow breathing. The slightest other move by any one of you will only draw the Human Knot tighter . . . crush your bones . . . and strangle you!" With that, as if on cue, Nora and the driver burst into sinister laughter.
"And now," Nora continued, "let me turn the floor over to the person responsible for the . . . position . . . you find yourselves in." The limo driver now began to speak.
"Thank you, Nora. My name is Kyla Stavro Blofeld. I am the leader of SP.E.C.T.R.E., the Special Executor for Counter-Intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion. My father, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, was the founder and head of this organization until his death at the hands of the British secret agent, James Bond."
"Batgirl . . . Robin . . . this woman you are tied up with was one of my father's employees. Her revealing of the location of Willard Whyte to 007 directly led to the events that caused my father's death. SPECTRE learned this while interrogating her partner, known as Bambi. We confirmed these facts from data stolen from the British Secret Service."
"As Bambi was guilty only of failure, not betrayal, SPECTRE gave her a quick, painless death. But I was determined that Thumper, and any others disloyal to SPECTRE, should suffer as no one has ever suffered, before they die."
"I have always been an admirer of Ms. Clavicle. She possesses the special talent for inflicting anguish that I need. My contacts approached her in prison with the proposal that she work for SPECTRE. Her first assignment: make an example of the SPECTRE agent responsible for my father's death. She readily agreed, with the stipulation that you two be involved."
"It was a simple matter to have our contacts within your government ask that The Batman investigate our breakout of Thumper from the maximum security prison. It was also easy to liberate Nora from your state penitentiary. We anticipated your every action. As for me, what better disguise for the leader of the world's most powerful criminal organization than as a lowly chauffeur?" Blofeld concluded.
Nora now took over, "Batgirl, you probably know that I hate most men. But I hate YOU most of all, for working with men against me. Do you know that your location in that Human Knot is known as the "Traitor's Position?" While all the positions are extremely painful, the suffering in your place is tenfold!"
Nora was now getting more and more excited. "I determined how you got out last time. Batman must have used the basic formula for escaping from the Siamese Human Knot. He wouldn't have dared to tell you in advance that your legs needed to spasm in order for the escape to work, for fear that you would shift trying to cause involuntary muscular contractions. I overestimated you, Batgirl. I thought you would have too much pride to admit that your legs were cramping. You must have very little self-respect to show such weakness in front of Batman and Robin."
"Last time I showed you some mercy. Your ordeal would have ended when the city was destroyed. Well . . . there'll be no mercy this time! Jennifer . . . Jessica . . . THE NEXT STEP!" Nora practically shouted.
The two girls disappeared back behind the crates from which they first came. When they returned, Batgirl, but not Robin, could see that they were each carrying vials and hypodermic needles. As Jessica injected Thumper behind each ear and Jennifer injected Robin somewhere on his left hand, Batgirl, to her horror, realized what they were doing. The girls then proceeded to give all three of them injections in several different places.
"You have been given a small quantity of a derivative of curare," Nora explained, "only enough to paralyze those muscles into which the drug has been directly injected. Those muscles now cannot make the movements necessary to employ the basic escape formula, or any known variation! I assure you, however, that the rest of your bodies are quite unaffected. You now truly will find it completely impossible to EVER get yourselves out of that Human Knot!!"
Robin gingerly tested the truthfulness of Nora's statement. He tried to bend the fourth finger on his left hand ever so slightly. To his dismay, he discovered that his left little finger was totally disabled.
Nora now was positively beaming, "I considered several different embellishments for your amusement. How would you like to be subjected to the Chinese water torture while you're sitting there? Or how about being surrounded by mirrors so you can watch yourselves slowly dying? Japanese diamond torso bondage for the ladies? Injections of air into the Boy Bowknot's rectum?"
"But, no. I decided the pure form of the Siamese Human Knot is the best. The tediousness of it is part of the ordeal. You were in the Human Knot just a short time before. What do you think it will feel like to experience, minute after minute, hour after hour, . . . terrible cramps . . . slow strangulation . . . the realization that you will never eat, drink or even move, ever again? You will suffer complete and utter despair!"
"And then, I had another thought. Why should your torment end with death by dehydration or starvation? Jennifer . . . Jessica . . . THE FINAL STEP!"
The two girls came into Robin's field of vision carrying clear plastic tubes and what appeared to be long needles. One of the girls knelt down next to Robin's right leg, while the other was behind Batgirl near Thumper's left leg. Robin watched with apprehension as the girl closest to him connected one end of a tube to one of three small spigots that protruded slightly above the floor. The Teenage Thunderbolt felt a sharp stab as the girl then pushed one of the needles into his bare leg below the knee. When liquid started to slowly drip from the other end of the tube, she attached that end to the needle.
Robin assumed the other girl was doing the same thing to Thumper. The two girls together then followed a similar procedure on Batgirl, except that they put a much longer needle through Batgirl's costume and into her hip.
"You will now be fed intravenously with a solution that contains enough sugars, vitamins and minerals to keep you alive indefinitely," Nora expounded. "It will also pump into you a regular dose of just enough of the drug to continue to paralyze those muscles that received the injections."
Nora now leaned over and in a soft voice, barely more than a whisper, spoke into the left ear of Batgirl's cowl, "How long do you think you can endure the torture of absolute motionlessness? How long can you last without some little twitch that will tighten the Knot and squeeze the lives out of you? How long until one of you panics and begins to fatally hyperventilate? How long till you go stark, raving mad? ... How long?"
Robin and Batgirl, as well as Thumper, remained silent through all of this. They knew that any talking would be dangerous. They would need to prevent the Human Knot from tightening any further to survive as long as possible.
Nora stood up and backed away. "Jennifer, go out and put the lead-lined camouflage over the Batgirl cycle," Nora ordered. Then Nora hesitated. "But wait, there is one more thing. Ms. Blofeld, do the honors!"
SPECTRE's Number One pulled out of her uniform what looked like a garage door opener. She pushed a button on it. As she did so, there was the sound of heavy machinery starting. Then, slowly, the bare area on which the victims of the Siamese Human Knot were situated began to sink!
"You will spend the rest of your lives ten feet underground in a ten-foot cube," Nora crowed. "Your cell is soundproof. Besides your intravenous feedings, you will be supplied with air and a small amount of light. There is no camera on you nor have any pictures been taken, so there is no signal to trace, no photos to analyze. There will be no visits from us or anybody. The ceiling above you will make a perfect seal with the floor here, leaving no trace. In addition, we'll move crates over this area and sprinkle dust about. This building has been owned by a respectable SPECTRE front corporation for years. That's why it didn't turn up in your computer searches. Neither Batman nor anyone else will ever find you. You will NOT be rescued."
"I will call Commissioner Gordon and let him know of your fate. What torture for Batman, when he finds out what has happened to his young friends. He will go positively crazy looking for you!"
The floor on which Batgirl, Robin and Thumper were sitting stopped its descent. The ceiling started to close. None of the Knot victims could look up, but they did hear Nora say, just before they were entombed, "Don't . . . move!!!"
The ceiling now was completely closed. Robin tried to dispassionately consider their situation. In other circumstances, this might have been titillating: being tied up with a mostly naked, beautiful black woman and with Batgirl and her tight, form-fitting costume, which revealed every contour of her shapely body. But Robin realized he was as close, if not closer, to death than he had ever been. An involuntary moan escaped through his closed lips. Already there had been an almost imperceptible increase of the pressure around his neck. His right arm was falling asleep. His lower back hurt horribly. The agony in his legs was excruciating. Robin ached to move any part of his wiry physique, to relieve his misery even in the slightest, but the Boy Wonder knew he dare not.
Robin was certain that if they were found, Batman would be able to extricate them from the Human Knot. How could he find them? Would they be found? If they were, would it be in time?
Robin looked at the woman known as Thumper. Though clad only in a bikini, her face was already drenched in sweat. "Some innocent victim!" Robin thought. If she worked for someone like Blofeld, she probably dished out plenty of punishment. She could dish it out, but could she take it? And if so, for how long?
What about Batgirl? Robin glanced at her contorted face as waves of pain wracked her body. Last time, after just a few hours, Batgirl said she couldn't stand being tied in the Siamese Human Knot much longer. How long could she endure it this time?
Batgirl gazed blankly back at Robin. Both of her legs were numb as blood drained out of them. She dreaded the "Charley horses" she knew would follow in the next few hours. Her windpipe was pressing hard against Robin's forearm, as her torso, under the relentless pressure of Robin's leg and Thumper's arm and leg, was forced forward. The indignity of it! - To have Robin holding her leg; To be choked to death by her best friend; To be half of strangling him!
Batgirl concentrated on remaining absolutely still as "pins and needles" began to develop in both of her arms. Her mind then wandered, as she pondered when one of them would move enough to strangle them all. Hours? Days? A week? "Oh God," Batgirl thought. "Can I even last twelve hours?"
Batgirl then realized that they would not have any idea how much time was passing. In this tiny cubicle, hours might seem like days . . . or minutes. Could they risk sleep to escape their distress? An unconscious jerk probably would kill them!