Delisha Davis tore around her dorm room, trying, as usual, to do two things at once. It seemed her life had been in turmoil ever since her arrival at Gotham State University five years ago.
As a freshman, the African-American girl had been kidnapped by the Penguin. Then, a year later, she had been an unwilling participant in La Esclavage Reine’s bondage competition. This was all in addition to Delisha juggling her pursuit of a degree in education with her track and field training.
Her existence had become even more hectic after medaling in the heptathlon at Athens. She had missed the beginning of the semester and was only just now catching up.
Another concern, however, was occupying her mind at the moment – namely, GSU’s famous Halloween costume party to be held Saturday night. As a campus “celebrity,” she felt pressured to come up with something truly special. Lack of extra cash, though, was a major consideration in figuring out what she was going to wear.
While eating a Power Bar, Delisha rummaged through the room, looking for items she could cobble together to create a decent costume. Suddenly, in the midst of her search, the buzzer to her room sounded.
Delisha promptly went to the door and opened it. To her surprise, no one was there. ‘That’s funny,’ she thought. Then the Olympian looked down.
On the floor, out in the hall just beyond her threshold, was a large, white, clothing box, bound by a huge pink ribbon and bow. Printed neatly on top of the box in bright pink letters was the message, “For DELISHA DAVIS.”
The education major again looked up and down the hall. No one was in sight. Her curiosity aroused, Delisha picked up the box and brought it inside, the door closing gently behind her.
‘It must be from Jenny,’ thought Delisha. Jenny Akasofu was Delisha’s best friend. Since she, too, had been a target of the Penguin and La Esclavage Reine, it was also taking the collegiate swimmer five years to earn her undergraduate degree.
Delisha sat down on her bed and slipped off the ribbon. She was surprised how excited she was by the gift. Delisha loved presents . . . and the unexpected. The athlete could feel her heart pounding.
Delisha’s eagerness turned to shock when she opened the box. With mounting trepidation, she reached in and pulled out a black, lurex costume. As she held it up, she wondered, ‘Can it be? A . . . Catwoman costume?!’
The Princess of Plunder’s escapades had been all over the newspapers the last month. Not only that, Catwoman had been one of the competitors in the “bondage competition.” ‘How can Jenny think I would even consider wearing this?!’
As Delisha pondered the question, though, she found herself fingering the material. It felt alluring in her hands. She also remembered how powerful the white Catwoman looked in costume.
‘I bet I’d look twice as hot!’ Delisha thought, ‘. . . and Catwoman is black now. Besides, isn’t Halloween the time of year you’re allowed to be a little bad?’ She resolved to at least try on the outfit.
One at a time, Delisha slipped her legs into the pants of the costume. Although it was tight, it fit perfectly. ‘Jenny must have sent it,’ she thought. ‘Who else knows my size?’ Actually, there were several others, but none Delisha believed would have sent a Halloween costume to her.
The comely co-ed was momentarily puzzled at how to get into the top of the “catsuit.” Soon, she realized that all she need do was put her arms in and then zip it up in the back. After doing so, she stood and looked at herself in the full-length mirror on the back of her closet door.
“W - e - l - l! My, my, my!” she said aloud. The ripples of her muscles were evident through the material and the chest was cut so as to accentuate her breasts. She turned and looked back over her shoulder. Delisha was treated to a view of her splendid rump. She was just narcissistic enough to be impressed by what she saw. “Mm, mm, mmm!”
Delisha then noted her bare feet. “That won’t do,” she said. Returning to a seat on the bed, she peered back in the box. Black socks were included and quickly put on, but the heptathlete looked with some skepticism at the improbably high-heeled boots, nestled amidst white tissue paper. ‘I don’t think I’ve worn high heels since the senior prom.’
The shoe size was correct, though, and Delisha managed to squeeze into the stylish footwear. Unsteadily at first, she tottered around the room. Before long, however, the skilled athlete got the hang of it and was once again admiring herself in the mirror. “Much better,” she declared.
Delisha leaned over the box and pawed through the next layer of paper. Her search was rewarded with the discovery of a pair of cat ears. She clipped them on her head. Even though, with her short hair, they stuck out a bit, she liked the way they looked. “Meow,” she said self-consciously.
‘Is there anything else?’ Delisha wondered. Returning to the box, she found a pair of gloves with pointed, but not sharp, claws and a golden necklace and belt. Delisha slipped the necklace around her neck, then decided to put on the belt.
The college girl remembered how low Catwoman had worn the belt around the hips. To Delisha’s delight, the belt seemed as if it would fit perfectly around her at the same location. Delisha clipped the two ends of the belt together.
The acrid smell of burnt flesh filled the room.
If Delisha Davis had still been alive, she might have eventually found the note, taped upside down to the bottom of the inside of the box.
It was late afternoon in the office of Commissioner Gordon at Gotham City Police Headquarters. Besides the Commissioner, Chief of Police O’Hara, Lieutenant Diana Mooney, Batman, Robin, Batgirl, Batwoman and Flamebird were present.
The mood in the room was as grim as it had ever been.
“I called you all here because of the gravity of the situation,” Commissioner Gordon announced. “As I’m sure you all know by now, Miss Delisha Davis was murdered today . . . apparently by Catwoman.”
Grief was evident on the long faces in the room. The Dynamic Duo, Batgirl, the Commissioner and the Chief had met the brave young college student during the Penguin affair. The Distaff Duo and Mooney knew her only by reputation.
Batman seemed the most shaken of all. “Why would Catwoman commit cold-blooded murder?” he asked quietly, shaking his head.
Except for the many, many attempts on the lives of the Fearsome Fivesome, few of Gotham City’s arch-criminals had ever tried to killed anyone. Mr. Freeze and, more recently, Nora Clavicle, were the exceptions – super villains actually guilty of homicide.
“I don’t know,” Robin said, putting an arm on Batman’s shoulder, trying to comfort his mentor. Robin knew Batman had always had a soft spot for the Feline Felon. “Maybe she’s become deranged by all that body switching?”
“Sure’n she's gone off the deep end,” Chief O'Hara commented.
“In my opinion, she’s been over the edge for years,” Batgirl responded. “Her boast that ‘Catwoman does not kill,’ always rang hollow to me.”
“Amen to that,” Lieutenant Mooney seconded.
Batwoman tried to assess the situation dispassionately. “The question is, what's her next move?”
“Right,” Flamebird agreed, “and how does the murder of Delisha Davis advance her plans?”
“Let’s see,” Batwoman began, “so far on this crime spree, she’s hit Rudi Gernreich’s private show at the Top Hat Room, raided the Federal Depository Building, kidnapped Vera Dang and struck at the Anaerobic Workout Wear Celebration.”
“I fail to see a pattern there,” Flamebird lamented.
Suddenly, an idea came to Robin – a possible lead he would soon pursue on his own . . . not as Robin, but as Dick Grayson!
Robin's thoughts, though, were rudely interrupted. Uncharacteristically, Commissioner Gordon had pounded his fist on his table. “Chief, Lieutenant, ladies and gentleman – capturing Catwoman has to be our number one priority! She must be brought to justice!”
Batgirl had never seen her father so angry.
The next day, after class, Dick Grayson visited the Round Robin, the restaurant and bar just off the campus of Gotham State University. At first known strictly as a place for gay and lesbian patrons to purchase alcoholic beverages, the establishment had come to serve a diverse clientele food and drink, while still welcoming its original customers.
The tavern was also renowned for its memorabilia featuring Robin, Batgirl and . . . Catwoman.
As it was early, the Round Robin was virtually empty. “Bill!” Dick called out. “Bill, are you here?”
“Hi, Dick,” a handsome man in his early twenties answered as he emerged from the kitchen. “What can I do for you? Something to eat?”
“No,” Dick said as he took a seat on a barstool. “I’m here for some information.” Dick’s mood turned somber. “I suppose you heard what happened to Delisha?”
“Sure did.” Bill shook his head sadly. “I can’t believe it: Catwoman – a murderer! We’ll have to take her shrine down now, too, just like we did Clavicle’s when she killed that guy.”
“Bill,” with a serious expression, Dick looked the barman in the eyes, “did you see Delisha with anyone unusual in here the last couple of weeks?”
Pumping the bartender for information was a cliche. Bill, though, respected his customers’ privacy. “Why do you want to know? What – are you playing detective or something?”
“I’m just trying to help insure that a friend’s murder doesn’t go unpunished.”
Bill was touched by Dick’s sincerity. “W e l l,” he said slowly, “about a week ago, an older black woman was hitting on her. From what I could tell, it didn’t go well.”
Without realizing what he was doing, Dick pounded his right fist into his left hand, as Robin often did when he reached a conclusion. “Catwoman!” he declared.
The barkeep shook his head. “No, Dick, it wasn’t Catwoman. Don’t you think I know what Catwoman looks like? No, this chick was taller – much taller.”
That evening, at the Gotham City Library, Barbara Gordon was working late when she felt a vibration against her hip. Barbara’s pager was silently alerting her Batgirl had just received an e-mail from the Police Department.
In light of recent events, Barbara decided there was no time to lose. She retreated to her private office, locked the door and called her father on a line she had long ago secured. In a slightly disguised voice, she said, “Commissioner Gordon, this is Batgirl. Are you trying to reach me?”
“Batgirl! Thank heavens you called! Have you heard from Lieutenant Mooney today?”
“No, I haven’t,” Barbara said, concern creeping into her voice. “Why?”
“She didn’t report for her shift. She’s not at home, but her car’s still in her garage. I’m afraid–”
Batgirl completed her father’s ominous thought. “–Catwoman’s grabbed her again! and since Catwoman’s murdered an innocent college co-ed . . .”
The Commissioner murmured his assent. “She’ll have no compunction about killing a police lieutenant!”
“Commissioner, I’ll be right there!”
Less than fifteen minutes later, when Batgirl burst through the double doors to her father’s office, he was on the telephone. “Wait a minute!” the Commissioner said to the person on the other end of the line. “Here she is now!”
The Commissioner held the receiver out to Batgirl and said, “This woman claims to know where Lieutenant Mooney is being held, but insists she will only tell you!”
Batgirl took the phone. “This is Batgirl.”
“Batgirl! I’m one of Catwoman’s henchkittens. I’m no saint, but I can’t stand what she’s doing to that policewoman!” The woman sounded as if she was on the verge of breaking down. The voice was muffled, but Batgirl was sure it wasn’t Catwoman’s.
“Tell me where to find her!” Batgirl urged.
“Alright, but no police! If Catwoman sees any, she’ll kill her for sure!” The woman gave Batgirl the address, then, suddenly, the line went dead!
“Hello?” Batgirl said. “Hello!?”
“What happened?” Commissioner Gordon asked.
“We were cut off.”
“Did she tell you where to find Mooney?”
Batgirl paused for the briefest of seconds. She hated the idea of not being forthcoming with the police – much less to her father – but felt sure this was one time Batgirl wouldn’t be allowed to go it alone . . .
. . . but this was one time she had to go by herself!
“No,” Batgirl lied, “she didn’t.”
After promising to keep the Commissioner informed of any results of her investigation, Batgirl quickly made her way to the address she had been given. Not far from Gotham State University, the address was of an old brownstone, dark and foreboding.
Elsewhere on the street, jack o’ lanterns glowed from windows as youngsters and undergraduates in costume roamed the sidewalks. Gothamites had become somewhat jaded by the activities of super-criminals. They weren’t going to let one murder spoil their holiday fun.
Batgirl pulled her motorcycle into the alley behind the houses. ‘This is one time I won’t be so conspicuous in my costume,’ she thought.
Batgirl dismounted and crept up to a basement window. First, she raked leaves and trash with her gloved hands out from the window well. Then, taking a rag from her utility belt, she rubbed the grime off the glass.
Her heart leapt to her throat as she peered though the window. In the gloom below, Lieutenant Mooney sat huddled in a corner, a look of sheer terror on her face!
Without any hesitation, Batgirl broke though the window and dropped to the basement floor. After quickly surveying the area and determining it was safe to proceed, she ran over and knelt down, facing her friend.
“Diana! Diana!! What’s wrong?” The policewoman wasn’t bound or gagged, but refused to get up or speak. In fact, quaking, she pressed even more tightly against the wall, as if she was afraid of Batgirl.
“Diana, what has Catwoman done to you?” Batgirl said sympathetically, trying to look into the woman’s eyes. Batgirl was focused solely on her afflicted friend.
Batgirl dropped face first, a victim of a blackjack blow to the back of her cowl. Unconscious, she lay on the floor, next to Lieutenant Mooney.
When Batgirl came to, she was tightly strapped to a gurney. Thick leather straps ran just below her collarbone and across her waist and knees. Inside stringent cowhide cuffs, her wrists and ankles were bound–
‘My wrists and ankles?’
As had become almost standard procedure, Batgirl’s utility belt had been taken. This time, however, Batgirl was shocked to realize her gloves and boots were also gone!
Her head, though, was free. Fighting hard not to panic, she took in her surroundings. The heroine was in a large, dark room, that Batgirl had the distinct impression was underground. Somehow, the chamber seemed vaguely familiar.
Of more concern was the equipment next to where Batgirl lay supine on the mobile hospital bed. Hanging from a stand was a clear plastic bag – the type used to administer fluids intravenously. Batgirl felt a sinking sensation in the pit of her stomach. She had been down this road before.
‘Am I going to be kept alive indefinitely, to endure some long-lasting torture?’ Batgirl wondered, ‘or is that liquid the torture?’
Batgirl did not have to wait long to find out.
The Dominoed Daredoll heard a sound like the rustling of dry straw from behind. She craned her neck backwards, trying to see who was approaching.
“You were expecting . . . someone else?”
The ominous figure walked to stand in front of Batgirl. Towering over the Dark Knight Damsel was . . .
the Scarecrow! The villainess’ costume had been altered to make it obvious she was female. The nightmarish garb had been cinched in at several places.
As per usual, Batgirl’s first thought was for someone else. “What have you done to Lieutenant Mooney?!”
The Scarecrow’s face was unreadable, but Doctor Grace Bergman put her right fist on her hip and gestured with her gloved left hand. “Don’t worry about her. She’s in the next cell. A most interesting subject. The dear lieutenant has labyrinthphobia, a most unusual condition.”
“When – how did you get out of Gotham State Penitentiary?” Batgirl demanded.
“My, my, so many questions,” the Fugitive from a Corn Field said. “You really should be more concerned about what’s going to happen to you.”
Batgirl failed to take the bait and continued to glare at her enemy.
The Scarecrow shrugged. “Well, let me just say it’s amazing what chemicals are readily available in prison. I’ve got a certain number of guards so terrorized that I come and go as I please. It’s the perfect hideout," the Scarecrow spread her hands wide, "when I want to get away from all this . . .”
Batgirl suddenly figured out where they were. “. . . the tunnel system of the old Arkham Insane Asylum, underneath the campus of Gotham State University!”
“Exactly right, Batgirl.”
“But why murder Delisha Davis?” Batgirl wanted to know, “and why lay the blame on Catwoman?”
There was a pause. Then the Scarecrow, shaking with what Batgirl came to realize was rage, said, “Because . . . because both of those bitches rejected me!”
Batgirl recalled the Scarecrow revealing that a primary motive for the biochemist’s initial solo crime wave was revenge. With a shudder, she also remembered something else Scarecrow had said.
The Scarecrow put her hands on Batgirl’s cart and leaned over the helpless heroine. “In fact, Catwoman told me that you were more her type!”
Batgirl turned her head away. The Scarecrow straightened, took a deep breath and continued. “I told you I would be back . . . and I keep my promises. I’ve created a substance that will destroy your mind, one fear at a time!”
The Caped Crusadress swallowed hard. The heroine knew Grace Bergman to be one of the most brilliant scientists in the world. If the doctor said she had concocted something . . .
“I’ve studied you, Batgirl, to devise the perfect vengeance. I’ve gone over our previous encounters, as well as interviewed many of your other adversaries. My conclusion is that you’re addicted to danger, with sado/masochistic tendencies as well.”
“You’re crazy,” Batgirl said, unconvincingly.
The Scarecrow’s face remained impassive, but Batgirl could imagine rows of perfect white teeth grinning broadly beneath the mask. “That may be,” the Scarecrow admitted, “but look at you. You parade around in that ludicrous outfit, putting yourself in deadly peril time after time. Oh, no doubt you tell yourself you’re fighting evil – and there’s no question you do some ‘good’ – but you hide from your true nature.”
“I thought you were a biochemist, not a psychiatrist.”
The Scarecrow conceded the point with a wave of her hand. “I know why I do what I do: love of money and revenge. Some people are addicted to drugs, some to food, others to sex.” The Scarecrow’s voice became even more ominous. “Now that I know what you crave, I’m going to exploit that weakness.”
“What do you mean?” Batgirl asked, not sure she wanted to hear the answer.
“Fear produces much the same reactions in the body as danger. I’m going to give you the ultimate overdose of what you seek most . . . and when I’m through, well, there won’t be much of your mind left.”
The Scarecrow enjoyed the look on Batgirl’s face. “I’m sure you’ve noticed I’ve removed your boots and gloves.”
Batgirl tried, the best she could, to infuse her voice with some defiance. “Obviously.”
“After listening to my fellow prisoners recount the various deathtraps in which they had left you, I came to the obvious conclusion that you must have some knives and lock picks hidden in your costume, somewhere other than in your utility belt.”
Batgirl gaped at the Scarecrow.
“I patted you down – quite thoroughly. I’m certain I’ve taken away all of your toys.”
“You’ll never get away with this!” Batgirl declared.
“Oh? Who’s going to stop me? Your caped friends? The police? They’re all after Catwoman!”
The Scarecrow rolled up Batgirl’s right sleeve. She then busied herself with the IV tube. The Scarecrow paused, allowing the needle to hover over Batgirl’s exposed flesh.
“Do you suffer from aichmophobia, Batgirl, the fear of needles? I'd say you have less algiophobia, fear of pain, than most people.” The Scarecrow skillfully inserted the needle into a blood vessel and taped it down securely. “There, that wasn’t too bad, was it?”
Batgirl again turned away.
“You know,” the Scarecrow said conversationally, “I’ve learned a lot since we last met. I suspect you were then able to resist my Fear Serum because of your previous exposure to my general fear toxin, coupled with the effects of sensory deprivation. I assure you, that experience won’t protect you this time.
“Rather than engendering your greatest fear, this liquid launches a much more specific attack on your brain. By changing the formula just the slightest bit, I can cause you to experience new horrors, one after another.”
The Scarecrow continued her lecture, as Batgirl’s awareness started to fade. “My challenge is to not scare you to death – at least not before I’ve peeled away your intellect like layers of an onion.
“Now, this first one’s a classic: hydrophobia.” Batgirl never heard the Scarecrow muse, “I wonder how it will manifest itself?”
Batgirl was on a grey beach. The illusion was so real, the experience so vivid, there was no question as to her accepting it as fact.
Batgirl was turned about twenty degrees from facing directly at the ocean. She could hear the sound of the waves breaking onto the shore. Her immediate attention, however, was not focused on what she heard, but on what she saw and felt.
The Caped Cutie was laying on her lower back. Her legs were hooked underneath her armpits, with her ankles crossed behind her head. Batgirl recognized the position as the classic human knot.
Normally, the limber heroine would have had no trouble extricating herself from such a pose. Someone, however, had bound her wrists inside stringent leather cuffs, attached to two solid pieces of driftwood sticking straight out of the sand. With her hands thus restrained, there was no way for her to get her legs out from behind her head.
Curiously, to Batgirl’s left, there was a red-headed girl she had never seen before, just a few feet away. This girl, turned twenty degrees in the opposite direction, was clad in a yellow sun dress with dark brown trim, and tied in exactly the same way as Batgirl – except that the girl’s hands were free!
The girl had a strange, melancholy expression on her face. Her eyes were downcast, not looking at Batgirl, but at the wet beach between them.
‘Wet beach?’ Batgirl thought.
A wave brushed against Batgirl’s butt, soaking her costume. Horrified, Batgirl realized what was happening.
‘The tide is coming in!!!’
Batgirl struggled violently, trying to tear herself free. It was no use. Another wave struck, threatening to engulf their torsos.
‘The girl!’ Batgirl concluded. ‘She can save herself . . . and me!’ “Hey!” Batgirl said out loud. “Young lady! You’ve got to get out of here! You’ll drown . . . we’ll drown! Your hands are free. Please, get out of that knot and help me.”
The girl’s expression didn’t change. She said nothing, refusing to look at Batgirl.
“What’s the matter with you?!” Batgirl shouted as a wave washed across the top of their breasts.
Without looking up, the girl replied, “I deserve to die.”
Then an all-too-familiar voice spoke from behind Batgirl – a voice Batgirl hadn’t heard for over a year. “Don’t you understand, Batgirl?”
“Nora Clavicle?!?!?” Batgirl cried.
The heroine’s arch-enemy walked in front of Batgirl to stand in the wet sand. Nora was wearing the same clothes she had on the last time Batgirl saw her, in the basement of the Gotham Research Institute, just before she disappeared.
“She’s your conscience, Batgirl,” Nora explained. As she spoke, Nora began to sink into the sand! The arch criminal didn’t seem to notice. “She knows she deserves to die . . . because you killed me!”
“That’s not true!” Batgirl shouted . . . but it was too late. Nora had already sank beneath the surface.
Batgirl, though, had her own problems. Her butt was now continually under water. The water line was just below her collar bone. Batgirl gasped for breath, as waves splashed across her face. Saltwater got into her mouth and nose.
The girl in yellow, whoever – whatever – she was, just sat there impassively, refusing to save herself. In seconds, they both would be underwater, with nothing to breath but the sea.
“H E L P !!!!!” Batgirl screamed.
The Scarecrow added two drops to the solution.
WILL HER SANITY SURVIVE THE CATALOG OF PHOBIAS DOCTOR BERGMAN HAS IN STORE?
HOW CAN OUR PURPLE-CLAD BEAUTY EVER ESCAPE?
FOR THE ANSWER TO THESE AND OTHER FRIGHTENING QUESTIONS, TUNE IN NEXT TIME!
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