Selina inhaled through her gritted teeth when Barsad grabbed her thighs. Her free hand seized the black fabric and bundled it around her fist. She had one chance. He pulled her legs apart.
She threw the black fabric back at him and rocked the cot over. Barsad yelled as he hit the floor with a black-wrapped head. The cot landed on top of her. She slid her other arm free from the leg, shoved the cot aside, and rolled to her feet.
He wrapped his arms around her legs despite being blinded. Selina grabbed the fabric and punched him in the face with her other fist. He fell back, but swept her feet with his leg.
She pulled the fabric off his head as she fell to the floor. He lunged at her and she kicked up. Her heel slammed into his collarbone. The snap and his growling scream echoed in the tunnel. He fell back as he struggled to his feet.
Selina threw the black fabric toward the rock pile and slid into stance in front of it. "I'm not the warlord's daughter, you fanatical bastard!"
His left arm hung limply at his side. "You are nothing but the Traitor's whore."
She moved forward with a roundhouse kick. Barsad backpedaled out of its arc. "I'm Catwoman, and by the time I'm through scratching you, you won't ever forget it." She stalked forward. Her sneer exposed her teeth.
Barsad punched with his right hand. He caught the side of her head and the blow knocked her down. The buzz of the magnetic lock sounded. She looked up to see him slam the gate shut. "You stupid whore! I will shoot you for this."
"No, you're not." She picked up the black fabric and wrapped it around her body while he gaped. "Bane's not done with him and we both know you don't want to touch him. So you stay on that side of the fence and keep feeding us, and I won't try to cut your dick off. Deal?"
"I will snap your neck myself, Whore," he growled.
"As soon as Bane says you can, you kinky bastard you." She grinned at him. "Thanks for the blanket." He snarled inarticulately as he marched down the tunnel. She set the cot behind Bruce's dangling body. "Somehow, I feel you'd approve of being my shield. I'm not sure how I feel about taking that option."
She waited, and examined the fabric. It was light weight for a blanket and there were flexible wires running through it. She followed the wires and found the clasps to connect it to the armor and it was cut like a continuous set of wings. It was Batman's cape. She changed her nickname for Barsad from kinky bastard to sick fuck. Coerce her into sex for Batman's cape; she should have kicked his nose into his brain pan.
Barsad didn't run back to the cage with his automatic rifle. She peered into the dark hole. "Are you alive in there?"
"Dios mío," Montoya exclaimed softly. "We're fine; no one got hit. Are you all right?"
"Looks like my unexpected resistance will not be punished today." Selina rubbed her hip. "Just bruised. Worth it for breaking that sick fuck's collarbone."
Montoya sucked in air. "Dios mío, no one has seen him since the Stock Exchange attack, and he would go after these terrorists. Your cellmate is Batman."
"He's not still mad at me, is he?" The young male cop asked faintly in the darkness.
Selina's mind whirled between how the female cop had figured it out and why the hell would Bruce be pissed at a cop. It almost proved a distraction from her overwhelming worry. She shook her head. "It's not fair to bring that up when he's passed out and can't decide if you should know or not."
"You're right, Catwoman," Montoya said. "It's not your secret to tell. But he's paralyzed…" Her voice trailed off like a lost child.
"You tracked down the footage from the Stock Exchange security cameras," the older male's voice said in the darkness. "That was Bane."
"Dios mío, what kind of monster are we dealing with?"
That Selina felt safe talking about. "They set us up with GCN as part of their torture package. Let me tell you what you've missed for the past couple of weeks."
Snow covered the streets of Gotham. The only vehicles that broke through the white powder were the convoys playing the shell game with the reactor bomb and Bane's men patrolling for victims. That led to nearly everyone in the city hunkering down behind locked doors, so John Blake was the lone pedestrian breaking up the snow on the sidewalks.
Blake knelt in the snow at the end of a car and set the gas can down beside him. He had already emptied its gas tank weeks ago. He double checked the note with the Commissioner's latest message to the troops was secure on the hook before lowering it via kite string into the storm drain. The line tugged after a few seconds and he rolled it back up, and stuffed it into his coat pocket while standing up again.
His meandering path to St. Swithin's in Colgate Heights let him peek at Wayne Enterprises building. Barbed wire stretched across the doors of the black skyscraper and armed men moved to keep warm behind it. He still hadn't spoken to Lucius Fox since the phone call before the executive was kidnapped. Bane had moved into City Hall with most of his men. Why was Bane still guarding this building? And Gotham needed Blake too much to risk his neck on a closer look.
He moved behind the National Guard jeep rolling down the street. None of the armed riders noticed him. He went through the unlocked doors of St. Swithin's Boys Home and up the flight of stairs to what had been a large classroom. Now it was filled with supplies, cots, and adults that had moved their families under the Church's protection.
Father Reilly met him as he entered. Blake handed him the gas can. "For the bus," he explained. "In case there's a chance to evacuate."
"Any news from the Commissioner?" the older man asked.
"The less you know, Father." Blake smiled tightly. He didn't want to talk about the Commissioner or endanger the man who had raised him. "How are the boys doing?" He glanced over where Mark and others had balanced a game of Scrabble on a cot.
"Well we've had more power on, so they get some T.V."
Blake nodded and clasped the man on the shoulder. "It's good to see you, Father."
He started to walk out, but Father Reilly's quiet voice called after him. "Blake, you be careful out there. They're hunting down cops like dogs." Blake nodded and left. St. Swithin's had plenty of supplies, and there was another stop he had to check on before turning in for curfew.
The doors of the East Eighteenth Street Clinic opened with a bell jingle. He knocked the snow off his boots and frowned at the empty receptionist desk. The Clinic never had enough help during the best times. Right now, Dr. Thompkins was probably doing everything necessary to keep the clinic open on top of seeing patients.
The careworn doctor popped up at the receptionist's window and smiled. "John, in need of emergency care?"
"Just checking on you." Blake returned the smile. He had a warm spot for Dr. Leslie Thompkins ever since she fixed the arm he broke dropping off St. Swithin's fire escape.
Dr. Thompkins' smile widened. "I'm still the most popular gal at the party. Come around back. I'm finishing up with a patient, but I've stocked the break room with my tea collection. Help yourself." She vanished behind a door further down the hall when Blake pushed open the door out of the lobby.
The break room was directly behind the receptionist's office. She wasn't kidding about a tea collection. A few cellophane-covered boxes still had gift bows attached. Apparently, he wasn't the only one in Gotham bad at gift giving.
He had two mugs of hot water seeping with the strongest caffeinated blend when the front door jingled. He ducked into the receptionist's office and blanked his face when he saw the teenager clenching and unclenching the automatic rifle. The counter hid Blake's gun under his coat. "You need help?" Blake asked. Something about the kid's face poked at his memory.
The young man's hands tightened on the rifle. "I need to see Dr. Thompkins."
"She's with a patient. Is it an emergency?"
His head jerked from side to side. "Just need to talk."
Blake heard Dr. Thompkins in the hall outside the office. "I'm serious, Waylon. You light a fire to stay warm and you don't have proper ventilation for it, the carbon monoxide will make sure you don't wake up."
He moved to the hall door before they pushed through the swinging door into the lobby. All seven-feet of Waylon reared back and he smashed a fedora down on his head. Yellow eyes gleamed under the brim. "Armed kid in the lobby wants to talk to you, Doctor," Blake said.
"I hope I don't have to bring the gun lockers back." Dr. Thompkins shook her head before striding through the door. The bundled-up giant hurried after her, and Blake followed him. Dr. Thompkins stopped in front of the teenager. "Please put that away."
"Sorry, Doc Leslie." He flicked the safety on and pulled the strap until the rifle hung from his shoulder. "I just wanna talk."
Her stony face softened. "About what, young man?"
"Bane," his voice squeaked and he cleared his throat. "Bane doesn't know you're here. Us from the neighborhood, we're out to keep it that way."
"I appreciate that. Leave your guns at home if you need treatment."
He nodded and turned to leave when his identity clicked for Blake. "You're from St. Swithin's and you're running with Bane?"
"I'm making sure Father Reilly gets food!"
Blake shook his head. "I need to know about the people in the Dungeon."
"Why? They're dead; they just haven't stopped breathing yet."
"I'm looking for someone, Lucius Fox. He worked for Wayne Enterprises." Blake felt Dr. Thompkins' stare but didn't shift his gaze off the teenager. "Look, kid."
"Tony," he placed one hand on his rifle again.
"Tony, I don't want to get you in trouble with Bane, but I have to find Fox."
"I'd remember a name like that. And we don't have anyone who worked for Wayne Enterprises in the Dungeon. Now I gotta go."
Blake didn't protest as Tony left. Nobody from Wayne Enterprises had ended up in the Dungeon yet, why and how?
The giant who towered over everyone growled. "If I tore Bane's head off, I could get away from all this snow." He hunched his body further inside the insulated trench coat he wore.
"You're tough, Waylon," Dr. Thompkins said with a small smile, "but you're not bullet-proof. Go on home and stay warm safely."
"Sure thing, Doc. But if Bane gives you any trouble, I'll fix him." Waylon ducked under the doorjamb and his shoulder brushed the bell as she lumbered outside.
It was a bad idea to send him after Bane. It really was, Blake repeated to himself.
Dr. Thompkins studied him. "Why are you looking for Lucius Fox?"
"You know Fox?" He held the swing door open for her.
"Ages ago, when Thomas, Thomas Wayne, was building his train. Lucius was his Chief Engineer or something. Now quit evading my question, John."
Blake handed her a mug of tea. "I was supposed to investigate a break-in for him before everything went to hell. Considering Bane kidnapped him, he probably knows a way to defuse the bomb they're driving around the city."
Her blue eyes dimmed. "If that's true, there's a strong possibility he's already dead, like that poor Dr. Pavel."
He swallowed down the tea without tasting it. "I can't give up. Do that and you might as well join with Bane or at least admit he has won. I can't." Both his hands tightened around the mug. "Someone has to protect the good people from monsters like Bane, Doc Leslie."
She rinsed her empty mug in the break room sink and set it on the drying mat. Her hand squeezed his shoulder. "Just be sure not to become the monster you are fighting."
"I have a better example to keep in mind."
"And don't you dare bring your fight here. I take my neutrality very seriously, young man."
The front door jangled again. "Aunt Leslie?" A male voice called out.
Blake trailed after Dr. Thompkins. The man yelling was older than Blake and wore a lab coat over two sweaters. "What's wrong, Matthew?" Dr. Thompkins asked.
"I got supplies from FEMA for you, since you won't consolidate at Gotham General." He gestured at a supply truck visible through the front window.
"I won't because when the Feds bray 'give us the really sick' loud enough; Bane's thugs will march through it and shoot everyone in a bed and everyone who tries to stop them." She shook her head. "My great-nephew, Dr. Matthew Thorne, John Blake." She pulled a bright pink knitted cap out of a pocket and tugged it over her gray hair. Her gloves went on next as she opened the front door.
Dr. Thorne shook his head. "Better help her before she scares the FEMA worker." Blake offered him a smirk before heading out the door.