Susanna Pelacci loved Gotham. When she was little, Keystone was fine. She lived in a big house with a big yard, and with five brothers, there were endless games of tag or touch football. Carlos gave her a ride to school every morning, picking up her friends Karen and Drita on the way. St. Ambrose had a bus, but their fathers didn’t like them to ride it. They walked home, except in the winter when it was too cold, and during lockdowns. Then Carlos would pick them up. The first time it happened, Susanna was too young to understand. She knew she couldn’t go outside, but none of her brothers were around to play with anyway. There were lots of other people coming and going, but Susanna didn’t see much of them. It only lasted for a week anyway. The second time lasted two months, and by then Susanna was fourteen. She’d seen her father’s picture on TV the year before, with the Keystone D.A. calling him “Joey the Bull, suspected head of the Tenucci crime syndicate since the arrest of Francis Gizzo and Tom Carrollo last April…” So she knew what the lockdown meant, even before she saw the guns. Before her brother went away. And before the talk about Karen.
Susanna had been brought up to respect her father. Respect was everything. Respect and loyalty were everything. It was during that two-month lockdown that they had their first serious talk about the specifics. “Right and Wrong” was a tricky business. Who could really say what was right or wrong in a given situation? Could she, a little girl of 14? Maybe for the nuns at St. Ambrose things were that simple, with the kind of lives they led, shut away in a convent. But the real world was a tricky business and it’s not an easy thing to say what’s right and what’s wrong if you don’t know all the circumstances. But loyalty—loyalty and disloyalty—those were not hard to figure out. “If you and your friend Drita are out together, and she gets into an argument with somebody, maybe you don’t know if she’s right or wrong, but you know the way to be loyal is to take her side, right? Because she’s your friend.”
Susanna agreed, and that’s when her father told her she wouldn’t be friends with Karen anymore. Karen’s father was a rat. He was disloyal. And that meant nobody associated with him could be trusted. Karen wouldn’t be going to St. Ambrose anymore, and she and her mother would probably move away before too long. But if Susanna should see her before that, if she bumped into Karen at the movies or saw her with her mother at the grocery store, Susanna mustn’t talk to her. She mustn’t listen to her or have anything to do with her. Karen was less than a stranger to them now. It was like she did not exist, as if she’d become invisible.
Susanna had no choice but to agree. Loyalty to her father trumped loyalty to a disloyal friend. The timing was awful, though. With the lockdown, she was already so bored. She would have DIED of boredom if she hadn’t discovered Vogue. And then Harper’s Bazaar. And finally W. For two months, she devoured stories of the fashionable world: the best designers, the best restaurants, the trend setters and mode makers. Gotham was the hub of the universe, she learned. Paris, Milan, London, and Beverly Hills were good too, but in Gotham everybody spoke English, they weren’t casually-dressed skanks like in California, and the men were way cuter than those pale English guys with bad teeth.
Gotham… Gotham City… Gotham had the best of everything. And now she was finally here!
Oswald turned back at the woman who had bumped into him so rudely going into Saks and kept walking without so much as an ‘excuse me.’ Then he took a second look as she failed to run the gauntlet of perfume samplers and was waylaid at the first counter inside the door. She was quite pretty, in a far-too-young-for-him sort of way: petite with long dark hair, she looked a bit like Raven but more ethnic. Italian or Greek, maybe, or possibly Spanish. Quite a wiggle too—not a Gothamite. A native would have breezed past the perfume girl without breaking stride, and if she did get caught in a moment of abstraction, she would have taken the spritzed strip of cardboard, sniffed it and thrown it away, not rubbed it all over her wrist.
Oswald knew the type. They found the Iceberg regularly, looking for work: hit Gotham from some Midwest Whocaresville like Keystone or Topeka, thinking they had the look, style and attitude to pass for a native. They stuck out like chicks in a nest of ducklings, but very appealing chicks. Pretty, good-natured, polite even, once you got it through their head that being a Gothamite didn’t mean foaming at the mouth and snarling at strangers on the street. They made good waitresses, as a rule. But not the one Oswald was watching now, he suspected. He could tell by the way she’d whipped out her wallet to buy the perfume: that little lady had a chip on her shoulder. She hadn’t brushed past him that way because she thought Gothamites were rude. She was rude—kwak!
Anyway, where was he?
Oh yes, the Bat-bugs.
A pessimist might have seen it as a setback. Oswald, Jervis and Jonathan had already broken into sixteen businesses, but now with the discovery of the Bat-bug at Cardington Bakery, they had to go back and check them all again. Jervis and Jonathan didn’t know what they were looking for, nor did Oswald at the first two places he’d checked before finding the bug. The waste of time always galled him, but in this case, he was glad. He wasn’t that confident in Jervis or Jonathan’s abilities to snoop around without knowing what they were looking for. Now that they had a definite task, this second round of break-ins would be much more productive than the first.
The Bat-bug was also iron-clad proof that they were on the right track about the wedding. Clearly, Batman still had some attachment to Catty and he didn’t like this idea of a wedding any more than they did. Say what you would about the insidious Bat (and Oswald could say plenty), he was neither crazy nor stupid. He clearly knew a good thing when he saw it, and Selina was. She simply was—kwak! The thought of that good thing throwing herself away on a civilian non-starter like Bruce Wayne must be driving him absolutely batty!
“Good morning,” Selina purred, pulling the bedsheets over her legs as she rolled over onto Bruce and pressed her naked chest into his.
“It’s not,” he said in the same gravel he once used to dispute her claims about personal property, museum operating hours, and criminal trespass.
“It’s not a good morning? Damn, you’re a hard man to please.”
“It’s not morning.”
He seldom slept this late. They’d already sent Alfred away twice but…
“You’re so literal,” she said, nibbling.
…but he was a man. He had limits…
“That’s how this started,” he murmured.
…and after a morning of marathon lovemaking since the moment he got back from patrol…
“That’s not how it started; it’s how the third one started. The first one—oooh, I love this scar.”
…he was exhausted.
“Kitten you ask for, kitten you get… Mmmmmmeow.”
“How did it start, exactly?” Bruce asked, sitting up abruptly, Batman’s focus on the unanswered question finally asserting itself now that his body let him get a thought in. “All I know is you pounced on me in the cave before I could even get to the logs.”
“I’d waited long enough. It was almost dawn by the time you got home.”
“In the cave. We have rules about that.”
“Hard rules,” she grinned. “Firm, inflexible rule—”
As always, she’d pushed too far and found herself flipped over onto her back, arms hoisted into a borderline-painful danseuse pin.
“Non-negotiable rules,” came the menacing gravel. “So how about an answer, Catwoman?”
It was an anti-climactic story, considering.
She’d spotted the Batmobile.
It wasn’t date night. They weren’t working together. She was prowling like always. Glanced down, and noticed the Batmobile parked on Columbus. She looked around “like any smart thief” on discovering Batman was in the neighborhood, and she happened to see the fight.
If it could even be called that. Eight Westies outside the Downpatrick Carpentry Club. A few minutes’ workout in the course of a night’s patrol. The details wouldn’t have made it into the log. His interest was only in the former Irish Mob’s connection to the Falcone family and how Anthony Marcuso fit in.
But Catwoman happened to look down while he was brawling and, well, apparently she really liked what she saw. So she beat him home and waited in the Batcave, impatience growing and…
Well… It’s not like he had any pressing business today. The monitoring devices were in place at six of the eight vendors supplying the Pelacci-Marcuso wedding. He had all the data he was going to get until the out of town guests started to arrive from Keystone. The only other matter was Selina’s GeoSeek, which clearly hadn’t been corrupted. Considering the picks it was offering—Classic Malts, Rangers tickets, happy hour at Quesadillas—Bruce was quite sure it was accessing the preference profile of a pre-Two-Face Harvey Dent. Obviously their GeoSeeks got switched at lunch. The only question was if it happened by accident (in which case WayneTech should introduce an individualization feature on future editions, perhaps colored plastic frames to snap on over the chrome) or if they were switched on purpose (in which case Batman would pay Harvey a visit to determine if Two-Face was back in the picture).
So there really was no pressing business for Bruce or for Batman to attend to. He could finish work on the ears for Selina’s headset but…
This was how to do it. In a way, Susanna had been planning this wedding since she was eight, but in a more literal sense, she’d been planning since Anthony slipped that ring on her finger. She had it planned with the detail and precision of a military assault. She arrived four days before the rest of the family and had her first fitting at the boutique before anything else. They did a good job with the measurements she’d sent ahead, but there were always little adjustments once you put a real dress on a real body. What was the point in getting designer couture if they weren’t going to re-pin and re-stitch it right on her body just days before the wedding, so any last minute shift in weight was accounted for?
While they worked on that, she went to Fiorellos to have them do a first run with her hair, and she got a manicure. She got wild plumb polish with a hot pink diagonal stripe and gold glitter. She would have to tone it down for the wedding, go with one of those milky pale pinks. But that was days away, and she didn’t see any reason to be so BORING while she ran all her errands in the chicest shops in Gotham! She’d have another fitting and another test run on the hair Thursday, and then the final one Saturday, so there was plenty of time to tone down her nails.
Next, she’d stop at Cardington to check on the cake, the photographer’s studio to make sure he understood exactly what she wanted, the hotel to make sure they understood exactly what she wanted, and then pick up Anthony to go to St. Swithuns and meet with Father Ercolani…
Jonathan Crane watched the girl who’d bumped into him so clumsily coming out of the hair salon. She was very pretty—not something he normally noticed, but she looked a little like Raven. He wondered if she had the same delightful scream. He would never forget that night a lizard found its way into the Iceberg and perched on Raven’s podium. What a screech! What a howl of primal terror! Jonathan wasn’t really drawn to women, not as a rule, but… that wail of pure abandon to her own fright, she was something special.
But he really mustn’t let himself get distracted. Not with such an opportunity before him: Batman didn’t like the idea of this wedding any more than the Rogues. That was suggestive. Oswald was such a fool “We really should consider if there is added profit potential in that information—kwak!” As if everything came down to money. Kwak, indeed. Fear! That was the only real power. Look at all Wayne’s millions, what could he do with them if The Scarecrow made him afraid of the very air that he breathed?
Batman was keeping his Bat-eyes on the preparations for Selina’s wedding. What did that tell them about their enemy, hm? That was the question to be asking. The Batman feared loss. Loss of the woman? Or loss of control, loss of the possibility… the loss of Hope. He didn’t have Selina at the moment, she was with Wayne, but that never impelled him to act. Why? Because Batman was a schemer, obsessed with control, with move and countermove, contingencies and possibilities. Unless she said “I do,” the possibility still existed. That’s what he cared about. He didn’t care about her; he simply rejected the idea of a definite “No.” He wanted her to be available to him, whether he picked up the option or not. Yes, that fit. The loss of control, to be removed from the ranks against his will…
Jonathan grinned wide at the possibilities and checked the operating hours on the door of the salon… What if they wrecked the Kyle-Wayne nuptials and laid the blame on Batman’s door? What then? Selina could go after him. She would remain as she was, just as they all wanted, but Batman would still be dealt that loss of control he so feared. Removed from the ranks against his will! Yes, that would serve him right, that would get under his skin… The salon would be open for another hour. Then he could slip inside and see if a Bat-bug was to be found on the premises.
Ivy couldn’t believe what she was hearing.
“Oh yeah, Red, Catty’s wedding is the only thing anybody’s talkin’ about.”
She knew Joker had a perfectly ridiculous fixation on Bruce Wayne, so she could understand when Harley got back from Arkham saying the wedding was bigger news than “that Weiner guy tweeting his weiner.” Harley didn’t distinguish between Joker and “the whole world,” so if Joker was talking about something (and “that Weiner guy’s weiner” had to be Joker), then to Harley’s view, the whole world was talking. But her Arkham visit was days ago. What she was babbling now had nothing to do with Joker.
“I ran into Scarecrow at the White Castle when I was restocking the Ha-Hacienda, and later Victor Frieze just happened to be passing by when I came out from pickin’ up Puddin’s dry cleaning. It was all they could talk about!”
“It doesn’t make any sense,” Ivy blurted. “Why would they care if Selina gets married? It’s not like either of them ever had a chance with her. The tenderest thought she’s ever expressed was warning Crow before she set him on fire.”
“Yeah, if it was me, I’d have torched him on the first offense,” Harley said happily. “Threatening ta set him on fire if he does it again kinda gives him the option not ta do it again, and then how are you gonna toast the marshmallows?”
“I just don’t understand,” Ivy murmured, ignoring Harley’s blithering (which never made much sense anyway when she started talking like Joker’s girlfriend).
Bruce Wayne was so utterly besotted with Selina that, in the grip of Ivy’s pheromones, he’d offered her nothing more than a Whitman Sampler. That was just… disgusting, but viewed in a certain light, it was also sort of… sweet. A pity that Selina of all people was the object of such devotion, but the whole episode did, sort of, in a backhanded way, remind Ivy of Two-Face. That time they were fighting and he thought she was using her pheromones on him when she hadn’t done a thing. The way she’d never needed to use them because, all on his own, he decided to—
“Red! The palm tree is picking on me again!”
“I’ll be right there,” Ivy said absently.
Ivy didn’t like Selina or Bruce Wayne as individuals, but there was something attractive in the thought of them as a couple—something besides her initial thought that Wayne might take her rival out of the city permanently.
Still, that’s why she liked the idea. She couldn’t fathom why any of the others would. Jonathan Crane and Victor Frieze? Why would either of them give a damn?
Jonathan was shuddering after leaving The Mad Hatter’s daintily well-appointed lair. The whole walk home it haunted him: the napkins on the tea table were the same color as the carpet and Tetch’s cummerbund. The cloth on the little accent table matched the curtains and Tetch’s trousers. The miniature soufflé cups read “Eat me.” Jonathan dared to hope whatever went into the cups would be poisoned, that maybe Mad Hatter planned to capture Batman or Robin, hat them, and make them consume a poisoned tea party.
At least Jervis saw it his way: the discovery of the Bat-bug changed everything and Oswald had no vision. The discovery of the Bat-bug changed everything, and Oswald simply wouldn’t see it. All that fuss about Selina coming after them if they wrecked her wedding. Maybe he had a point in the beginning, but now—now that they knew Batman himself was against this—such an opportunity was before them, an opportunity to strike at the Batman where he lived, simply by doing something they wanted to do anyway.
If it came down to a He said/He said, with Scarecrow and Jervis pointing at Batman and Batman pointing at Scarecrow and Jervis, each side claiming the other was framing them, who would Selina believe? Fellow Rogues who never took the slightest interest in her or the Caped Cassanova who pursued her for years?
It was the most believable sort of lie in that it was essentially true: Batman was the only reason they found the details of the wedding. The list they started with only had one… only had one of the businesses Selina was actually using for her wedding. The rest were all dead… ends. If Oswald hadn’t found the Bat-bug… they’d be… they’d be nowhere… It was only… only by… It was only by checking all the other florists and… photographers… the, what do you call them, other caterers in town, following the trail of Bat-breadcrumbs as it were… Jonathan blinked. He’d reached his front door, but as he fumbled for his key, he lost his train of thought. There was a distinct smell… misty, jungle, sultry, warm and slightly sweet, most definitely… moist… He was uncomfortably warm, his cheeks were burning under the mask, and the flush was moving sickeningly up his face to his forehead. Little beads of sweat were forming along his brow and in his hair. He blinked again…
And saw a lovely pair of cool, languid eyes gazing back at him.
“Hello, Pamela. What a ravishing sight you are. I fear you won’t believe me when I say you have never looked lovelier.”
Anthony Marcuso laughed. It started as a headshake as he peeled hundred dollar bills off the roll to pay his check at Rao’s. It warmed into a smile as he walked out the door and climbed the stairs to street level. It bubbled into a chuckle as the limo pulled up to meet him and erupted into a full laugh as he climbed into the back.
He was marrying a crazy woman, a real Arkham-class crazy. She went down on their second date, they’d been screwing for more than a year, she hits town for the wedding and all of a sudden she’s a born again virgin. She taught him the knuckle-friction trick. Four trips to Naples for Uncle Carmine, four unbelievable weekends with Italian whores, and that blushing Catholic school girl showed him tricks he’d never seen. Now he wasn’t allowed touch her until the wedding night. Un-believable.
That was nothing compared to her adorable Keystone ideas about being followed. Anthony didn’t doubt that Joey the Bull taught his daughter right about the FBI: always assume the phone is tapped, always assume your picture’s being taken when you leave the house, and so on. But that’s the Feds. Anthony didn’t know if that Flash faggot cared about the Keystone Families, but if he did, a speedster freak from the Justice League running around like a bright red ballerina couldn’t be that hard to spot. Like the Feds with their 50s haircuts and crap suits, sitting in those boxy Fords, who did they think they were fooling? But this was Gotham, and Gotham meant Batman. The idea that cute Susanna Pelacci thought she’d know if she was being followed ‘cause her daddy taught her what to look for—it was too adorable for words. He was a lucky, lucky man.
Even if he wouldn’t be getting any until the wedding night, unless he took Jimmy, Lee, and the Falcone twins up on that bachelor night at Club Sugar.
Poison Ivy stumbled into her old hideout in Robinson Park. She couldn’t face the greenhouse. Harley might be there. She couldn’t look at Harley right now. She couldn’t look at anybody. She just wanted to lean against a tree for a while until she could recover.
That was, without question, the most disgusting greening ever. Jonathan Crane. Jonathan. Crane. Looking at her. That glazed, adoring look in his eyes. And the shape of his mouth. You could tell he was envisioning kissing her—EW!
Even greened, he creeped her out. Which he'd enjoy if he knew, so Pamela Isley vowed to the tree—to its branches that stretched to the heavens and its roots that sunk into the strong, enduring depth of Mother Earth—that he would never, ever find out. She would spend a few more minutes collecting herself, and after that, this whole affair would be nothing but a straightforward business transaction. As if she’d slid a bankcard card into an ATM to withdraw money, nothing more. That’s all she had done, after all. Jonathan Crane had information that she wanted, she inserted the sweet jungle mists into his nostrils and withdrew it. Perhaps he, sad little man that he was, would remember it as something more, but goddesses were above such thoughts.
The information is what mattered. A gang of them, a sinister cabal of monstrous little men, deciding who Catty should be with and overruling her choice—when Wayne was so devoted he could only manage a Whitman Sampler for Poison Ivy herself in the grip of her pheromones?! It was literally a crime against Nature. Who else but men—who else but low, sniveling, flower-snipping men (Thank Gaia Harvey had nothing to do with this)—would think that they could overrule Nature’s own dictates?
Clearly she had to put a stop to this. It was a shame Selina was the heroine of this tender romance, but Ivy was beginning to see it in more general terms. It wasn’t about Selina, it was an assault on all women and the love they inspired that transcended even pheromones. Not to mention who the villains were! (And thank Demeter, Persephone and Antheia that Harvey wasn’t involved) Scarecrow, Mad Hatter, Penguin and Freeze—and Batman! As if it shouldn’t occur to any right-thinking villain that if Batman was against something, all of them should be for it.
Well, it fell to the women, as always, to repair the situation. After the men finished knocking things over with their penises, it fell to a wise and knowing female to set things right again. If only Selina wasn’t the heroine in all this. She’d never found out Ivy was the one responsible for that “Catwoman Pregnant” story in The Gotham Post, and Ivy did not want to risk a sequel. Stories about Selina had a way of taking off like kudzu, and if her attempts to save the wedding were somehow misunderstood… Quite apart from any new misunderstandings, Ivy didn’t want her role in that old pregnancy story being discovered at this late date… Kudzu… climbing, coiling, trailing kudzu… She needed some way to ensure that if the kudzu started growing out of control like last time, it would only grow in one predetermined direction…
Fiorellos did a much better job on Susanna’s hair this time, and she was glad she was smart enough to schedule the practice runs. With only one go at the hair salon and one fitting on the dresses, none of her bridesmaids would turn out nearly as good. Drita would look okay, she always did. But Maureen and Erin and Rita would all get that straight-down-the-sides curl-in-at-the-bottom hairstyle the Gotham salons seemed to give everyone from out of town. Susanna could only guess they did it because they saw everyone from the Midwest as plump, and they had some dumb idea about hiding their necks. Except it didn’t really, it just hid their earrings. It didn’t frame their face in a flattering way, like individuals, it was just the same dumb “Gotham stylist thinks I’m a Midwest rube” haircut for everybody.
But not for her and not for Drita, that’s what Susanna cared about. The other bridesmaids were forced on her by her mother to match the groomsmen Mr. Falcone forced on Anthony. She didn’t care if they looked plain and couldn’t get laid at the reception. She’d look all the more beautiful standing next to a couple of dust mops.
Wayne Enterprises was the largest employer in Gotham, and Bruce took that responsibility seriously. Much as he trusted Lucius, he did not rubberstamp recommendations that could impact the livelihoods of so many Gotham families. The analyses of the press response to his town halls, the reaction to the GeoSeek and related technology rolled out at the Auto Show, and the finance, marketing and product development strategies based on that data all required his utmost attention. He was concentrating—which he thought he’d made clear the last time Caroline buzzed him.
..:: Mr. Wayne? A Delinda Meter here to see you. ::..
“I said I’m not to be disturbed today,” Bruce growled into the intercom.
..:: She has an appointment. Looks like a last minute addition to your calendar, from Mr. Fox’s office. ::..
“Lucius sent her? Well, it must be important. Alright, send her in.”
He cursed softly. Batman’s concerns were always his priority—as they should be—and he had been focused on Batman’s activities exclusively since getting back from the town hall tours. The result was that now he had more catching up to do at the office. He was used to this balancing act. Whenever one part of his life made greater demands, there was a seesaw effect afterwards: more WayneTech, more Justice League, more Foundation, more Gotham-based crimefighting, making up for lost time in diminishing cycles until balance was once again achieved…
He heard the door open and, as he stood up to greet his visitor, he mentally added “All I need is a few less interruptions when I get back to the—IVY!”
“Hello, Bruce,” drawled the woman whose gloves, pantsuit, and wide-brimmed hat downplayed her green complexion more than hiding it.
Delinda Meter, Psychobat berated him.
“Oh I get it, D. Meter,” Bruce announced foppishly. He should have caught it, if his focus was where it should be.
“I’m so sorry to interrupt; I know you’re very busy,” she said in that offhand way that implies just the opposite. “I didn’t want to come to the house with something like this. Selina, you know. But I had to see you in person. Warn you. It’s the most terrible thing that’s happened.”
Bruce split his focus into thirds: the first monitored his expression and reactions with an eye to preserving his identity. The second observed his pulse, body temperature and libido for any alteration. The third tried to remember the last time he dosed with anti-tox and calculate if there would be any trace immunity left in his syst… Did she say she came to warn him?
“Scarecrow, Mad Hatter, Mr. Freeze, I don’t even know how many others. All dead set against this idea of you and Selina getting married and determined to wreck the wedding. But I don’t want you to worry, because I’m on it.”
Bruce had been greened. He’d been subjected to fear toxin, hatting, and Freeze’s ice ray. The ripple-waves of numbing shock that pulsed through him now most resembled the latter. His entire brain flash-frozen, with tiny little heat centers continuing to fire, a few synapses at a time, until at last a clear thought was able to burst through….
Selina and I are… WHAT?
“So monstrously unfair, just because nobody is ever going to care about them, the rest of us aren’t allowed to have any blooms in our garden…”
And POISON IVY is telling me this?
“Someone downright freaky like Hugo or Scarecrow, well, what can you expect…”
She’s telling BRUCE WAYNE this?
“Absolutely convinced, due to their own insecurities, that people like us aren’t ‘allowed’ to be like normal people…”
She’s not trying to green me or kidnap me (so far, at least) and she wants to HELP?
“Probably true if their definition of ‘normal’ were to be known…”
She’s warning me, warning me about the other Rogues trying to break up a wedding that isn’t happening…
“I mean what can you say, the man’s a living weed.”
And she thinks she’s telling this to Billionaire Bruce Wayne the groom… who she has greened previously, successfully and not, but… Selina… marriage… ‘Don’t worry, I’m on it’… and… and… SOMEHOW I DID NOT KNOW ANY OF THIS WAS GOING ON UNTIL RIGHT NOW.
“…actually gave me potpourri for Christmas. I mean really, the severed heads of dead flowers. It’s not like my affection for plants is a big secret. Who can’t see how monstrously rude that is?”
AND I’M BATMAN!
“…but I have strayed dreadfully off the topic. Like I was saying…”
“Excuse me,” Bruce managed, feeling his back and legs sinking deeper into the chair and hoping against hope that the fop voice was still engaged.
“Batman,” Ivy said with a sympathetic poke at his sleeve. “If you had any experience with these whackos, you’d understand: you always have to have a contingency plan. On the off chance that something gets by me, some of them—Scarecrow and Hatter in particular—may try to pin the wedding destruction on Batman. And I was just saying that, if I were you, I would let that stand. Because Selina won’t be too happy, and if she’s going to tear somebody's throat out, it may as well be his.”