Batman: A New World

Ch25: A Most Mysterious Disappearance

Chapter Twenty-Five

The Mysterious Disappearance Of Cranberry Stubbs

By Brian Mark

A tall, dark, distinguished-looking guy is standing at the bar of a rather nondescript drinking establishment in Gotham. He is well dressed, casual, and looking around him, his gaze constantly fixing at regular intervals on the main doors. He's waiting for someone. He looks down at his outrageously expensive watch.

The Bar Tender asks:

- Waiting for someone are you, sir ?

- Why yes, is it that obvious ?

- It's just that most of the new guys, who come here on this particular evening, usually come with a view to meeting someone. You are new here, sir ?

- Yeah, ( a little nervous ) it's my first time here.

- A young lady is it, sir ?

- Yeah, as a matter of fact it is.

- ( His neighbour at the bar ) So you 're here to meet somebody, huh ?

- Sorry ?

He is momentarily distracted, for, at that moment, as he looks towards the doorway once more, his gaze is transfixed, for in walks the most amazing pair of legs, he has ever seen in his life !

- You're here to see somebody.

- Yes, ... and, O boy, do I see some body !

And those legs negotiate their way around each of the tables, raising every eyebrow around the room ! And they are working their way steadily in his direction ! They complete their brief, but jaw-dropping journey, next to our friend at the bar.

- Wow, you look every bit as beautiful as your picture on the website !

- Well then, I guess you must be the guy, I've been talking to on the site, since you never included a picture of yourself, you naughty boy !

- Well, now you have a picture of what I look like, do you like what you see ?

- Oh, .. Meeaow ! ( As she touches his hair and collar suggestively ).

- That 's it. Let 's get out of here. I know just the place where we can be alone !

- Hey, what's the hurry ? Aren't you going to give this lady a drink first ?

- Why of course, how ungallant of me, ( To the Bar Tender ) Give the lady a drink, and I'll have the same.

- ( Under her breath) No you won't, you son of a ...

Once the drinks have been served up, the girl runs her fingers again suggestively around his glass, then she looks to make eye contact, just long enough to have been able, had she wished to, that is, to drop something into his beverage. The two drink up and leave together. But, as they do so, out in the alley way leading to the Main Street, the guy is startled by a jet black cat, that mews aggressively at him.

- Wow, I wonder what's got into him, all of a sudden !

- Excuse me, ... sorry, ... What do you mean ? ... I didn't see anything !

- But you must have done. It was right there !

- Look, let's call a cab, and you can take us to your private apartment.

- Private Apartment ?

- Well, that is where you were intending to take me, honey, isn't it ? Oh, by the way, my name is Janice, and yours is...?

- Cranberry. ... Janice, huh, so it's not Pussy Willow then, ha ha !

- Ah, no... Well, now I know what CBY stands for, in your Website Name !

Yes, this was a rich property tycoon, a wealthy property developer, one Cranberry Milton Berle Stubbs ! ( His parents had been big fans of the American comedian ! ) He was one of a long line of Cranberries ! His family had made their vast fortune, over generations, from their cranberry plantations. Only this Cranberry had wanted to branch out !

They stop a cab and Stubbs tells the driver the address. He 's beginning to feel a little bit light-headed, but attributes this to the fact, that he had already had a couple of drinks before 'Janice' had joined him.

- ( As they journey in the cab ) Actually, what you said about the cat reminds me of stories, I heard when I was on Safari with my Father in Africa.

- O really, and what stories would they be exactly ?

- Well, we actually met people, who swore to us that they saw neighbouring tribes people turn into big cats, and then try to attack them. Crazy or what ?

- Yeah, crazy !

- The Cat People of the Congo, I think is what they are called.

But, as they exit the cab, there is that cat again, and it mews aggressively, again !

- Look ! There's that cat again, surely you can see it this time !

- What cat ? There isn't any cat, honey. Look, let' s get you inside and make ourselves really comfortable, eh ?

- Say, now you' re talking !

Cranberry leads the way ahead of the girl, not paying the least bit of attention, as to how many people, or indeed animals might have been able to find their way into that apartment, had they wished, that is ! Such was his level of distraction ! ! !

- Another drink, Janice ? ( As he goes to his own private bar ! )

- No, none for me, honey, it would only go straight to my head ! But you have one if you want.

- No, ,actually, (as he feels a little groggy) come to think of it, I'll pass as well. Maybe some coffee ?

- Sure, coffee would be fine, and while you are making that, I'll go and slip into something a little more slinky ! Where 's the bedroom, honey ?

- It's over there.

She disappears in seductively. Only for the door to open ajar immediately afterwards. Out comes the cat he has already seen twice before. He sees it, but he doesn't believe it. But, as it disappears behind a sofa, Stubbs sees the shadow of a cat four times its size, and then it emerges from behind that sofa the size of a panther ! Stubbs is terrified, and frantically searches for his mobile phone. And, as he does so, the large cat disappears again, only this time to transform into what he could only describe as a catwoman ! He feels a little faint, and sees a cat, and a woman, standing there in the one place, gradually morphing from one state to the other, as if by some crazy form of magic ! This catwoman has a whip, and she starts thrashing it at him, laughing in semi-crazed fashion !

- Janice, Janice, are you alright in there ? He calls,, thinking she is still in the bedroom.

Then he sees her, in a dressing gown. He grabs her suddenly, to try and protect her from the feline assailant.

- Quick, I know where there's a gun, he says.

And with that, he moves to a picture on the wall, and a safe, secreted behind. He punches in some numbers, opens the safe, and takes out the gun, only to see Janice morph into this Catwoman, and scratch him with her claws ! Suddenly he loses consciousness altogether. The ' Catwoman ' helps herself to the contents of the safe, money, jewels and private papers, and then, with a large, tall man with rock-like facial features, helps him to another car, followed by a jet black cat and panther !

- Hapa kijana, she calls to the panther, kijana mzuri !

The cats run in obedience to their mistress's call. They jump into the car as it begins to drive away !

The next day, his wife, absolutely distraught, phones the police, to report a missing person. The call is intercepted, as usual, by Alfred, up in his private rooms at Wayne Manor. But he thinks nothing of it. It is likely to be a simple police matter, that 's all.

But, Cranberry Stubbs will be missing for the best part of three days ! Slipping in and out of consciousness, he awakes in one of his private offices. Janice seems to be tied up. There are all these cat people, she says, do you have another gun ? Like a fool he heads for another safe, and the whole process begins again. A small cat becomes a panther, then a catwoman. He is beaten with a whip, crtes out, then ends up unconscious again !

But the third time this happens, in yet another of his offices, he manages, briefly, to get hold of his mobile phone, frantically calling the police :

- Hello, hello, I am being held by this magic Catwoman, ... My name, ... Stubbs, ... Cranberry Stubbs !

Then, all of a sudden, there are a whole variety of big cats in the room !

- Ngari, haha kairitu ! Ndwiga, haha kahii !

- My God, there's a panther, a leopard and a tiger in here, and they all obey her every command ! She 's speaking some kind of cat language ! ( She is cracking her big whip. ) Help me, I 'm in the Moonbeam Plaza !

Once again, Alfred intercepts the call, only this time he immediately informs Bruce Wayne ! ( Bruce clicks 'send' on an email, then logs off at his computer, closing with a bit of a glint in his eye ! )

- A Mr. Cranberry Stubbs, Master Bruce, his wife reported him missing three days ago, and he hasn't been seen, or heard of since, until now. He sounded absolutely crazed, thinking that there was a cat woman holding him captive, and torturing him ! Do you know of this man ?

- Yes, I know of the Stubbs family. My Father went to school with one of them. He comes from a long line of Cranberries ! They cornered the Cranberry Market in Gotham. Each of the first-born sons in the family have always been called Cranberry. Only, this is one Cranberry who wanted to branch out !

- O how very droll, Master Bruce, … yes, very droll indeed !

- So, where is this Moonbeam Plaza ?

- I took the liberty of zero-ing in on his mobile phone 's co-ordinates. It's on the corner of 73rd.

- I'm on my way !

And with that, he heads straight into the library, presses a button in the bust of William Shakespeare on the desk, the panel opens in the wall, and down the pole he goes. In the cellar below, he uses the quick-change device designed by Lucius Fox, and is in his Batman costume within seconds. He is momentarily apprehensive, takes a deep breath, then squeezes his way, in places, along the narrow entrance way into the Bat Cave ! The Batmobile awaits. It has started automatically, and he gets inside. At speed he heads for the Plaza.

When he gets there, he is just in time to catch sight of, what seems like, a woman in a catsuit, and gives chase on foot ! She is incredibly agile, leaps up on top of walls and swings from fire escapes ! Bruce is hard pressed to catch up, but does so, with the help of some more of Fox 's wizardry, notably the grappling pin, only to be thwarted suddenly, as a leopard appears, stopping him dead in his tracks ! Completely startled, it takes him a little while to realize, that no sooner has the leopard appeared, but it has gone again, and with it the catwoman !

He doubles back to rescue Stubbs, still suffering from the after-effects of his ordeal, as he keeps seeing big cats and cat people all around him ! Bruce looks to calm him down, and escorts him to Gotham General, where he is reunited with his wife and children. They, of course, are most distraught to see a husband and father in such a state ! After weeks of treatment in Arkham Asylum, he would be finally released, the Doctors finding slight traces of several unknown substances in his blood stream, but, given the sensitive nature of his extra-marital activities, leading to the unique circumstances of his disappearance, he declines to be entirely forthcoming with all the details, which the police require for their investigations !

Not long after, rumours about Cat People, and one Catwoman in particular, would start to spread around Gotham. For weeks, fear and panic would be rife. There would be sighttings of this mysterious Catwoman, ... a black cat changing into a woman, and back again ! As one newspaper will report:

'' Is there something in Gotham's Water ? A Bat mutating into a batman, a cat into a catwoman. …. What next ?

But, on the night in question:

- It looks as if we have another interesting foe, Alfred !

- Interesting indeed, Master Bruce. My investigations are beginning at once.

- I thought they might be ! Oh, by the way, has the new computer arrived yet ?

- If Sir refers to the deluxe quantum computer, Mr. Fox designed, .. Yes, it arrived tonight. I took the liberty of depositing it in the Bat Cave, personally.

- I hope you were careful with it, Alfred. That is no ordinary computer. According to Lucius, it uses individual atoms to make its calculations. It performs at 3000 times the speed of Police computers.

- Why, miracles will never cease, Master Bruce.

Meanwhile, a woman in a slinky cat suit opens the door to her home, a very impressive looking home, a Manor of a home, in fact ! And quite nonchalantly, she heads over to a table and opens the mail waiting for her. She gazes down to look and check the name before she opens one letter in particular: ... Miss Salina Kyle !

She moves across to her laptop, and switches it on. ' You have one new email,' it tells her. She accesses it. ''Message from Dwayne Brood'':

- Hi Kitty, loved your last email. Seems we really are suited. Reckon we could be made for each other ! Got to go, something really important has just come up. Love Dwayne xx !

A loving glint appears in her eyes. She pauses for thought, clicks on Reply, then types ...

- You know I'm beginning to think the same. Will email again soon !

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