Chapter 39: Pamela Eisley
by Brian Mark
If the life of Oswald Cobblepot was to be defined by what happened on his Prom Night, and Edouard Nikma 's by his dyslexia, then Pamela Eisley's would be defined by a debilitating skin condition. Her Parents were both in the employ of two of Gotham 's richest and finest, Cadbury and Victoria Hawkes, and, together with Pamela, made their home in living quarters within Hawkes Manor,
Her Mother supervised the Hawkes kitchen, and her Father was the Head Gardener. Now, just in case you might be thinking that Pamela would get her legendary love of plants from her Father, nothing could be further from the truth. For Pamela was sick to death of hearing about ' this plant and that plant ' from her Father. Then again, the effects of her skin condition left Pamela more or less incapable of taking an active interest in anything, besides the latest boy she would be into. And therein lay the fundamental problem. Not a single boy was into her. And no girl would be her friend. From the age of three, she had developed a condition, that confounded every leading Dermatologist in the Country.
How did she have access to such distinguished specialists, do I hear you ask ? Well, despite the terrible reputation of the Hawkes Family, there was one redeeming feature, Cadbury's wife, Victoria. Now don't get me wrong, she was no saint or angel, definitely not. But she did have a heart. She had always shown Pamela's Mother the utmost respect and appreciation, so much so, that she was to be Pamela's Godmother after she was born, albeit a rather distant one, but a Godmother nonetheless. And it was to be Victoria Hawkes, who urged, or shall I say, insisted, that the Family pay for all the attempts to get to the bottom of her god-daughter's problem, and to find a cure. But all to no avail.
Pamela did have a friend, of sorts, in a young man, who would come to stay sometimes, Victoria's son from her first marriage. She had been married three times before ! The two got on rather well. Pamela was rather sweet on him. Like his Mother, he was in no way repulsed by her condition. From time to time, he would play ball with her in the gardens.
As time went by, it became clear that Cadbury and Victoria did not exactly enjoy an ideal relationship, and even Pamela's Father was to find himself caught somewhat in the middle, on one occasion. It had long been a dream of hers, to have the Manor covered in Virgin's Bower, a plant she had adored, growing up in her home state of Virginia. Cadbury had long resisted the idea, but, fearing this could be the straw, that broke the camel's back in their relationship, finally gave way. The shipment of plants arrived, and Pamela's Father was to plant and set them all accordingly. But the expert horticulturist soon recognized that there was a problem.
- Excuse me, Sir, he explained to Hawkes, but I rather think there has been some mistake. There are enough plants to adequately grow the way your wife desires. The only problem is, that not all these plants are Virgin's Bower. I rather suspect that these plants here ( Pointing ) are Toxicodendron Radicans, and I think that Sir's knowledge of Latin and Greek will tell him exactly what that means.
- My God, Eisley ! ... Look, that is literally all the stock of plants left in the whole of Virginia. Cover the front and sides in the Virgin's Bower, and use the ' Toxicodendron Radicans ' to finish off any outstanding areas around the back. Just tell your wife and the child never to touch it. That is all.
Eventually, however, the two were finally to divorce, and Pamela was to lose her only two friends. She would never forget how she felt at that time, ... all alone, ... completely and utterly alone, ... like a leper.
Within a year, disaster struck. There was a fire at the Manor, started deliberately, and there was little or no security system at the Manor to protect the building. Harvey Dent himself, in his capacity as Head of Dentsec, had only been commenting on the fact, a week or so before, and had been warning Hawkes of the danger, but Hawkes had done nothing.
The first the young Pamela, now aged 14, knew about what was happening, was the screaming from the hallway above. That was where her Mother had been serving supper. Suddenly she felt the figure of a man brushing against her. There was just enough time for her to notice two things about him. One was that he was carrying a can of gasoline, and the other, was a peculiar smell of tobacco from his clothes. Then she caught sight of a fireball erupting between her and her Mother. Neither could reach the other ! Pamela 's Father could soon be heard, yelling out to his beloved Daughter. She yelled back:
- Daddy help ! I'm here in my room ! … I can't get out.
- Your Mother and I are coming for you, Honey. We 'll try to get out through your window. You go first. There's no time to lose. Quick, honey, quick.
Pamela ran coughing to the window, opened it, and started to climb down the plants along the wall, but got stuck half way down. She struggled and struggled. It is like the plants are alive, and fighting with her, biting her, and grabbing her ! To Pamela, it is like an eternity! She eventually makes it down to safety, looking up to see if her Mother and Father are following, just in time to meet two firefighters, who have just arrived. One says to the other, that there has just been a collapse inside the building, and that two are feared trapped inside.
- That's my Mother and Father, she cries.
Minutes later, those same Firefighters emerge from the Manor, carrying her Father. He is alive, but only just, severely burned, with a broken leg, and barely breathing. Moments afterwards, the lifeless body of her Mother emerges, carried by two others. This all happens way too quickly for a young girl to take in. It is like her life is ending in a matter of minutes ! … Well, one life is. A new one is soon to begin.
Hawkes had survived unscathed. Only the back of the Manor had been set ablaze. Her Father was alive, and he recovered, but he was only half a man thereafter. Pamela, having no immediate next of kin, found herself in the care of her Godmother, who had now reverted to using her previous married name, Victoria Bross ! Her son, Warner, was to become her Stepbrother. But there had been one remarkable bi-product of the tragedy, that had befallen her. As she later was to discover, the plants that had saved her life had been Poison Ivy, not Virgin's Bower ! But they were to save her life in more ways than one, for slowly but surely, all the lesions and horrible rash, that had caused her to look hideous to the outside world, started to disappear, never to return ! Experts reckoned, that it had taken a poison to kill a poison, and Toxicodendron Radicans was just the poison required.
But Pamela did more than recover. It soon became clear, that under the layers of diseased tissue, there were the makings of a beautiful young woman. And thus, it came to pass. On the one hand she had lost her dear Mother, whom she had loved deeply. She might as well have lost her Father, now confined largely to a wheel chair, with considerable damage to his lungs, in a residential home. But, on the other, she was now the Society Girl, that every boy wanted to date, and every girl wanted to befriend !
Yet Vicky Bross was to prove to be a rather distant Stepmother. She insisted that Pamela be educated at one of America's finest Boarding Schools for Girls, as she had been. And so began the love-hate relationship between Pamela and her Stepmother, and so did the desire for revenge on the man, who had started the blaze, and the man who had ordered it. She also had an axe to grind against Batman. This Batman was quick to appear on the scene to rescue her Stepmother, when her turn came to suffer at the hands of a fire starter. There now seemed to be sufficient evidence, that these attacks had been orchestrated, and that many more than just one individual was involved.
If Batman could champion the cause of good against evil, as a Bat, then she would do it as the plant, that she came to identify as her savior, Poison Ivy. On the few occasions she could visit her Father, he would teach her all that he knew about plants, and not necessarily the beautiful ones. For a long time in her life, she had been less than beautiful. Pamela was always to identify with the plight of the less than beautiful female. So many plain-looking plants had medicinal qualities. Many had poisonous ones ! And some poisons could heal, if administered in a targeted way, and in the right quantities. She would soon develop a love for all plants, and a deep concern for the most endangered ones. Wherever they were threatened, there was the 'Cause Celebre', that would justify a campaign of her own against all those responsible.
And it was the occasion of, what were to prove rarer visits to her Father, that she was to know one more great revelation. Some years after the fire, her Father told her to sit down, and prepare herself for a bit of a shock:
- You have a sister !