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Batman Issue 323

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"Shadow of the Cat!"
Batman323
General Information
Series: Batman
Issue Number: 323
First Published: May 1980
Previous Issue: Batman #322
Next Issue: Batman #324


SynopsisEdit

"Shadow of the Cat!"Edit

One late night, Batman goes to arrest Selina Kyle on suspicion of robbing Riverside Museum's Egyptian urns, as the guard has been assaulted by a cat-clawed crook. Swinging in through her apartment window on his silken batrope, Batman finds Selina relaxing on a sofa with a magazine and one of her cats on her lap. Batman explains the reason for his visit, claiming that Kyle must already know the reason for which he must take her into custody. When Selina responds in a shocked manner, and insists of her innocence, Batman demands that she halt all games with him. The Darkknight Detective outlines all of the evidence against her: The theft of the Egyptian cat-god exhibition was the perfect crime for Catwoman, there were witnesses to an argument between Ms. Kyle and a Riverside employee earlier that day, and the statement of the museum guard, who was scratched by a claw and caught a fleeting glimpse of a caped figure with a cat-eared cowl—the perfect description of Catwoman's costume!

Batman explains that with such a pile of evidence, he has not other choice but to arrest Selina, since the police are also on the way as they speak to her apartment for the same reason. He produces a pair of Bat-Cuffs from his utility belt, but the frightened woman backs away into a corner, still clutching her cat. She swears her innocence, but Batman still insists that she come with him to police headquarters and he will do his best to clear her...in a court of law. But Selina knows she might die in prison from her disease, and, tossing her pet cat at Batman, uses the diversion to flee. Batman is forced to protect his face since the frenzied feline is diving at his eyes, but then turns back to Selina, who throws herself from her apartment balcony, seemingly plummeting fourteen stories to the street below. But when Batman rushes to the balcony and looks for a body, he notices that Selina has vanished, along with his Batrope. Apparently, she had swung away using the same line Batman had used to visit her apartment. After noting that the supposedly retired Kyle has not lost her touch, Batman abandons the chase for the night.

The next morning, a preoccupied Batman, in his secret identity as Bruce Wayne, visits the Wayne Foundation building. He greets his secretary, Gwen, and tells her to hold all of his calls until later. She seems thrilled to meet him, but Wayne suddenly notices he has not been speaking to his usual secretary, but a new one. The new woman introduces herself as Caroline Crown, a temporary replacement for Gwen, who was called away on personal business. After a brief handshake, Bruce makes Crown feel welcome, then leaves for his office door as Caroline observes that her current position may turn out to be a very interesting job. Upon entering his office, he is received by Selina Kyle herself, now dressed in her Catwoman costume. She explains she has been waiting in his office for hours, since her escape from Batman the previous night. She asks Bruce for his resources, and tells him not to ask questions. Wayne maintains he loves Selina, not Catwoman, and coldly accuses her of committing the robbery at the Riverside Museum. When she protests, he asks about her costume, and Catwoman is unable to com up with a sufficient response. Bruce implores her, since she has nowhere else to turn, to turn herself in. He promises he will do everything to clear her name, with the best lawyers and detectives money can buy. However, Catwoman jerks away from his sheltering arm, insisting he does not understand any more than Batman did. As she turns to leave, Bruce seizes her, and begs her not to run, for her own good. Catwoman attempts to scratch Bruce with a clawed gloves, but finds herself unable to hurt him. She thus sprays him with catnip treated to produce a sneezing fit, and Bruce finds her gone when he recovers. When the overcome executive looks around for Catwoman's means of escape, he finds that she had left through the same open window she had entered the building through. As the perplexed Bruce Wayne is left alone, deep in his thoughts, he is interrupted by Caroline Crown, who had heard his sneezing from the next room. Unwilling to review details, Bruce reassures her, and Crown warns against common colds that can turn into pneumonia. As he is left alone again, Wayne considers Catwoman's story. He deduces she had nothing to gain by lying to him as Bruce Wayne, and thus becomes more inclined to believe she is innocent.

Knowing that if Catwoman is not responsible for the crime, then it will not be easy to prove such, Batman goes to the Riverside Museum in secret an hour after closing to investigate the crime scene. His noise, however, attracts a museum security guard, who shines a spotlight into the room. Fortunately, Batman succeeds in concealing himself atop the door frame as the guard investigates below. When the anxious security man is perplexed enough to leave the area, Batman resumes his investigation. Batman observes that the room has been sealed off by the police since the previous robbery of the cat exhibit, and recalls reports that the GCPD forensic team had given the scene only a standard glance-over, since they believed they already had the real thief identified. Using a laser finger-light and a magnifying glass, Batman finds a small thread snagged on one of the emptied exhibit cases. Picking it up with tweezers, the Caped Crusader decides to remove it and take it to the Batcave, where it can be better examined.

Meanwhile, Catwoman is investigating on her own, breaking into a grimy pawnshop to pry information about the robbery from a known informant: Pinch, the pawnbroker. Using a jeweler's lens, Pinch is in his work room, examining some pearls. Watched by Catwoman, Pinch comes to the conclusion that a certain collector will pay twice what he gave for the pearls to have them. Brandishing her whip, Catwoman steps into the light, telling Pinch that the pearls' sale should cover a hospital bill unless he agrees to give her some facts. He notes her costume, and states his opinion that she hasn't really retired from crime. Removing his revolver from a hidden drawer, Pinch tries to threaten Selina, who knocks the gun out of his hand with her whip. She then corners the old man and begins to pry information from the pawnbroker about the latest cat-robbery.

Across Gotham City, in a plush East Side apartment, Lucius Fox, Bruce Wayne's business advisor, is worrying about the sales and budgets of Wayne Enterprises. He notes a drop in profits, mainly due to companies owned by Wayne rival Gregorian Falstaff underbidding Wayne companies in every department. As he ponders discussing the situation with Bruce Wayne, Lucius notices his son, Timothy Fox, leaving. When he tries to ask about where his son is going, Fox finds himself rudely brushed off. Timothy retorts that his 'crazy so-called friends' whom his father disapproves of at least pay attention to him, but Lucius is too busy balancing books for Bruce Wayne to spend enough time with his own son. Lucius offers to be willing to listen and work things out, but Timothy slams the door in his face without a word. A crestfallen Fox worries about where he might've gone wrong in raising his son, and what he can do to make it right.

In the Batcave, Batman examines the thread he located at the crime scene under a microscope. Alfred Pennyworth, always his faithful butler, brings him a steaming pot of tea to relax him. Batman accepts the tea, and reports to Alfred that while he has not learned as much as he hoped to from analyzing the thread, it has given him a place to start. He observes that the strange fiber is unlike any material he has ever seen before in his career, but the dust collected on it was enough to pinpoint a general location where it had been stored recently. Alfred wonders if Batman hopes to find Catwoman at the end of the trail, but Batman replies that he is becoming more and more convinced that Selina Kyle is indeed innocent, and thus he must track down the real criminal before it is too late. As Batman leaps into the Batmobile and speeds off, Alfred bids him farewell and wishes him luck.

The dust on the thread leads Batman to the Apex Import and Export Warehouse in the Gotham wharfside district, where Catwoman has already managed to frequent. Having forced enough information out of the informant Pinch to lead her to the suspect thief's hideout, Catwoman approaches the empty dockside warehouse, only to suffer from a massive headache, a side effect of her illness. With agonizing effort, Gotham's greatest cat-burglar picks the lock on the door, forces it, and cautiously enters the darkened warehouse. No sooner has the heavy steel door begin to swing shut, when Batman drives up in the Batmobile and enters the building on Catwoman's heels. Prowling around the seemingly abandoned and bare shadows, Selina discovers little more than a few dusty wooden crates, all empty. Undeterred, she discovers, upon closer investigation, a hidden trapdoor in the floor with a metal ladder descending into a secret tunnel below. Climbing down the ladder, Catwoman recalls what Pinch had told her about the tunnels: During the 1920s and Prohibition, a gang of bootleggers had used the winding catacombs to smuggle illegal liquor into the United States. They had scattered booby-traps all over the tunnels, but the place had been virtually unused since the Age of Prohibition. Catwoman arrives at a seemingly bottomless chasm, but leaps across and clears it safely. She then continues through the tunnel, unwittingly raising her foot over a pressure plate triggered to release an unknown booby-trap. From another angle, the arriving Batman spots the camouflaged pressure plate and tackles Catwoman to save her life. Selina uses her own momentum against Batman, and the two clash. Batman tries to explain he believes her innocence, but Catwoman refuses to listen and lashes at him with her whip. Batman seizes her whip and continues trying to talk, but then Catwoman attempts to slash at him with her clawed gloves. She is suddenly stricken with another agonizing headache, and Batman offers to help her to a doctor. This only serves to enrage her, and Catwoman beats the Dark Knight with both of her hands, knocking him to the ground. She then flees down the underground, cavernous tunnel and steps on the pressure plate Batman had saved her from before, despite his frantic warnings for her to stop. The narrow tunnel's walls then release a cloud of green poison gas, which soon begins to overcome Catwoman. Batman, donning a gas mask from his utility belt, makes his way to Catwoman, and places a filter over her mouth before helping them both to safety.

The duo escape down a man-made side tunnel, to wait until the gas subsides. Catwoman is grateful that the Dark Knight had saved her life, and the two agree to stop fighting. Batman observes that the gas booby-trap was fairly recently installed, and the gas was a recently discovered catabolic agent of modern origin. He pleads for a moment when the two can talk, so he can explain he has become convinced in her innocence, and she agrees. However, a huge trap door suddenly gives way beneath their feet, and the two fall a long distance through a seemingly bottomless pit, with painted green walls. Batman tries to seize one such wall, but the sides of the pit are too slick and he fails to gain any traction. They both land on a tangle of adhesive-coated cables oddly resembling a spider's web. Batman finds that he cannot move from his position of landing, since the system of cables are covered with a strong polymer adhesive. Catwoman notes that they are both trapped like flies in a web, and then a mocking voice quotes Mary Howitt's 1829 poem 'The Spider and the Fly' with a sinister 'Welcome to my parlor!' Batman curses himself for not having seen it sooner and deduce who the real museum thief was all along—the Catman.

Standing on a platform above them, Catman gloats over Batman and Catwoman, telling the Caped Crusader that frankly, the real answer should've been obvious: "Who else would think to trap you in a giant cat's cradle if not.....the Catman, the villain with nine lives!!"

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"Shadow of the Cat!"Edit

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