Birds of Prey Episode 2 Belling the Cat - Chapter 1 The Break-in

Discussion in 'Birds of Prey' started by L'Espion, Jan 4, 2019.

  1. L'Espion Active Member Author

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    All of the illustrations in this story with the exception of the public domain picture of Rozanov's mansion are courtesy of the brilliant artists Renderpretender and Furbs3D whose work can be viewed at DeviantART. My grateful thanks for being allowed to use this art.

    Art courtesy of Renderpretender

    Birds of Prey
    Episode 2 Belling the Cat

    Story by L’Espion illustrated by the remarkable RenderPretender

    [email protected]

    Chapter 1 The Break-in
    A dark purple shadow moved stealthily among the shadows of the roof of the ostentatious neo-Victorian mansion. In the mind of Selina Kyle the building was one of the ugliest she had ever burgled, but she had to admit the various towers, cupolas, and gables worked to her advantage. Anyone trying to spot her from the well-lit surroundings would have the devil’s own time of it, even if they were using the infrared goggles which she happened to know all of the guards had in their possession.

    Rozanov House, as it was known to the residents of Gotham, was not old by the standards of the city; in fact it had gone up less than twenty years ago, following the destruction of several houses that had once occupied the area it was built on during the Gotham Earthquake of 1998. One of the most cataclysmic events in the history of the United States, the catastrophe had resulted in a relaxing of building codes even in the posh Crest Hill area of the city. Entrepreneur and theatrical impresario Mikhail Rozanov had ordered it constructed and had named it Kitezh, after a mythological Russian city, but most of the surrounding residents regularly referred to it as “Rozanov’s folly” or even more commonly “Rozanov’s monstrosity.”

    Whatever the name, Selina had to admit that it had levels of security that rivaled a top secret military base. Perhaps that was not too unusual considering that Rozanov was almost certainly funneling money from organized crime through his various business outlets, taking a percentage for himself while he was at it. Just how deeply he was connected to organizations like the Russian Mafia she did not know, but the fact that there was any connection at all made him a legitimate target.

    By now she had already navigated her way past numerous sensors intended to detect motion, footfalls, body heat, and even the CO2 given off by breathing. However, she hadn’t attempted the penetration of the house’s defences without doing her research and she had managed to neutralize most of the electronic monitors before she had actually begun her assault.

    She couldn’t deactivate them all, of course, that would have resulted in an immediate alert being sounded, but she could manipulate the systems well enough that the security measures would not detect her along her chosen path to the mansion. She had nullified the surveillance systems just long enough for her to scale the outer wall, and scuttle across the well-manicured lawns to the base of the house. Fortunately, the highly-landscaped grounds featured numerous, shrubs and trees which she was able to use to her good advantage. She had even managed to attract the dogs to the other side of the grounds by the simple expedient of tossing a condom filled with fluid containing the essence of a bitch in heat over the outer wall. Interestingly it even seemed to attract the female dogs.

    upload_2019-1-3_21-45-12.png upload_2019-1-3_21-44-32.png upload_2019-1-3_21-45-12.png
    Rozanov's mansion courtesy of public domain

    Once at the base of the house it had been a relatively simple matter for her to use her climbing skills to gain the roof of the building. For most people, reaching the top of the house would have required elaborate climbing gear or at the very least a line connected to a grappling hook, but Selina had done it freestyle, using only natural athletic ability and the retractable claws in her gloves and boots to help her along.

    She was a superbly conditioned athlete, incredibly lithe and strong and gifted with strength and skill that bordered on the metahuman. All of these physical qualities were embodied in a woman that to the casual observer actually appeared petite. At five-feet-seven-inches tall and weighing only one-hundred-and-thirty pounds Selina hardly appeared to be the world class athlete that she was. But her body was as tight as a coiled string and was capable of remarkable feats of strength and agility when it was released.

    When she wasn’t prowling gardens and rooftops, Selena was an eye-catching brunette with shoulder-length hair and startling green eyes. She tended to dress casually when not in the role of Catwoman, dressing in Tees and jeans to draw less attention to herself. Just now, however, she wore a deep purple costume that was so tight that it fit her like a second skin.

    The costume resulted in an astounding transformation. Every aspect of her curvaceous physique was revealed in incredible detail from her long exquisitely-muscled legs to her flat, hard belly, and a pair of breasts that at first glance almost seemed too large for someone who had the skills of an Olympic gymnast. But the costume was all part of her persona, from the cat ears on either side of her cowl to the multi-thonged whip she slung at her waist, and the thigh-high black boots that gripped her legs. Her appearance was intended to first startle and then captivate anyone who caught sight of her. A moment’s hesitation from any adversary was usually all she needed to either escape or to launch a punishing attack. Just now her costume blended in very well with the shadows on the rooftop as she slunk toward her goal.

    She reached it soon enough, a tiny window located in the roof of the only conical tower adorning the rooftop. It actually wasn’t a proper window, more of an attic vent, and as she had hoped contained no alarm system. She always found it puzzling that someone who had paid for a multimillion dollar alarm system often neglected anything beyond the first one or two stories of most buildings. Guess they don’t realize that thieves can climb, she thought. Well, at least this one can.

    It took her only moments to open the vent and slide inside to the welcome darkness of the attic. It was pitch-black, but her night vision eyepieces and black light LEDs built into them allowed her to see as well as if it was daylight.

    She was in a small room with curved sloping walls that followed the shape of the tower. There was nothing in the room, but that was of no concern as she hadn’t expected there to be anything of value in it. What she was looking for was much more important than a few knickknacks that might have been stored in the room. She found it very quickly; an access hatch that would allow her to drop into the room below.

    Since the house was fairly modern, in spite of its neo-Gothic appearance, the access hatch was easy to open. In older houses she had sometimes found the hatches nailed shut; a minor problem, but one that was annoying nevertheless. She lifted the hatch off and looked down into a dark opening. A quick survey revealed that it was a closet and was quite empty, not too surprising in a fourth floor room that was probably intended as a servant’s quarters.

    She let herself down into the room, dropping lightly onto her toes. Before opening the door she took out a small container of pressurized lubricant and gave the hinges a once over. Probably the door would have opened silently and also probably the room beyond would be empty, but experience had taught her that there was no point in taking chances.

    As she expected the door opened on a small bedroom. It contained only a few sticks of modest furniture and nothing else; a servant’s quarters as she had supposed.

    She gave the door to the room the same treatment as she had given the closet and let herself out of the room. This time she found herself in a narrow corridor. So far so good. She had memorized the architect’s plans for the house, having taken the time to acquire them from the offices of the City Planning Department. So far everything was as it should be. Her memory told her that there was little other than small rooms for servants on this floor, although there might also be a few of Rozanov’s guards there as well. In any case she moved silently, reached the stairs and made her way down another two floors.

    She paused in the stairwell. So far she had not disabled any of the internal cameras and security devices and now that she was almost to the main living area of the house it was time to do just that. She took a tiny device from her belt and pushed a button. All right, I’ve got fifteen minutes.

    The device she had triggered had turned off all the lasers, sound detectors, and other devices as well as putting the security cameras on a loop that would probably not be detected for at least a quarter of an hour; and that was only if the guard monitoring them was alert. In her experience guards tended not to be alert, but there was always the odd exception, so she gave herself just the amount of time she needed.

    This part of the building was where Rozanov’s family and his guests stayed. Almost certainly it would be patrolled by armed guards as well, but she did not expect there to be more than two or three of them. The last thing Rozanov would want would be listening to the tramping of guards as they marched up and down the dimly lit corridors.

    In this she was proved right as well. On this level the rooms were larger and the corridors were wider. The walls were decorated with expensive painting and small display tables and niches supported statuary and other artworks. She ignored all of them. What she wanted was a large central room that would almost certainly be guarded. It was situated right over the entry hall and if her sources were correct it contained treasures that were worth far more than the offerings in the corridor.

    The sound of soft footsteps had her ducking behind a large free-standing pedestal that supported a bust of Boris Yeltsin. It occurred to her that it was a rather strange form of decoration, but right now it also offered a convenient hiding place.

    She could, of course, have simply taken out the guard. She had done that often enough in the past, however, she had mellowed somewhat in her career as the ultimate cat burglar. Too often in the past her violent attacks had sent security guards and police officers to the hospital, and now she preferred to avoid violent confrontation. Besides, it tended to make quite a bit of noise and she wanted to avoid that if possible. Of course if I run into any of Rozanov’s hired goons I’ll have to make an exception. In that case she would strike with the ferocity of the animal she mimicked and show no mercy.

    Thirteen minutes left. She slunk out from the behind the pedestal and continued her movement down the corridor as the guard moved away from her. She quickly found herself in front of the room she was seeking. Not surprisingly the large double doors were locked, but she had never met a lock she couldn’t defeat in just a minute or so. This one proved no more difficult, surrendering in less than thirty seconds. She stopped in the doorway. Although the alarms in the rest of the house had been disabled there was one more obstacle. Her sources (And they had better be right. I paid five grand for that info) had told her that the inner room had a security system isolated from the rest of the electronic security protecting the house. A quick survey told her that they had been right. Laser beams crisscrossed the room and the floor was almost certainly equipped to set off an alarm if anyone stepped on it.

    First things first. The floor sensors were not a problem, the lasers were. However, if her intel was correct the command module for the security system was located on a console on the far side of the room. She took out one more gadget from her belt. She pressed a button on her goggles and it whirred to life. Slowly it rose from her hand and hovered before her. I should be able to do this, she thought. She’d certainly practiced enough.

    The tiny drone was keyed to the movements of her head. Deliberately she maneuvered it through the maze of laser beams, moving it higher when she had to and then lower or shifting it from side to side until it finally crossed the room to the console. A camera in the drone showed her the switch that turned the security system on and off. She let it drop gently downward until it hit the switch and suddenly the lasers disappeared.

    I’m in. She stepped into the room, closing the door behind her. The room was huge with ceilings that were at least twenty feet high and the wall space was adorned with exquisite works of art. These were the true prizes of the mansion. Quite the collection. That’s a Vermeer; a van Gogh; and a Rembrandt.... Looks like I’d need a truck to take all of this stuff. There were too many artworks for her to catalogue immediately, but those she recognized were all stolen. Her career had made her something of an art expert and she had no trouble identifying works of art looted from a number of museums over the last decade or so and rumoured to have been sold to private collectors. Not rumoured, she corrected herself. Fact.

    And now they’re mine.

    She quickly removed the first painting, a Rubens, from the wall and placed it on the surface of the most impressive piece of furniture in the room, an oversized desk large enough to hold a picnic on. She placed it face down and took out a small utility knife from her belt. With practiced skill she cut through the backing and quickly removed the painting. She repeated the process several more times, placing the masterpieces one on top of the other with a thin layer of protective foam between each of them and then carefully bundled them up.

    Too bad I don’t have time for more, but the clock is ticking. Time to get out of here.

    She turned toward the door just as the lights in the room flashed on. Her night vision goggles instantly adjusted to the normal light, revealing half a dozen armed men in grey uniforms. The sound of footfalls in the hallway indicated that even more were on the way.

    “Shit, it’s a woman,” one of them yelled.

    “Not just a woman, that’s Catwoman,” another yelled.

    “Well, she’s a dead cat now” the first guard replied.

    “Better to take her alive,” a third suggested. “The boss would like that.”

    “Aren’t you jumping things, boys?” Selina taunted. “You have to catch me first.”

    She jumped to the top of the desk and faced the men moving toward her. One of them pointed his gun at her and pulled the trigger. “Catch this, bitch!”

    But Selina was nowhere near the path of the bullet. She had moved even as the guard’s finger tightened on the trigger. It seemed to be an almost instinctive action, but it wasn’t. Selina’s senses were highly attuned to detect the slightest movement. It had always been that way with her, allowing her to make moves that were so quick and sudden that she almost seemed to dodge bullets and other objects. In this case the bullet took out one of the panes in the room’s large stained-glass window.

    “Oh, I hope that wasn’t an antique,” Selina jeered, as she did a somersault that landed her on top of a large marble statue. “Perhaps you should consider where your bullets are going before you pull the trigger.”

    “Put down your gun, you asshole,” shouted a guard who seemed to be in charge. “Rozanov will have your balls if you damage any of his artwork. Anyway we don’t need guns to deal with this bitch. Just take her down.”

    The guards, now numbering more than a dozen surged toward her, although they didn’t seem to have a plan for getting her down from the top of the statue, but she knew that she couldn’t stay where she was. I wonder where he got this? Selina wondered. It appeared to be a statue of Artemis; perhaps it had been looted by some tomb raider and sold on the underground market. Whatever its origin she solved the guards’ problem of how they were going to get her down, by using her whip to ensnare one of the arms of a giant chandelier that hung from the centre of the room.

    “Sorry I can’t hang around,” she shouted as she swung through the air and cleared a path for herself by using her feet to bowl over several of the guards. She landed in the space she had created and immediately struck to either side. Moving almost too fast for the eye to follow she hammered the men nearest her, holding nothing back. Using, fists, knees, feet, and elbows she mowed down the stunned guards, leaving bodies sprawled everywhere.

    “Sorry boys, it’s lights out again,” she shouted as she first retrieved her whip and then slammed her fist into the light switch near the door, plunging the room into darkness once more.

    “Ta-ta, time to go,” she called out of the darkness. For several seconds pandemonium reigned in the room until one of the guards had the presence of mind to turn the lights back on. The lights revealed a room empty of Catwoman and empty of several of the works of art that had once hung on the wall. The large window opening on the mansion’s inner courtyard hung open.

    “Shit, she’s gone through the window,” one of the guards yelled, stating the obvious. There was a general movement toward the window by those guards still able to stand, but the view of the garden revealed nothing.

    Sabrina dropped the twenty feet to the back porch and landed rolling to dissipate the energy. Without stopping her movement she headed straight for the shrubbery in the back garden. She quickly melted into the shadows provided by the trees and shrubs.

    However, she was not out of danger yet. The dogs she had diverted had appeared to have lost their interest in the scent she had provided for them and they rushed out of the darkness, howling with enthusiasm and right behind them were their handlers. She dashed toward the back of the property. This was not the way she had planned to exit the estate, but it was far better to improvise than risk capture. As the yapping dogs closed in she took one more small device from her belt and tossed it behind her. There was a slight “pop” and the barking and growls changed to howls of pain as a cloud of pepper exploded into the air.

    “So long,” she shouted as she leaped atop the back wall and then dropped to the other side. She made her way quickly to a parked car and thumbed the button on the keyless entry remote she had jiggered. It would unlock most of the automobiles in existence and it worked on this one. Flinging herself into the front seat she started the motor, threw it into gear and motored away just as the first of the guards managed to get over the wall.

    He stood looking after her. “Fuck, she’s gone. The boss is going to be mighty pissed.”

    “What the fuck am I paying you for?” Rozanov screamed at the several guards assembled in his gallery. “Five painting gone and not a one of them worth less than thirty million. And one of you assholes shot out a pane of priceless cathedral glass to boot.”

    The head guard, a hulking idiot called Rossi, shifted his weight nervously from side to side. “It was Catwoman, boss. She’s not human. I’ve never seen anyone move so fast.”

    “There were more than a dozen of you and you let her make fools of you.” He opened his mouth to say more but at that moment a young woman entered the room.

    “What is it, Serafima?” he asked, controlling his temper as he eyed the curvaceous blonde.

    “Mr. Rozanov,” she simpered. “I have a call for you on your private line. It is some woman who would not give her name, but she said you would certainly want to speak to her.”

    “My private line....” Rozanov muttered. Very few people had that number, and all who did were very important. But that did not include a single woman. But.... Maybe....

    “I will take it in here,” he said. “Get out of here all of you,” he ordered the men in the room. “I will continue this discussion later.”

    With a bunch of mumbled “Yes, Mr. Rozanovs,” the dozen or so men shuffled out of the room.

    Rozanov picked up the phone, “Yes?”

    “Mr. Rozanov,” a woman’s voice purred on the other end. In other circumstances he would have considered the timbre of the voice to be sexually inviting, but just now he was not interested in that.

    “Who is this?” he demanded, “and how did you get this number?”

    “How I got your number is my secret,” the woman answered. “What I want to talk to you about is a visit you had last night in which a few works of art disappeared from your collection.”

    “Disappeared?” Rozanov shouted into the phone, “you mean stolen.”

    “Well, they were already stolen weren’t they? The point is do you want them back?”

    Rozanov had to fight to hold his temper. “You are the one who took them, aren’t you? The goddamned cat bitch.”

    “Calling me names won’t do you any good.” The woman’s voice was infuriatingly calm. “I have several buyers lined up for them, but I thought it would be easier to return them to you.”

    “You want me to pay for the return of my own property?” Rozanov raged. “Of all the fucking cheek.”

    “Swearing into the phone won’t help,” the woman answered, “and we have already determined that the paintings are not really yours. Do you want them back or not? You have five seconds to decide. Five..., four..., three....”

    “Wait, wait. OK, I want them back. How much do you want?”

    “They were insured for three hundred and twenty million. The finder’s fee from the insurance companies is ten percent, and I can get double that from another buyer. But let’s be fair about this. You consider the paintings yours so I am willing to return them to you for a modest five percent of their value. That would be sixteen million. Is that agreeable?”

    “Sixteen million? You fucking twat....”

    “I am tired of your bad language. I will call you back in one hour. That should be more than long enough for you to make up your mind.” The phone line went dead and Rozanov slammed the receiver down with such force that it shattered.

    “God-dammed whore. Now look what you’ve made me do.” The gold inlaid ivory phone was worth over thirty thousand dollars and there were only ten like it in the world. He stormed out into the hall to where his men still waited. “My phone’s broken. Get me the one from my study.” He turned and re-entered his private gallery, slamming the door behind him and then he waited.

    Selina waited exactly one hour before phoning again. As before the call was answered by a woman; a fairly young one by the sound of the voice. That didn’t surprise her; Rozanov probably had dozens of young women at his beck and call considering his connections to the theatre world and his reputation as something of a lecher.

    Rozanov came on a minute later. “All right, Catwoman, you can have your sixteen million. How do I get my paintings back?”

    “They will be returned to you as soon as I am sure that the money is in my account.”

    “What? How do you know I can trust you? You could take the money and give me nothing.”

    “That’s true,” Selina answered. “But I am at least as trustworthy as most of those you are used to dealing with, and I am not about to turn the paintings over to you unless I have the money first. Do we have a deal or not?”

    It was an ultimatum that resulted in a certain amount of teeth grinding, but Rozanov finally agreed. “All right, Catwoman. Where do you want the money dropped?’

    “I don’t believe I gave you any name,” she responded. “But if you think I’m Catwoman that’s fine. As for the money I don’t want it dropped anywhere. I want it deposited in an account I am going to give to you and I want it deposited in bitcoins. Any deviation from that and the deal is off, understood?”

    Rozanov ground his teeth. “Understood,” he replied.

    “Very good. Now get a pen and write this down. The name of the account is....”

    An hour later Selina checked her account. The entire amount was there. She picked up the phone and called Rozanov’s number one more time.

    “Yes?” Rozanov’s voice answered impatiently. He had tried without success to have the number traced. Whatever sort of phone Catwoman was using it was relayed through enough phone networks to lose any trace.

    “I have the money,” Selina answered. “Now you can have your paintings. You will find them taped to the bottom of the large desk in your gallery.” With that she hung up.

    “What?” Rozanov screamed into the dead phone. He was actually sitting at the desk in question. Ducking beneath it he made out a neatly wrapped package just the right size to be the missing paintings. It was taped up the bottom of the desk. “Fucking bitch. She never took the paintings. They were here all the time.” He punched a button on his desktop intercom. “Rossi get your fat ass in here.”

    Rossi arrived, with two of his men trailing. “Get under the desk and get the package that’s taped to the bottom of it. And be careful.”

    A couple of minutes later Rozanov carefully peeled back the layer of cloth covering the package and revealed the “missing” works of art.

    “That cunt is going to pay for this,” Rossi fumed. “I want her taken down and I don’t care what it takes to do it.” He glared at Rossi. “Since you and your men are fucking idiots I want someone who can do this. Get me that someone and get him fast.”

    Beads of sweat stood out on Rossi’s head. “Yes, Mr. Rozanov. I know just the man who can do it.”

    “And who would that be?” Rozanov asked. “It had better be someone with a bit more between the ears than you have.”

    “I think he’ll do, Mr. Rozanov. His name is Philo Zeiss.”

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