Yolanda Montez, dressed in her own modified Catwoman costume, was on the prowl, looking for the woman who had framed her. She knew that bringing her in was the only way to keep the bitter Huntress off her back. She still wondered why she hadn’t turned her in to the police for assaulting her.
She had done her homework and knew four facts.
- The fake Catwoman had been active while she was out of the country at least twice.
- She was striking places tied to the first Catwoman’s career. (Yolanda had read everything on Selina Kyle she could find.)
- She wore the original leg-baring dress, not the shorts Yolanda favored.
- She also was fast, skillful, and did not kill.
Yolanda crouched on a ledge and waited. Surely, the next place this third Catwoman would strike would be the chronologically next place the real Selina Kyle had been associated with — a cat-themed cartoonist’s private museum of cat relics.
She stiffened as the purple-dressed figure appeared below and slipped effortlessly into a window. “She is as agile as I am!” she gasped.
Dropping inside, she became more cat-like as she peered across the darkened room. Here, kitty, kitty, she thought.
She ducked as a whip cracked at her legs. She avoided the tangling rope and kicked the woman who swung it in the chest. She wore the traditional Catwoman dress, all right. She even had the look and movement of the original down pat.
“You are no ghost!” she said.
The new Catwoman purred in humor. “My, my! A little pussycat wants to prowl where the big cats play!” She spoke in a throaty whisper and moved with amazing feline grace. She clawed at Yolanda and tore her costume as the Latino beauty punched her directly in the nose.
“You are fast!” said an admiring Catwoman as she clawed out at Yolanda and kneed her in the stomach.
They fought furiously, and as Yolanda rose above her prey to pounce once more, she was smashed over the head with a vase from behind.
“I’m sorry, I was enjoying the cat fight,” she heard a male voice say from the shadows as she slipped into unconsciousness.
Yolanda awoke sometime later to find the place robbed. “This round goes to you, but I’ll win the next one!” she vowed.
Then she spotted a broken red nail. “Fake claws. I know the real Selina grew her nails long and sharp,” she mused. “So our fake miss kitty has short nails in her civilian life,” mused the heroic Catwoman.
Back in the Batcave, Alfred Beagle studied a computer screen.
“The Cartoonist Museum differs from the other spots robbed in that it has an association other than that of being the scene of a past Catwoman crime,” he said. “It was the scene of an encounter between Miss Selina and Batman, but it was also the scene where they encountered a third cat felon.”
The Huntress nodded. “That fits. The one I’m picking up a report on now is also at the scene of a Tom Blake crime.”
“We’ve been tracking a Catwoman, when it’s beginning to look like the real crook is a Cat-Man!”
An investigation at the crime scene, a designer fur shop, revealed the accuracy of their deduction. Unlike the initial crimes that had been eventually but clearly associated with Catwoman’s crime career, the newest ones were places once robbed by her male counterpart, Tom Blake.
Back in the Batcave, the Huntress curled up on a divan and scanned a file. “Blake was a big-game hunter. He was bored with an idle life in Gotham, so he adopted the image of the Cat-Man. (*) He crossed paths with mother and father more than once. He was said to possess a cloak that he believed gave him magical self-preservation powers — nine lives!”
[(*) Editor’s note: Although a version of this story takes place on Earth-Two, the original story takes place on Earth-One, as seen in “The Challenge of the Cat-Man,” Detective Comics #311 (January, 1963).]
She held up an address. “Tom Blake is back in the United States. His passport shows that. He is back at his old family estate outside Gotham, near the Sprang River. Well, Mr. Blake, your purr-fect crime ends tonight,” she cooed. She swayed out into the night, purring softly.
Alfred listened and watched with dismay. He picked up a phone and started to dial a number. It was the JSA’s private number. At the last minute, he put down the phone.
“I’ll save her, Master Bruce,” he said softly. “Never fear.”
Yolanda Montez traced the connection to Tom Blake after an hour in the library. She realized that Cat-Man was now the dominant figure in the pattern unfolding.
“Why start copying Catwoman and then switch to copying Cat-Man?” she said, shaking her head. “I can see from the book I read on Selina that that is what is occurring, but why? It’s like someone wanted to frame me or create the idea that Catwoman was back from the dead before leading those who might try to stop her to Blake!”
The new Catwoman reached the Blake Manor and gazed up at the huge and spooky place. The grounds are like a jungle here, she mused.
Indeed, her agility had been tested when she had been faced with the tall electrified fence and barbed-wire defenses. She had vaulted over them both and crawled under and around the net of barb wire. “That was a real workout,” she said as she climbed off her stomach and stood upright.
She crossed the leafy paths and approached the house. As she stepped on the porch, she noticed cameras remained rigid and unmoving. His security cameras are damaged, she thought. Maybe I’m not the first one to get here. Could be the Huntress is ahead of me.
Catwoman entered the house by crawling up a pipe and sliding down a chimney. The tight space was dusty, and she realized that the soot had been stirred by an earlier arrival. She landed below on her toes and scanned the house. She saw a long stairway, and at the top, on the banister, crouched the villainous Catwoman.
“The game is over!” she cried as she charged up the banister with astonishing balance.
The villainous Catwoman cursed and growled deep within her throat. “I’ll remove all pretenders to my role!” she hissed.
As they fought at the top of the steps, Yolanda slipped one leg around her foe’s waist and arched her back, then sent the other woman toppling down the steps. She landed on her back before rolling to her feet with rapid recovery. Her nose began to bleed as an old wound reopened.
“You got that from our last fight. You’ll get worse now!” said a determined and passionate Yolanda.
The other Catwoman sneered and raked her fake claws across Yolanda’s chest. She head-butted her, and the mask slipped loose.
“My word! I prayed I was wrong!” said a masked man who entered slowly from the back of the house.
Alfred had slipped inside the back way after using the Batcave equipment to suddenly make an entrance even his less-agile form could enter.
He gazed up at the unforgettable scene of Yolanda Montez crouched in her Catwoman outfit, facing a bleeding and unmasked Helena Wayne, who was wearing one of her late mother’s famous dresses.
The unmasked Huntress recognized the man she considered as family and shook softly from the shoulders as horror filled her eyes.
“Oh, no!” she cried. “Those nightmares about mother… about me being Catwoman were real! That’s why I’ve been so tired. My emotions… my anger… the violence all came from the fact that I’ve been living the life of Catwoman all along! I’m the one who robbed the places and fought you! I’ve been dressing like mother… acting like her with the purr, the sultry walk, even the lingerie!”
“Easy, honey,” said Yolanda. “We can get you help.”
“Yes,” said Alfred. “I noticed the way you were becoming like your mother’s criminal persona. I suspected the tiredness came from being out as Catwoman after you came in as the Huntress.”
Yolanda helped Helena to her feet. “But why did you start to hit Cat-Man’s old crimes? Why’d you come here?” she asked as Alfred led them down the stairs.
“He must have made me do it!” cried Helena as she put back on her Catwoman mask. She pushed past Alfred and Yolanda to kick open a bedroom door.
“All right, Blake, the cat and mouse games end now!” she cried. “I don’t know why you led me here and turned me into the Catwoman, but I’ll have the truth out you if I have to use these fake nails to rip it out!”
She stopped short as the door swung wide, and she entered with her mother’s walk as she fought the conditioning that had turned her into Catwoman.
Helena saw keenly the frail man in a bed. He clutched a colorful cloak. “Please! I am sick,” he wheezed. “The only thing keeping me alive is my cape. It is my final life!”
“Blake is dying,” whispered Yolanda as she joined the Huntress.
“Then why lure us here?” she said.
“To trick you into getting past all Blake’s paranoid defenses so I could steal his precious magic cloak!” purred a sultry woman who had entered unseen and unheard behind them all.
She rested on her toes in a skintight, sleek, black feline costume. Alfred lay still at her high-heeled boots.
“Surrender, or he dies!” she laughed in a purr.
The two heroines whirled to see the sultry blonde newcomer as she bent over Alfred, her bright red nails poised above his throat.
“Another Catwoman, although this one dresses really kinky!” said Yolanda.
“Not Catwoman — I leave that for you two to catfight over. I’m the Queen of Cats,” she cooed. “Now toss me that magical cape, or he dies!”
The Huntress reached for her hip crossbow, but she silently cursed as she realized she was not wearing it or her normal Huntress gear.
“You want it, you got it,” said Yolanda, tossing the cloak to the black-clad blonde.
Old Tom Blake screamed and clutched in vain for the precious cloth.
“I don’t buy into the magic hoodoo, and we can recover it for Blake after we get the Brit away from Miss Leather!” whispered Yolanda.
Helena frowned. She wondered if Blake would die because of the actions of Yolanda. Still, Alfred’s safety came above all other options.
The Queen of Cats caught the cape and rolled backward down the steps to leap over the rail and leave the house.
The Huntress bent over Alfred and said, “She poisoned him with those claws! Help me get him to a hospital.” She tore loose the mask he wore and carried him out with Yolanda’s help.
Hours later, as Helena Wayne and Yolanda Montez waited in civilian dress outside a hospital emergency room, Helena said, “I’m sorry about the fight and all the comments I’ve made about you. I see you are a heroine, and I should get over my apparent mother fixation.”
Yolanda, who was wearing white shorts and a tank top, replied, “I’m sorry, too. I see I might have been insensitive about not asking you first about taking on the Catwoman identity.”
Helena nodded. “I guess I still may have to pay for what I did as Catwoman.”
“No way, legal girl!” said Yolanda. “You were under some spell… some sickness that we now see was created by outsiders like the Cat Queen. She admitted deliberately manipulating you into getting by all Blake’s defenses for her. She must have done even more to alter your straight-laced mannerisms.”
Helena grinned. “I hope you’re right. I was thinking that mental illness, which runs in mom’s side of the family, had caught up with me.”
Dr. Charles McNider exited to greet them. “He’ll be fine. The poison was a derivative of catnip. He’ll sleep it off.”
As Helena kissed the blind doctor, she turned to Yolanda. “Help me bring in the Queen of Cats,” she pleaded. “It may be my final action in any costume.”
Yolanda hugged her. “It will be my pleasure. How do we find her?”
Helena led her down the steps and said, “I have an idea who she is. The connection is a family one. Thinking about the mental instability Mom showed when she had amnesia led me to recall another member of our odd little clan.”