vol. 1
Issue #1
Issue #2

Annual #1

vol. 2
Issue #1
Issue #2
Issue #3
Issue #4
Issue #5
Issue #6
Issue #7
Issue #8
Issue #9
Issue #10
Issue #11
Issue #12
Issue #13
Issue #14
Issue #15

 

 

Issue #2

"Secrets and Identities"
by David Marshall


It felt good to be home. Tiraq proved every bit as difficult as Dinah Lance suspected, and her apartment was a welcome sight despite her lax housekeeping. She tossed aside some dirty laundry and lit a candle she purchased from an airport in Florida. The aromatic scent of ocean breeze wafted into her nostrils. Its playful, aptly-named fragrance reminded her how badly she needed a vacation.
She pulled her worn white bathrobe tightly around her waist, shuffled to the kitchen, and searched the cabinets. She was out of rice again. A closer inspection confirmed her worst fears- she needed to do some grocery shopping. A quick inventory of the refrigerator left her with the same conclusion. "Damn," she cursed under her breath.
She found a date bar in the pantry and poured herself a glass of milk. Shopping could wait until the morning. In fact, everything could wait until then. The date bar disappeared quickly, as did the milk. Dinah rinsed out the glass and placed it in the dishwasher.
She turned out the kitchen light and made her way to the bathroom and the most welcome sight of all, her garden tub. She turned on the hot water and let it fill the tub. While waiting, she retrieved a box of bath salts from beneath the sink and poured them into the water. They bubbled immediately. As soon as the water level was high enough, Dinah flipped on the switch for the jacuzzi and the jets roared to life- churning the water with waves of pleasure.
Dinah undressed and looked at herself in the full-length mirror on the back of the door. She looked good, but worried she would get flabby arms like her mother did later in life. She also wished she had a tiny waist like Catwoman and Wonder Woman's thighs. Her chest was nice but she was no Power Girl. Then again, her back was thankful she missed out on that blessing.
Dinah sighed and tested the water with the big toe of her right foot. It was hot. Maybe a little hotter than she liked but it still felt good. She moved into the tub and lowered herself into the water. It burnt, but in a good way. Superman couldn't have done better with heat vision. Her aching muscles soaked up the welcome heat. She relaxed her head into the bath pillow, high on the wall of the tub. It felt good to be home.
Then she heard a familiar beep in her ear and cursed herself for not removing her earrings. "What?" she snapped.
"Geez, girl. Who tangled your fishnets?" asked the voice on the other end. "I didn't mean to interrupt your bath."
Dinah subconsciously covered herself and hoped Oracle couldn't see her as well. Having a hard time hearing her partner, she flipped off the jets and realized they were how Oracle knew she was bathing. "No, it's ok. I'm sorry. I was just enjoying this bath so much that I overreacted." Oracle giggled. "I understand. I do it all the time."
"All the time? One of us is definitely on the wrong career path," Dinah answered.
"Oh, but your boss tells me you do such a wonderful job!" Oracle replied.
"What can I do you for?" Dinah asked.
The question was met with a confused silence. "What?"
"Just an expression," Dinah replied. "You've reached Ms. Dinah Lance's office. How may I help you?" she dead-panned. "Is that better?"
"Have you heard of Dr. Tom Guinness?" Oracle asked.
"This is going to mess up my quiet night at home. Isn't it?" Dinah replied.
"He's one of Gotham's top neurosurgeons. He was gunned down in front of Gotham Memorial tonight," Oracle continued.
"Sounds more like a job for the police than us," Dinah answered. "I don't mean any disrespect but the rich and famous die everyday."
"He's not dead," Oracle replied. "In fact, the gunman's aim wasn't very good and hit him in the shoulder. Got into his neck a little too but he should live."
"Then what's the big deal? Doesn't sound like anything we usually get involved with," Dinah answered.
Again Oracle was silent.
"You okay?" Dinah asked.
"Dr. Guiness was one of the neurosurgeons.... Dinah. I really can't go into it."
Dinah wondered why Oracle was so evasive. One of the neurosurgeons who did what? She wanted to ask, but let it go for the time being. Just one more on a growing list of questions Dinah accumulated over the last few months regarding her mysterious partner. "You know I'm in."
"Good. Dr. Guinness is in room 338 under heavy guard. You'll need to show your JLA credentials."


Gotham Memorial, Room 338, The Next Morning

"I told you I don't know!" Dr. Tom Guinness shouted.
Black Canary hoped she wasn't making things worse for the victim. Her persistent questions seemed to irritate Dr. Guinness. His wife was more cooperative.
"Tommy, it's important you remember all you can. Black Canary is with the Justice League. She can bring in whoever did this."
Tom Guinness looked into Canary's eyes. "What is it to you anyway? A doctor gets shot outside a hospital after work. Big deal. Shouldn't you be chasing the Riddler or something?"
"Mr. Guinness, I want to help you." Dinah didn't want to tip her hand about Oracle. Hell, she didn't even know what Oracle's interest was in the case. "Again, can you think of anyone who would want to shoot you?"
The doctor sighed deeply and settled into his pillow roughly. "No, I can't."
A nurse poked her head inside the door. "Mr. Guiness, you have another visitor."
"Can't I just get better and go home?" the doctor snapped.
"Seems you'd want to see an old friend," said a voice from behind the door. The door opened and a young woman rolled into the room in a wheelchair. Her hair was dark blonde, several shades darker than Canary's own, but her face seemed familiar somehow. She looked out at the world through thick glasses. In her lap was a bouquet of flowers.
"Barbara?" Mrs. Guinness asked.
The young lady in the wheelchair stole a glance at Black Canary and seemed caught off-guard by her presence, but quickly regained her composure and turned to the Guinnesses. "Yes, it's me. I'm so sorry, Tom. I came as soon as I read it in the paper this morning."
"Are you hoarse?" Doctor Guinness asked. "Your voice..."
"A little," Barbara replied. "I'm getting over the flu that's been going around."
Black Canary could tell the young woman's visit brightened Dr. Guinness's spirits, but her presence made it difficult to question him.
Barbara stole a glance at Canary. "I recognize you! Aren't you..."
Black Canary was slightly embarrassed by the attention. She brushed her blonde locks out of her face and smiled demurely. "Yes, I am."
The young woman in the wheelchair seemed excited. "Oh my god! Tom! Cyndi! You never told me you knew Grace Wentworth! I've never met a supermodel before!"
Black Canary's grin faded.
"No, dear," said Mrs. Guinness. "This is Black Canary! She's a superhero, not a supermodel!"
Barbara covered her mouth. "That's right. I'm so sorry. I saw you on CNN. It was terrific what you did in Tiraq!"
"Thank you," Canary answered.
Dr. Guinness piped in on the conversation. "Since when have you been a blonde? I thought your hair was..."
"Different...the last time you saw me? Yeah, I change it a lot. Any idea who did this to you, Doctor Guinness?" Barbara fidgeted with the controls of her chair.
"That seems to be the sixty-four dollar question. Now doesn't it?" Dr. Guinness answered. "Look, I've told the police, and this woman, and now I'm telling you, I have no idea who did this to me. Nor do I wish to talk about it anymore."
"I'm sorry," Barbara replied. "I didn't mean to upset you."
"Why don't I leave you guys alone?" Black Canary asked. She felt like a third wheel now that a friend of the family arrived. Still, there was something odd about the lady in the wheelchair, but Canary couldn't quite put her finger on it.


Gotham City, Later the Same Night

After visiting Dr. Guinness, Canary wasn't sure why Oracle was so obsessed with his case. He hardly seemed the type to put your neck on the line for. But Oracle was her partner and her friend. Then again, was she? Sure they were partners, but friends? All Canary knew of Oracle was a voice in her ear. She seemed like a good honest woman and was an associate of Batman's, so she could be trusted, but it felt weird not knowing the person putting your life in danger. That would have to change soon.
That night, Canary did what she did best - busted a few heads and asked questions. Either no one knew anything about the shooting or they were keeping quiet. Just when she thought she'd get no breaks in the case, she spied Lanny the Lark sleeping on a park bench someone had stolen and dragged to an alley. He was covered with newspapers to stay warm. The wind chill was cut by the two buildings on either side of him. Someone had converted the unused alley into a basketball court. Two goals were set up between the facing buildings, both missing nets and one bent slightly crooked from too many kids hanging on it while dreaming of being the next Michael Jordan. There were no out-of-bounds lines or half-court lines or anything else to mark it as a basketball court, but it obviously saw a lot of action.
Canary perched on a balcony overlooking the alley and leaped into the night. She soared through the cold night air, but loved the feeling of being so free. She envied the heroes who could fly. At the last second, she reached out her hand and caught one of the goals by the rim. The pole bent with the sudden added weight but didn't break when she released and dropped to the ground. However, it did reverberate loud enough to startle Lanny.
Lanny rolled off the bench and hit the asphalt hard. "Bloody hell, woman! Scare a man to death! What's this about? I didn't do nothing."
"I think you'd do better worrying about the cold on a night like this," Canary answered.
Lanny patted his worn, old jacket's left pocket and hobbled back to his bench and sat down. "I got everything I need to take care of the cold right here."
"What have you heard about the shooting of Dr. Tom Guinness?" Canary asked.
Lanny shook his head. "I don't know nothing. Now let me be."
"Can't do that," Canary replied. "I've been out in this cold all night and haven't heard a peep. I need some information, Lanny."
Black Canary approached Lanny's bench.
Lanny shielded his face with his arms. "I told you. I don't know nothing."
Canary grabbed Lanny by the collar and jerked him up. "I've kicked more goons butts tonight than I wanted to, but one more loser won't hurt my feelings. Now talk!"
"I swear. I don't know who shot him," said Lanny.
"Then tell me what you know about Guinness," Canary demanded. She shoved Lanny back into the seat.
"Ok! Ok!" Lanny replied. "You don't gotta be so rough. I'm not hired muscle, ya know!"
"God forbid I say it," said Canary, "But you're the brains, huh?"
Lanny shook his head, pushed back his hair, and tugged his oversized ears. "No, sweetheart. I'm the ears."
"And what have you heard?".
"Now you're asking the right question," Lanny answered. "Word on the street is that Guinness enjoys a good wager. He could owe a gambling debt."
"To who?" Canary asked.
"I don't name names," Lanny replied. "But let's just say you should know who controls the scene here in Gotham."
"Penguin," said Canary.
"I don't name names," Lanny reiterated. "And I'm not saying he had anything to do with it. But if it's gambling in Gotham..."
Canary nodded. " I gotcha. You've been a big help."
Lanny patted the bench beside him. "Since I've been such a big help, why don't you curl up on this bench and keep me warm?"
Canary kicked the back of the bench and flipped it over, sprawling Lanny to the asphalt again. "Shame on you! A girl could get hurt on such an unstable bench!"


The Clocktower, The Same Night
Barbara Gordon rolled into her workstation. It was a close call with Black Canary at the hospital earlier in the day. She was glad she disguised herself just in case and hoped Canary didn't put two and two together. In the darkness of the Clocktower, only the bright reds, yellows, and greens of her equipment's LED lights were visible. "Lights," she said.
At her command, light flooded the room and Barbara wasted no time getting to work. But first thing was first. "Canary, are you there?"
"I'm here, Chief," Canary answered.
"Anything?"
"Maybe," Canary replied. "Word is that Guinness has a thing for the horses."
"Tom?" Barbara asked. "Are you sure?"
"Seems your knight's got a dent in his shining armor. What's this about?" Canary asked.
"It's personal," Barbara answered. "You tried Penguin?"
"It's took me most of the night to beat the locations out of people, but I'm on the roof of one of his hideouts now - an old warehouse near the pier. He should be inside. I've busted two other places and he wasn't there."
"Then he's expecting you. Be careful, Dinah."
Black Canary didn't answer.
"Dinah?" Oracle asked.
"End transmission. I'm going in."


Penguin's Lair, Same Night

Black Canary peered through a skylight on the warehouse's roof. She hated being so short with Oracle, but how was she supposed to answer when told to be careful? You too? For all she knew, Oracle was sitting on a beach somewhere in Fiji! But for some reason Canary kept working the cases Oracle sent her way. True, the pay was excellent, but she felt more like one of Charlie's Angels than a partner. Partner. Associate. Whatever. The debate could wait. There was movement in the warehouse below.
Canary broke through the skylight and landed on a large stack of crates. From the top of the crates, it was easy to reach the floor. Unfortunately, the breaking glass attracted attention.
"We have an uninvited guest, boys! You picked the wrong place this time, Catwoman!" yelled one of Penguin's cronies. He and three other goons rushed Canary.
Canary shook her head. Great! Mistaken for Catwoman! Time to set the bad guys straight and let them know a bird can hit just as hard as a cat. Showing great acrobatic prowess, she used a series of handsprings and cartwheels to close the distance between her and Penguin's goons. "Penguin should really invest in some flash cards for you boys. You're terrible at this 'identifying-the-bad-ass super-chick-that's-going-to-hand-you-your-butt' game."
Canary leapfrogged the first attacker and kicked the one behind him in the chin. "One down three to go."
"Dream on, sister. No broad is going to..."
Canary planted a spin kick in the leapfrogged man's back before he could finish his sentence. The momentum flipped him over the forks of a forklift. "There goes Penguin's Workman's Comp rates! You guys should know better than to leave the forks raised when the lift is not in use. I'm surprised the thug's union hasn't filed a grievance over the safety issues in this place."
A third goon pulled a piece and fired it at Canary.
She leaped toward him. The shots weren't even close.
"Now that just pisses me off," said Canary. "Here I try to play nice and you pull a gun. I've learned a few things about men...."
Landing beside the man, Canary ducked and swept his feet out from under him. His gun fired wildly into the air overhead. "One - anytime a man pulls something from his pants, nothing good will come of it."
Grabbing the man's wrist as he fell, Canary wrenched it back until she heard the bone crack. "Two -when a man pulls something from his pants he's usually not as good with it as he thinks he is."
The man screamed in agony as he landed hard against the concrete floor and dropped his gun. "And finally," Canary continued. "When a man pulls something from his pants, it's child's play to use it against him."
She picked up the gun and aimed it between the man's eyes.
Penguin's goon covered his face with his hands like they would somehow stop a bullet. "Please don't."
"Blam!" shouted Canary.
"You didn't shoot," said the relieved man.
"Of course not. I'm one of the good guys," Canary answered. "But I'll still do this..."
The man tried to cover his face again but it was too late. Canary brought the heel of her boot down on the man's head, rendering him unconscious.
The fourth man jumped on Canary's back, knocking the gun from her hand with his momentum. She wrestled with him but couldn't shake him loose. He was too massive and strong. With one hand he held her tight. He slammed the other fist into Canary's mouth so hard it rattled her teeth.
The blow sent Canary sprawling backward. Her attacker didn't let go, but Canary was thankful she landed on him instead of the other way around. She struggled against his grip, but her arms were pinned to her sides by the man's crushing bear hug. The warm, salty tang of her own her own blood filled Canary's mouth. The man knocked one of her teeth loose. "Damn you! Do you know how expensive dental work is these days?"
The man didn't care. Again he pounded Canary's face, this time blooding her nose. She tried to kick loose but he held on tight.
"Enough of this nonsense!"
The thug beneath Black Canary stopped pummeling her but still held her firm within his powerful arms.
"What's the meaning of this?" squawked the Penguin. He was perched high overhead, outside an open office door, and gripped an iron safety railing with his fat gloved fingers. Dressed in a tuxedo that looked three sizes too small, he waddled into Canary's view. With his hair slicked back beneath his top hat and his long nose exaggerated by the warehouse shadows, he resembled his namesake to the letter.
"Tell your muscle to release me!" Canary demanded.
Penguin's nasally laughter echoed off the thin aluminum walls of the warehouse. "And why should I do that, my lovely lady? You're the one trespassing! Joey is only doing his job. Honestly, Batman never has this much trouble with the hired help."
"Ok, you forced me to do this," said Canary.
Penguin answered with a nod as if curious to see what she would do.
Unable to move anything but her hands, Canary reached behind her and grabbed the man's groin and clamped down tightly. The man froze instantly.
"P-P-Please, no!" he stammered.
Canary gripped even harder. "Let me go."
"Ok... ok. Just don't squeeze 'em any harder," the man begged. He slowly spread his arms wide and laid them flat to the ground to let Canary know she was truly free.
"Good boy," said Canary. She moved to her knees and gave the man's family jewels one final jolt and twisted her hand as she released them.
The man screamed in agony and vomited the second she released him.
The Penguin's laughter seemed almost giddy as he applauded the performance. "Bravo! Bravo! Damn fine show! I suppose you have a good reason for busting in here and mopping the floor with my boys?"
Canary stood and pointed an accusing finger at the Penguin. "I want to know who shot Dr. Tom Guinness!"
The Penguin chomped on his cigarette holder. "You and me both, sister! Let me know when you find out."
"Do you honestly expect me to believe you had nothing to do with it?" Black Canary asked.
"I'm many things," said Penguin, "but stupid is not one of them, Ms. Canary."
Canary regarded Penguin with suspicion.
"Guinness loves the horses and the Gotham Knights. A real sucker bet for the Knights every time, no matter what the line," Penguin answered. "A true homer."
"A man who bets with his heart makes foolish wagers," Canary replied. "That just means he owed you even more money."
The Penguin laughed. "Au contraire, Black Canary! Tom's a poor gambler, but a helluva businessman! Always pays. I've never had to lean on him. The last thing I want is to see him dead."
"Then who would want him dead?" Canary asked.
"I have my business, my dear, and you have yours. Speaking of which..."
Black Canary backed out the warehouse door carefully. As much as it pained her to admit it, Penguin didn't seem to mixed up in the shooting. She was back to square one. What was she missing?


The Clocktower

Barbara Gordon was tired of staring at the same dossiers over and over. Batman kept extensive records of every known thug in Gotham City. Some were big fish and others were small fries, but none offered clues as to who would shoot Dr. Guinness, even after Canary's disappointing news that Guinness was somehow mixed up with the Penguin. The revelation made Barbara think of the one thing she hated about her years as Batgirl and her current duty as well. Being so close to legendary heroes, she often saw how fallible and human they really were, including one silly young girl crazy enough to run around in a Bat-suit until the Joker put an end to it for good. Barbara closed the connection between her computer and the one in the Batcave and exhaled in frustration. Maybe she was too close to work on this one. Then she had an idea.
Instead of looking for underworld figures who stood to gain from Tom's death, maybe she should look at his associates. Tom was recently promoted to Chief Neurosurgeon at Gotham Memorial. The position abounded in not only perks and prestige, but money as well. Barbara thought perhaps maybe it was worth looking into...

A couple of hours pouring over hospital records turned up absolutely nothing. In fact, everyone from Tom's supervisors down to his peers suggested him for the promotion. Barbara had gone through everything she could think of. Except for maybe...

Barbara hacked into several insurance carriers' databases. Her worst fears were realized when she discovered that a new life insurance policy was opened on Tom a month before for the sum of one million dollars. Could Mrs. Guinness be responsible?
"Canary... you there?" Barbara asked.
"I'm here," Canary replied. "Go ahead."
"I know it's late, but I may have something."
Black Canary yawned on the other end of the transmission. "If you have something I'll go. You know me."
Barbara smiled. "Yes, I do. Could you do some surveillance?"
"Sure. Who? Where?"
"Mrs. Guinness."
"I thought about that myself but didn't want to bring it up. Tell me what's really going on, Oracle."
"I can't." Barbara dropped her head. She hated keeping Canary in the dark, but she promised Batman to let no one know her identity. She planned to keep that promise.
"This bites. I risk my ass every time you buzz in my ear and I know squat about you. I expect some answers. Soon!"
"You'll get them. It's just... I have to protect my identity."
"Of all the... I co-founded the JLA and know the identities of dozens of heroes. Do you think I got where I am today by having loose lips," Canary asked.
"Will you go?" Barbara hoped the shame in her voice wasn't as obvious as she felt it was. She heard Black Canary push away her blankets and crawl out of bed.
"I'll go," Canary answered. "But this isn't over."


The Roof of the Sapphire Hotel, 2:15 a.m.

Black Canary sat on the rooftop across the street from the Guinness apartment and watched the place carefully through binoculars.
What was Oracle's deal anyway? It wasn't like this was their first case. They had worked together for several months. Did she not know how uneasy it made one feel when they know everything about you and you don't even have a name to call them?
"Peeping Tom?"
Canary nearly dropped her binoculars when she spun around to face the voice that startled her. She quickly crouched into a fighting stance. "Oh, it's you. I should've known not just anybody could sneak up on me like that. Scared the hell out of me. No, I'm not a peeping tom. I'm peeping ON Tom, or his wife to be exact."
"I heard what you did to Penguin," said Batman.
Canary shrugged and turned again to watch the apartment. She raised the binoculars to her eyes once more. "Thanks."
"It wasn't a compliment," Batman answered. "It was a warning. He'll come after you."
"What's one more enemy?" Canary answered. "Oracle send you?"
"Oracle?" Batman shook his head. "I spotted you while on patrol and wanted to warn you about Penguin. If you need help, Oracle can reach me."
"Thanks, but I fight my own battles," Canary answered. "By the way, do you know who she..."
Canary turned. Batman was gone.


Near Sunrise

"Oracle? You there?" Canary asked.
"Go ahead," Oracle yawned, despite her best efforts to keep it to herself.
"I'm glad one of us gets to sleep."
"How do you know I'm not tired from being up all night?" Oracle asked.
"A woman doesn't date Green Arrow for years without knowing the difference between a waking up yawn and a been up all night yawn. That was definitely a waking up yawn," Canary answered.
"Any news?" asked Oracle.
"It's nearly sunrise and I haven't seen anything out of the ordinary all night unless you count the fact she watched a Love Boat marathon til the wee hours. I'll have nightmares about Gavin MacLeod's bald head 'til noon. I'm going home."
Oracle sighed. "Ok, Dinah. I'll have some fresh information tonight."
Dinah's silence made Barbara uneasy.
"Dinah?"
"I'm sorry, Oracle. I can't keep doing this. Please find someone else."
"No, Dinah. Please I... Hello? Hello?"
The hustle and bustle of early morning Gotham City traffic filled Oracle's ear bud. Now what?


Thank you for reading the second issue of Birds of Prey. I know it's long overdue and make no excuses for that fact. I do have some exciting plans for Babs and Dinah though. Stick with me. Please! (Begs on knees).
I know some of you may be wondering about Dinah not knowing Oracle's identity. Let me explain. If you're a regular reader of the DC series, you know that this was one of the first story arcs covered in that series. So why rehash it? Because the cut-off date for FDC continuity was before the first issue of Birds - meaning that only the Birds mini-series had been published at the time of Crisis of Destiny and Dinah was still ignorant of Oracle's identity. So I needed a story to establish this in FDC continuity. But I didn't want the story to stand in the way either, so I decided to not drag out Dinah discovering her partner's identity for twenty-some issues as Dixon did in the DC series. So I'm getting it out of the way early so I can go from there. Hopefully, I'll present it in a fresh way and surrounded by a good story. As soon as this arc ends, (next issue), we'll get to some real Birds.
See ya next issue!
David

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