THE LOST EVENING, PART 1

Alfred frowned at his old fashioned address book. In prior years, he had always asked Dr. Leslie Thompkins to be his escort to the annual Butlers' Ball. This year, alas, Dr. Thompkins was unavailable. She was currently attending a medical conference in Florida. Regrettably, it was looking like he would have to attend the event...shudder...stag.

He heard a light tap on the door of his study and got up to open it. Bruce Wayne stood uncertainly in the hallway. "Can you help me with my cuff links?" He held out his arms like a little boy.

Tsking to himself, Alfred quickly fastened the offending articles. "Going out tonight, sir?"

"Yes, I'm taking Silver St. Cloud to the theater and then a late supper," Brue replied with a dreamy smile on his face. Alfred had seen the look before. The trouble with his master wasn't that he never fell in love, but that he did so with astonishing ease. It was the darker side of his life that prevented him from committing to any one woman for very long.

Meditating on that, and the love interest before Miss St. Cloud, Alfred had an idea.

"Sir, the Butler's Ball is rapidly approaching. I...er...find myself without a date..." Alfred said hesitantly. "Dr. Thompkins is attending an out of state convention just now..."

Bruce smiled. "How can I help, Alfred?"

"Would you have any objection if I asked Miss Kyle to escort me? I believe that she might enjoy the ball and I understand that she is currently on parole..." Alfred looked at Bruce's face for cues. It wouldn't do to poach on the master's territory.

"I think that's a wonderful idea," Bruce said without a trace of jealousy. "By all means, ask her."

"Thank you, sir," Alfred said in relief. "I believe I will."

After Wayne had left for the evening, Alfred made the call. To his surprise, Miss Kyle was delighted.

"Why Alfred, I am touched and flattered that you would ask me," Selina Kyle said. "I'd love to go to the ball with you."

A weight lifted from his mind, Alfred thanked her. "Thank you, Miss Kyle. I will pick you up on Saturday at eight sharp."

"Selina. Call me Selina," she purred.

On the night, Alfred carefully parked the Rolls in front of Selina's apartment building. He nervously adjusted his tux and picked up the plastic box from the passenger's seat, then took the elevator to the sixth floor.

A gentle tap on her door and Selina answered. She was gorgeous, in a designer gown of white silk with tiny crystals. Alfred extended the box to her.

"I do hope that I chose the corsage well, Miss Kyle," he said.

"It's lovely." She allowed Alfred to pin the corsage to her dress. "I see that you've chosen a rose for the main flower, but what are the tiny purple ones behind it?"

"Why Miss Kyle, surely you know," Alfred said urbanely. "They are catnip blossoms."