♫ Four thousand six hundred and twenty seven bats chained to a wall, four thousand six hundred and twenty seven BATS!!! Bite off the head, pull out the wings, four thousand six hundred and twenty six bats chained to the wall!! ♫
And so it went.
On and on. Mile after mile. Bat after bat chained to the wall.
♫ Bite off the head, pull out the wings, four thousand six hundred and twenty five bats chained to the wall!! ♫
We tried to ignore it as the stolen BMW sped down US Highway-1. We were at the wheel again. We, Eddie, and Blake had agreed to take the long haul driving in turns. The idea of Jack driving was too horrible to contemplate.
We tried to concentrate on the gray road. We tried to block out his singing. We really did.
That same, irritating ditty, over and over and over again until our head pounded with… unholy vehemence and our teeth were clenched tighter than the purse clasp of… Gah! we can’t remember the name now. A Dickens grotesque is characterized in that way. Just thinking of that stupid tune has completely ruined our power over adjectives. You can only imagine the effect it had at the time.
It is a Dickens character. Her purse clasp snaps shut like a bear trap. We think it was Estella from Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. Two-Face insists it was Maxi Amberville in I’ll Take Gotham City by Judith Krantz. But we digress…
We like to think of ourselves as a tolerant man. But we dare you to listen to that same tune, spoken in a deliberately infuriatingly sing song way by a man who is suicide-inducing at the best of times, and see how much you like it.
Got the picture in your head? Now imagine that said annoyance—let’s, for arguments sake, call him Joker—has been singing for the past two hundred miles…
Catman was the first one to crack. With a cry
of “Out, vile spot!” (he has a penchant for misquoting Shakespeare - also for
using words like
Blake fell upon Joker and began strangling the sadistic clown with his seat
belt. Eddie started a rousing round of applause.
“Tommy… I never knew you cared… Erk!”
Joker managed to squeal. With a howl of frustration—the kind that usually
means yet another crime of his has been attributed to Selina, Blake tightened
his hold on Jack’s neck.
We sighed, massaging the bridge of our nose
with our fingers. We have never been one for bad puns, so we’ll refrain from describing
the headache as splitting. But it was a rough one, and it was getting
worse. Joker seems to have that effect on us. We honestly couldn’t
tell you why.
actually sympathized with Catman, as surprised as we
were to realize it. In truth, when Blake cracked, we had been very close
to it ourselves, grinding our teeth down to the gum in a desperate attempt to
block out Joker’s fevered chanting. A glance at Eddie using our rear view
mirror confirmed that he was going through the same torment.
He looked drawn and pale and, since the trip
had begun, he appeared to have aged a good fifteen years. It was these
factors coupled with the fact that he had now joined Blake in strangling
Jack—inventively using the shelf behind the passenger seat at the rear of the
car for leverage—that led us to the almost Sherlockian feat of deduction that
Jack was annoying all of us equally.
We sighed, regretting what we were about to say
before the words had left what was left of our lips.
“OK guys, get off him!” we ordered. “He’s
going the same color as his
suit. And besides,
Blake, imagine what the blood of such a creature could do to your precious
Blake squirmed away
from the now gasping clown, a look of horror on his face.
Dent! For once you are correct!
The consequences of the potent magic imbibed in my cloak being mixed with
the blood of this charlatan could indeed have grievous repercussions…”
Eddie gave him an incredulous stare.
“Don’t look at me like that, Nigma. What
would a man of your pitiful intellect know of magicks such as this?”
Eddie’s mouth had suddenly become a very thin
line. You don’t cast aspersions on the Riddler’s brainpower, you just
don’t. There was going to be trouble. We growled menacingly.
the love of…” Words failed us, so we banged our head on the steering wheel,
“Can’t we at least pretend to get along?”
“Great idea, Harv,” piped up Joker. His
voice was croaky, and yet unnervingly perky. “Now, who’s for a quick game of Eye Spy?”
Almost instinctively, we found ourselves
swerving the car hard right into the solid shoulder and bringing it to a
“That TEARS IT!” we hissed. Out of the
corner of our eye, we saw Eddie and Catman squirm backward in their seats.
We whipped around and fixed all three of them with an angry glare. “Listen
you three. We have tried to be patient. We have tried to be
understanding. But we have just about reached the end of our tether.
Correction. We have
reached the end of just about every tether!
Jack—you will sit in the front seat next to us. You will sit perfectly
still and say nothing. And if we hear anything—and we mean anything—from any of you, then there will be HELL to pay.”
“Will it be expensive?” Joker said, “because I’ve only got a couple of bucks on me.”
We fixed him with a glare that could melt ice.
Without a word, he came and sat in the seat next to us.
“Right then,” we said, sighing heavily.
We kicked the car back into gear.
“Sorry, Mom,” came a murmur from the back.
Our head snapped round again, eyeing Blake and Eddie, daring them, willing them
even to attempt to mess with us. They said nothing and did their best to
Making a mental note to stop Eddie’s allowance
when we got home, we resumed driving.
We had stopped at the last service station for
a quick bite to eat. Joker had also picked up some reading material—that
is to say, all the most recent gossip rags.
We had calmed down since the little outburst
about two hundred miles back and were actually enjoying the ride now.
There’s something about the freedom of the open road that we enjoy. The
same thing that had inspired so many singers, writers and poets to write about
it, we supposed.
Suddenly, in the seat next to us, Joker began
whistling innocently. Our heart began to sink. That kind of whistle
could only mean one thing. Trouble.
We tried to ignore him, but we couldn’t.
We simply had to know what he was up to, if only out of very morbid curiosity.
Resignation in our heart, we looked over to him.
He was clutching one of his gossip magazines. This
one, judging from the bawdy graphics that adorned the front cover, was called
‘The Gotham Tattler.’ We knew of it, actually. The Tattler is a
particularly trashy tabloid that looks into the meaningless lives of meaningless
celebrities in Gotham City. Being as Gotham is one of America’s most
infamous towns, the magazine (using the word loosely) is available nationwide.
We were about to regale Jack with a five-minute
speech on the pointlessness of such publications when something caught the
corner of our eye.
Ivy was on the front cover. Our ex
girlfriend, Ivy. A shudder passed through us at the memories, experiences
shared and wounds not totally healed. But what was she doing on the front cover…?
And then it struck us. Next to her was a
picture of Nightwing. A lump of seething fetid bile was forming in our
throat. We read the glossy caption.
and Ivy! Together at last!” screamed the headline. We turned to the
road, our jaw clenched. Our hands gripped the steering wheel. Hard.
“Sordid meetings in the Brazilian rainforest,”
Joker read out. “Baby oil and plant pots… and—Eeeeew! Oh ,that one’s too sick to read out! HAHAHAHA! Ivy
and Nightwing, eh? Who knew, huh, Harv? Hardly surprising, though.
Harl was just telling me the other day how he’s got the cutest ass in Gotham.
Naturally, I was disgusted and mildly offended, but it seemed like an
appropriate fact to throw in nowish. HAHAHAHA!” He said this,
lightly punching us in the shoulder. We said nothing, eyes staring
forward, hands gripping the wheel even tighter.
Eddie sighed sympathetically.
“Sorry, Harv. Better luck next time, eh?” He paused, looking past us and out of the windscreen. “Uh, Harv…” he said, uncertainly. “Far be it from me to criticize, but don’t you think that electricity pylon is getting a little close? Harv? Harv?”
Fortunately, injuries from the crash were
relatively light. No one was seriously hurt, with the worst injury
being sustained by Jack. In a freak accident, after the crash our fist
seemed to somehow connect with his eye, leaving him with some nasty bruising.
We waited around for about half an hour for a
tow truck to arrive and pick up the BMW now shaped like a fortune cookie.
When it arrived, we pulled the driver from the cab, leapt in and drove off. Catman insisted on driving this time, so in the interests of peace and to avoid
further argument, we left him fuming at the side of the road.
didn’t expect anything less?
We hate Nightwing.
bet you never knew, Harv, that the
Florida Keys cover an area of 1024 square miles and have a population of 81,000
We looked out of the window of the tow truck
impassively as Eddie read aloud from his guidebook. We were driving across
the long, flat “7-mile bridge” that links the islands and the mainland together.
hate Nightwing. What the Hell does she see in him?
‘key’ actually comes from the Spanish word cayo,
meaning ‘little island.’”
Jumped up little brat with his cocky ass
attitude and stupid ponytail. Does he still have a ponytail? What
does it matter?! He’s all ‘look
at me, I’m Batman’s understudy’ and we’re like ‘yeah, like we give a
shit’ and he’s all like ‘yeah, but I got a black and blue suit that looks
really cool and showcases my cute ass, the one I pulled your ex with’ and
we’re like… ‘Knives. Something
annual rainfall of just 40-45 inches.”
spoons would be better? Rusty ones preferably.
haven’t been listening to a word I’ve said, have you, Harv?”
We turned to Eddie, and grinned apologetically.
Oh yeah, right. Yeah, don’t dye it bright red, it won’t do anything for
Eddie sighed in a long-suffering manner.
He patted us on one shoulder, and continued reading.
We stopped listening again.
Whether the bat-brat and Petal were together or
not, we were here to bring Sly home.
That was our mission objective. We were a
single-minded calculating machine. We
were like Tom Hanks in Saving Private Ryan. We had to bring
someone home, and we were going to do anything in our power to do so.
That was the reason we were going to The Keys
this January. No really. It was.
OK. We’re not convincing ourselves, let
alone you. It’s time for the truth.
We rogues have a theory. January is what we
call ‘Hell Month.’
we call it that? Because it’s
what the beatings dished out during this time hurt like. Don’t get us
wrong—Batman is a skilled fighter and all his beatings hurt. But in
January, things are different. He’s more savage, angry—violent, even by
Gotham standards. Essentially, if you’re a criminal, and you’re planning
to remain in Gotham City in January, you’d better have exceptional medical
insurance, or at the very least, an ample supply of morphine. At first, we
assumed our Hell Month theory was paranoia, but when you’re lying in a hospital
wing (handcuffed to the bed, of course) and you find yourself surrounded by
virtually every crook and lowlife in the city, their leg casts and traction
cuffs similarly chained to hospital beds, you do start to see a pattern.
We shuddered violently thinking of Hell Month
back in Gotham. Naturally, we snapped up the chance to avoid it. Who wouldn’t?
We had even hypothesized it might be a scheme of Sly’s to get some of his more
favored clients out of Gotham for a while. Who knows? All that
mattered was that we were in picturesque Florida on what was essentially a
holiday, and we would be keeping our teeth where they belonged for the first
January in years.
We smiled at the sign on the bridge that
welcomed us into the beautiful “Conch Republic” of the Florida Keys. The
smile held for a second, then faded as another thought crossed our mind.
We really hate Nightwing.
To be continued…