We pressed the record button with practiced flair, listening to the soothing hissing noise as the tape began rolling. We immediately felt our taut muscles beginning to loosen.
There is something about talking about us that puts us in a good mood. We are a subject very close to our own heart. We suppose that’s why we write these little memoirs of ours? Our fondness for ourselves, however, does often result in the most outrageous acts of digression, of which this is one.
Placing a trained hand to our brow in true Oscar Wilde fashion, we began speaking to the recorder with a voice that we believed conveyed pain, anguish and the sufferings of a man before his time.
“Personal log—entry number 18. We hope that you do not mind, dear Dictaphone, that we number these entries only with even numbers, this in fact only being our ninth entry to your hallowed library since our return from the accursed Florida Keys. We doubt rather strongly that you mind—you are a Dictaphone, and your kind are not known for their free thinking attitudes. We have resisted the urge thus far of making any record of that fateful trip—the first eight visits to this machine being confined to our last will and testament parts one through two. But that is immaterial. We shall say this about our quest: In essence, it was successful. Our good friend and favored barman, Sly, is to return shortly. However, as we know only too well, every coin has a flip side. Due to circumstances totally beyond our control—partially—we were deported back to this hideous place. Fortunately, Catman, Eddie, Jack and myself were able to forcibly commandeer the little plane and then make good our getaway once back in Gotham Airport. There ends the good news.”
We rose, sighing dramatically. Suddenly, our entire demeanor changed. Gone was the befuddled look from our eye, the quizzical pout from our lip. In its place—anger, hatred, and fear. Howling as if in pain, we wrenched up the chair we had been sitting on and threw it into the wall. It shattered into many pieces. Losing interest in it as soon as it had left our hands, not even turning to look on the beautiful destruction, we turned our attentions to the coffee table on which the Dictaphone perched. Scooping the machine up in our arms like a protective mother, we flipped the table up and over, letting it spin in the air, landing with a delightful crash on the floor. Moving next to our desk, we swept all of the papers on it away with a flailing arm, howling as the whirlwind of documents blew up around us. Like Frankenstein, a prisoner of our own creation, we staggered blindly through the assorted stationary, looking for something else to destroy. Gibbering like a monkey, we proceeded to pull our PC from its moorings and throw it onto the floor—a surprisingly pleasurable task that everyone should make a point of doing before their death.
“WHY?!” we shrieked, dancing amongst the debris as if we were performing intricate steps in a rain-dance. “WHY?! Why is he ignoring me?! THIS IS HELL MONTH! IN GOTHAM! Catman was found beaten to a pulp inside a suitcase on a baggage carousel. He didn’t even manage to leave the airport before being taken out! As for Eddie, well, what happened to him is too horrible to contemplate… Every day, there are stories in the news of random clowns being found beaten senseless in the early hours. The newspapers are baffled, but we know the truth, we see the correlation. So why—WHY—have we been spared?! WHAT HAVE WE DONE TO DESERVE SUCH TREATMENT?!”
We ran our hands, cold and clammy, through our already sweaty hair. Our eyes were wide and staring.
“What on Earth can it mean? What does he have in mind for us? For us to have survived for so long can only mean that when the sword of Damocles falls from on high it will land in our midriff, resulting in a slow and ultimately painful death as opposed to the joyous relief of a swift end. We do not mind admitting to you, a machine without a tongue to mock or eyes to scorn, that we are afraid. Indeed, we have never been so afraid in all of our close to forty years. Never. We know full well that there is a terrible burden hanging over our head—an unspeakable punishment for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. He strikes like a disease at the heart of the rogue community—merciless—without reason. Why have we been spared? Why?”
We were close to tears. We held our hands out in front of us, and laughed tautly at the shaking we beheld.
“Look at us. A wreck. A miserable, nervous wreck. We need coffee. Yes… Coffee will soothe our pain.”
We looked around with jerky movements of the neck born of paranoia, looking for our coffee machine. A thought struck us, and we slowly looked downward, hoping against hope we were wrong.
It had been on the coffee table. It was now in pieces, its component parts hanging out of it as if to mock us. We fell to our knees, and openly wept.
“No… the first victim of this pointless conflict. WHY?! Why did this young one have to die? Never again to imbibe its protector with its sweet sepia goodness. OK, so we pushed the little guy hard over the past few days—today alone, we’ve had a good eight mugs of the stuff—but even so. A tragic waste.”
We looked away, unable to bear it any longer. Drawing some of the scattered papers from our desk towards us, we covered the poor little machine, allowing it the honorable burial it rightly deserved. We stayed at its side for a while—drowning in a sea of tears and self-pity.
What could we possibly have done? What did Batman have in mind for us? What was to become of Harvey Dent?
Our head sank. The situation was hopeless.
“Mental note,” we said mournfully, “Buy new coffee machine.”
Patting the mound of paper respectfully, we turned to stand and leave this scene of reckless carnage.
It was then that we spied it.
It had apparently been hidden in one of the piles of paper we had swept from our desk. We were amazed we still had it. We clutched it in outrage, the grip growing tighter all the time, our arms and hands shaking ever more violently.
Spying the dictaphone to our left where it had fallen, we reflected verbally on the issue of the gossip rag we had just found—the same issue we had bought on the way to Key West.
The issue with Nightwing and Ivy on the cover.
“Nightwing,” we hissed through clenched teeth. Our teeth were so tightly locked together, it was beginning to hurt.
“Nightwing. The boy who became a man. The man who promptly stole our beloved Poison Ivy from us. How we HATE you,” we breathed, our breath coming out in short and painful bursts. “For all her many innumerable faults, Ivy was ours, and ours alone. As far as we are concerned, Nightwing, you have crossed a line. And now you must pay the price.”
We stood and turned menacingly. We advanced towards him, grinning evilly, our head throbbing. We watched him squirming in the chains we had placed him in, hanging upside down from a hook deliberately installed for such an occasion.
Beneath his rubber facemask, we saw his eyes: Fear and panic mingled together—a joy for us, his tormentor, to behold. We watched him frantically trying to tell us something through the duct tape we had placed roughly over his mouth. Even if what he said had been intelligible, we wouldn’t have listened. We were in no mood for his lies.
Marching towards him, our eyes clamped open, a Smilex grin fixed to our face. The cold wet skin of our hands as we wrung them did little to calm our fluctuating mood. Anything to hide the cowardly shaking from him.
Unable to contain ourselves any more, we ran towards him and kicked him hard across the jaw with the steel capped toe of our boot. He flew backward, only to return to his original position, the hook making the chained Nightwing into a human punch bag. He groaned beneath the gag.
“SHUT UP!” we screamed, punching him hard in the stomach. He hacked, his body attempting to curl into a fetal position but unable to do so for the chains. “What do you people want with us?! First, you take Ivy from us. We cannot even begin to emphasize the pain and consternation that single act of selfishness has caused us. You nearly destroyed us, Nightwing! We care for Ivy more than a worm like you could possibly imagine—to find out in such a public manner of your theft was more than we could take.” He shook his head frantically, and tried to speak more. We kicked him again. “SHUT UP! We don’t want to hear your lies OR your apologies! Then we take into consideration the second factor. Soon, your master, the puppet master, will beat us to within millimeters of our lives just because he feels like it—or so it would seem. This in itself, we would not mind. But it is the waiting, waiting for the inevitable, waiting for the hammer to fall… IT’S KILLING US! When will the blow come? Tell us, Nightwing. TELL US!”
We punched him again, in the back this time. The punch soon became a flurry as we let our frustration overwhelm us.
“We really shouldn’t be admitting this in front of witnesses,” we said, gesturing to the Dictaphone, still clinically recording the proceedings, “but maybe it was a little unfair of us and twenty of our finest hired help to jump you in that alleyway. But don’t worry, we left that little old lady you were trying to save well alone. We had snared our prey.”
We shook our head, grinning in wry disbelief.
“How could you do what you did to us, Nightwing? How could anyone be so callous? Now, it is not only our face that is broken in two—our heart falls into the same category.”
We stalked away from him darkly, tears threatening to well up once more in our eyes. We blinked them away as we neared the work surface on which we had conveniently placed a handheld electric drill. We stopped as we reached it, suddenly feeling weak at the knees.
“I hope you enjoy your time in the afterlife together,” we said, not turning around. We could hear his frantic pleading through the gag.
Our hand hovered over the drill. We could hear Nightwing’s muffled grunting increasing in volume and urgency.
We continued to hover.
There was nothing for it. With our free hand, we reached for our coin. We do not make apologies for who we are and don’t believe anyone should. An occasion as monumental as this simply had to be flipped for.
We spun the coin into the air with a practiced flick. Nightwing’s eyes were fixed to the coin—watching it arc. Watching it seemingly hang in the air, agonizingly. Watching it fall.
We caught it.
Looking down into our palm, we looked at the coin impassively.
There we had it. A decision had been made. There was no disagreeing with the coin. It was time for action and screw the consequences. Pun very much intended.
Sighing heavily, we reached for the drill.
“And then what happened?! Don’t leave me in suspense, Harv!” Eddie said, tensely grabbing us at the elbow. We slowly turned to him, trying to keep him and him alone in our vision. We find the drab grays and dirty whites of Arkham’s hospital wing depressing at any time, but the effect is multiplied in January and or early February, for hopefully obvious reasons.
“We don’t know, Eddie. The memories, like the lumps on our head, are a little painful…”
“TELL ME!” Eddie hissed aggressively, taking a tighter grip at our arm. We could feel the circulation being cut. Swallowing, we smiled meekly at him.
“You know, Eddie, before we
do continue, we just want to make it clear that, at the time all of this took
place, we were on something of a caffeine rush. Although it could be argued, of course, we were going through some kind
of cold turkey transitional period after the death of our beloved coffee machine… Note to self, additional: Make
sure the new machine has an espresso feature…”
He cut us off, violently jerking our arm to an angle we knew couldn’t be 100-percent healthy. We yelped like a wounded puppy.
“OK! OK! You twisted our arm. So… we had Nightwing chained up, reaching for a hand drill…”
We considered the drill. We longed for its grooved faceted handle. We yearned to give Nightwing yet another orifice to worry about.
But the coin had spoken.
Sighing heavily, and with some force, we moved our hand away from the drill and further down the work surface. Hesitantly, we snatched up a small wrinkled piece of paper. We had scrunched it into a ball in an earlier burst of petulance, and now reluctantly sought to smooth it out.
“Now listen,” we said, sheepishly wandering back over to our captive, speaking in a tone that was riddled with shame. “We’re not very good at this kind of thing. We never have been one for male bonding—Hell, we don’t even like him very much,” we said, jerking our thumb at Harv’s side of our face. “So this isn’t going to be easy for us. Please do your best to be understanding. This is, believe it or not, all for your own good. Someday, young grasshopper, you’ll actually thank us for our words of wisdom.”
We weren’t sure if it was possible to convey scorn whilst chained up and hanging upside down, but Nightwing did a very reasonable job of it anyway. We snarled, drawing our foot back to kick the insolent brat hard in the face. Remembering the coin’s ruling, we sighed heavily and began.
“The first piece of advice we can give you is to get used to the idea that Ivy is always right. Whether she is or not is totally immaterial. She is ALWAYS right. Get what we mean? Deuce, the horrors we could tell you about daring to question her authority. Take it from a couple of guys who know—don’t do it. Let’s see… If it’s your turn to do the food shopping, make damn sure every single item in that cart when you get to the checkout is organic or, at the very least, has the Ivy seal of approval. You’ll learn by trial and sometimes painful error which items do and do not have said seal. Let’s see... Don’t assume she’s done with you until she says she is. Along those lines, the following two words are a must. ‘Yes’ and ‘Petal.’ Repeat after me. ‘Yes, Petal.’ ‘Yes, Petal.’ Let the words roll off your tongue—oh, you can’t. We put that gag on you, didn’t we? Oh well. Practice when you get home. Aerosols: they’re a no-no. Roll on deodorant is not as comfortable, in our experience. But frankly, the hassle it will save makes it more than worthwhile to just take the extra minute in the mornings and flap your arms until it dries. Not to mention, if there’s a giant cactus rolling around in your underwear drawer, it doesn’t much matter which deodorant you use.”
We paused, looking at him thoughtfully for inspiration.
“As for that hair of yours, you may favor the greasy unkempt look, but she most certainly doesn’t. And seeing as you’re going to have to be washing your hair, you’d better make sure your shampoo is organic. No more of that anti-dandruff stuff for you, young man!”
The hair was a cheap shot, and we admit it. It was Harv’s idea, blame him. In essence, Harv is a man of a certain age, and such men tend to be naturally jealous of younger rivals vying for Alpha Male status, especially rivals who think bald patches are a myth invented by their parents to make them eat their broccoli.
What? Oh, grow up, Harv! No we don’t care about your dignity. It’s not like you have any left anyway…
“Is there anything we’ve
forgotten?” we said thoughtfully. “Oh yes. You’re known amongst us
rogues as something of a wannabe comedian. A joker, in the innocent sense
of the word. In other words, we’ve noticed the little quips you come out
with as you pound our faces into the sidewalk. Stop it. Ivy hates
smartass comments. The one and only time we and she robbed a bank
together, we told the bank clerk that she had better stop giving Ivy money or
she’d just get up and dance. We don’t wish to divulge
what she did to us for that, but suffice it to say, it involved ice cubes.”
We shuddered uncontrollably at the memory. Running another hand through our hair, which by now was thick with grease and sweat, we slowly fought our frayed nerves.
“And seeing as we’re digging up our repressed memories, we shall say this—and if you choose to ignore everything else we’ve said, for your own sake, please listen now. Never buy Ivy flowers. Never. It took the doctors eight hours to remove the shards of terracotta from our anal passage. And yes—it hurts twice as much as it sounds. And never—and we mean NEVER—take advice from Bruce Wayne in matters of the heart. Naturally, there’s no reason you should. We doubt you and Brucie move in the same circles, but still. Should the opportunity arise, run. Run like the wind.”
We paused and panted heavily. We had worked ourselves into quite a state during our diatribe. We looked down into Nightwing’s face.
The shock in his glazed eyes was only equalled by the sheer horror. We sympathized.
“Finally…” We paused. We swallowed hard, clenching and unclenching our fists.
There was no point in denying it any longer. The better man had won.
“…Good luck,” we whispered bitterly, worried our voice would betray the hurt in our heart. “And consider this. We have given you the tools that you will need to maintain a healthy, passionate relationship with Poison Ivy. Run that thought through your mind. And then try and figure out just which side of our coin came up.”
We turned to leave and abandon Nightwing to
whatever fate had in store for him. Hanging our head as defeatism gripped
us, we did not see the black armor-clad chest until we walked into it. We
stopped in surprise, and looked upward slowly, eyes eventually settling on the
yellow oval in the center and the black bat that adorned it.
“Hello, Harvey,” Batman said, his voice like finger nails on a chalkboard. Although, to us, it sounded like a beautiful heavenly chorus.
With a cry of ecstasy, we leapt at him. Before even he could react, we had clamped him in our arms in a tight embrace of sheer gratitude. With a swift movement, he flipped us over his shoulder and onto the floor. We scrambled up, meeting his scowl with a wondrous stare, a grin tugging at our mouth. His lips were forming into a snarl like the crack on a tombstone, his eyes cold and suspicious.
We were so glad to see him that, for a moment, we could not speak. Eventually, in a tone we had last used when taken to see Santa as a boy, we spoke: “Thank goodness you’re here, Batman.”
If he was surprised, he didn’t show it.
We craned our neck, arching our chin forward, fighting the urge to burst into joyful song by pointing to our jaw cheekily.
“Go on,” we said, giving in and smiling wide, “Right there.”
When the blow came, it nearly knocked us clean out of our skin. Our head swam. Colored shapes danced in front of our glazed eyes. We were monumentally happy.
It may have been the concussion setting in, but the punch (a real Hell Month classic!) had been a tremendous release. We had been waiting for nine days for our inevitable punishment. We had been waiting so long that, before we knew it, we found ourselves tearing off the final page of January on our calendar and welcoming in February.
We had survived an entire Hell Month without a beating from The Bat. We knew that this fact, coupled with the vengeance we had exacted on his protégé, meant that when he did finally catch up with us, he would be less than amused. Ironically, in the end, it was the waiting nearly killed us.
Still, he hadn’t disappointed. It was by
far the hardest we had ever been punched by anyone—and that’s including the time
we accidentally spilt Killer Croc’s drink over his new suede shoes.
We staggered backward like a drunkard, our head hanging loosely on the axis of our neck. “Thank you,” we murmured.
We had somehow managed to turn so that our back was now to him. Our dazed eyes saw what looked like Nightwing freeing himself from the last of the restraints we had placed on him.
We did a double take. Yup.
He ripped the duct tape from his mouth with a yelp.
This wouldn’t end well.
“WHAT ON EARTH ARE YOU ON,
TWO-FACE?!” he finally exploded, doing his mentor proud. “There is NO me and
Ivy! There never has been and there
never will be!” He acrobatically kicked us in the jaw with one well-placed
boot. “And that’s for the mental image. You know which one I mean,” he
We were spinning again. Our vision was clouding.
If we hadn’t been about to collapse, we would have cartwheeled across the room. The wood panelled floor rushed up to meet us. We embraced it with open arms, feeling the cool wood against our cheek. We were in Paradise.
We were dragged roughly to our feet. Batman held us by the throat a good foot off the ground.
“Two against two…” we rasped
thoughtfully, choking violently as his grip tightened. “Hardly seems fair…”
“Shut up,” Batman snarled, shaking us with all of his considerable might. We felt ourselves beginning to lose consciousness. He was shaking, howling, snarling like a slavering madman. Or a bat.
Suddenly, a strange, surreal calm overcame his features. The clench on our neck loosened. There was a strange twitching at the corner of his lip. We squirmed, genuinely terrified. This was, in many ways, far scarier than the psychopath who had so nearly snapped our neck like a twig earlier. We’d have taken that version over this any day of the—Dear God—was that a smile?
“Welcome home, Harvey.” he gravelled.
We didn’t even see the blow coming. There was the slightest breeze, and then the left side of our face exploded in pain. We flew backwards, landing hard on our shoulder on the wooden floor. We skidded along the smooth panels for what seemed like an eternity, the cotton of our shirt burning our flesh as we slid. Eventually, inevitably, we came to a rest next to the remnants of the chair we had so easily destroyed earlier—a broken pile of a man.
But by the coin… we were happy.
To be continued…