“I’m delighted to see you could make it, Selina,” Edward Nigma said smoothly as he shut the door behind the two women. They had arrived as soon as possible (after Harley stopped at an old hideout to pick up an outfit, a mallet, a gun and a couple bombs), and were kitted up and ready for action, despite being a bit sleepy. Eddie – or Riddler, as he was calling himself again – was in his classic green suit and bowler, adorned with a question mark and leaning on that cane of his. However, different from usual, this time he appeared to actually need the cane… he’d been working, and there was a dribble of blood down his leg.
“Yeesh, what happened, Eddie?” Harley piped in immediately, apparently smelling the blood and immediately noticing the brainy villain’s cut, despite the darkness of the little warehouse where the group had met.
“I got lucky, that’s what happened,” the Riddler snapped mildly before hobbling back into the big shack he’d made into his latest hideout. Selina and Harley stood at the doorway, observing the man quiet as he flopped into an overstuffed green chair in a decidedly villainous slouch, his hat tipped down just enough to mostly conceal his lean, stubble-coated face. “Whoever found me was good, too good. I wasn’t ready for him, and he had skill, and the kind of intellect that seems deeply reminiscent of a certain acquaintance we all share. But it wasn’t the Bat – this upstart was out for blood, and he got it. He would have killed me if Clayface – that cretin, of all people – hadn’t shown up and distracted him.”
“There are a lot of Batman impersonators out there, Ed,” Selina said, prowling over to the Riddler and into the dim light of the room’s one small, dingy lamp. “And we’ve met a lot of them. What makes this one so special?”
“He was good, that’s what was so special! It was like he knew me, knew my next moves. When Karlo intervened, this guy already had incendiaries and liquid nitrogen prepared.” Eddie replied, glancing up at the leather-clad woman in front of him with only the faintest traces of the lust that most men looked upon her with. “Also… how much do you know about the Joker’s origins?”
“Joker? Christ, he’s involved in this too, now?”
“I know about it,” Harley cut in, her voice sounding serious. “At least the stories he told me… a lot of them were different. Only one thing remained constant – the chemicals, the red hood, and Bat-brain making him the way he is now.” The clowngirl stepped out of the shadows herself, now, her head tilted slightly. “Why is that relevant?”
“The hood,” Riddler said, whipping his bowler off and spinning it around one finger idly. He looked tired – as both women knew, Gotham had been hard on Eddie. He was unstable, but not to the point that he could drown himself in his own madness, like Scarecrow or the Joker. He understood he had a problem, and that internal struggle that he went through made going up against the Bat, and the rest of Gotham’s underworld, more of a challenge than it was for some others. “This bastard wore a bright red helmet, very distinct. Didn’t match the rest of his outfit. It was a deliberate statement… my only guess is that he’s shouting out to the Joker, possibly the factor of becoming a monster against his will.”
“I thought you said he was a Batman impersonator?” Selina’s voice wavered very slightly – she didn’t like the implications of a new villain in Gotham, skilled and prepared, who had roots with both the Bat and the Clown. Her mind wandered in the split second after she spoke, a droll train of thought tumbling around as she considered her and Harley’s connections to Batman and Joker, respectively. Maybe they’d be the perfect team after all.
“He seemed to be. No gimmicks or goofy pranks, no big theme to make himself stand out. He was a new brand of vigilante, mobile and utilitarian. But he had everything he needed to put Clayface on ice.”
“Waitaminnit – it wasn’t that old Robin, was it?” Harley said, arching a brow and striking a comically inquisitive pose. “Mr. J was always talkin’ about how happy he was to put that little brat six feet under, brought it up at least every week. Then after a while he stopped… actually, now I think about it, he scrapped his old red hood souvenir too, said it “didn’t belong to him” no more.”
Eddie looked up at the black-and-crimson-clad villainess, his eyes suddenly going wide as the pieces tumbled together in his mind, finding their corresponding slots and fitting beautifully. “Ms. Quinn, never let anybody tell you that you aren’t a genius,” he said, standing up again and grabbing his cane, starting to pace. “It makes sense, if you think about it… born to the Bat, killed by the Clown… attacking villains by night, but the brutality of it all… obviously unsanctioned by the actual Dark Knight.”
Harley didn’t hear past the first sentence. A tiny squeal erupted from her as she beamed at the green-suited mastermind. “Ya really think so? Aw, thanks Ed, you’re a really great guy, y’know?”
“Don’t think I’ve forgotten about that fiasco at Wayne Manor, jester. I still have Big Barda’s footprints tattooed on my posterior.”
Harley wilted. “Sorries.”
“But we have a piece now,” Riddler continued from his old train of thinking, pacing back and forth through the dim lighting, his cane making an audible ‘clack’ every few steps. “If it is the knight’s dead Robin, he’ll have Batman’s training, his knowledge, his skills. Imagine someone like that who isn’t afraid to spill a little blood? He could be disastrous to our way of life in Gotham. Even you, Selina – you won’t get any free passes for being pretty if this new Hood comes to dinner.”
“Then it’s a good thing I have nine lives,” Selina purred, lounging casually against the arm of the now-abandoned sofa. “And let’s be honest, Eddie. Just because he isn’t the Bat doesn’t make him immune to my… wiles.”
“After years of crime and misadventure, I honestly doubt you have any lives left.”
Harley snorted awkwardly, falling into a frantic gigglefit that seemed to have no proper origin.
“What?” the two other villains said in unison, turning with looks of mild concern and distinct annoyance.
More giggling followed for a moment as the clowngirl tried to catch her breath, unladylike snorts echoing throughout the room as she tried to steady herself. “You said misadventure! It’s just, I… bwahaheeheehee!”
Selina sighed softly and clapped her hand over her face, turning back to Edward. “This is what I have to deal with.”