by Starsky Hutch 76, JSAGL and Rubberman41
Jason Todd watched the men moving in and out of the warehouse. He’d first spotted them when that fat store owner had nearly nabbed him for lifting goods. Jerk. How’d he expect him to eat without the benefit of a five-finger discount?
If these guys were what he thought they were, though, he wouldn’t need it anymore. He recognized the look in their eyes — furtive, guilty. He wore the same look when he shoplifted or stole hubcaps so he’d have money to eat. Only these guys didn’t steal to stay alive like he did. Whatever ended up happening to them — they’d deserve it.
He saw two men get out of a car — one old, one young. The older one looked like an aging weightlifter, like Arnold, only even older and with less hair. He had the look of a man who’d seen a lot of fights in his time. His nose had obviously been broken on a number of occasions, and his ears… Well, they were what the term cauliflower ear had been invented for. The younger one was far slighter of form and more talkative. In fact, he seemed to be pestering the heck out of the old man with his jabbering. The two men stepped into the warehouse, and he lost sight of them.
Jason’s gaze drifted to the top of the warehouse, and he saw an opening. He walked around the side and climbed up a drainpipe for a better look.
The older man and the younger man joined a number of other thugs, who were gathered as if they were waiting for someone.
“Wow, Uncle Franko! Can you believe it? I mean, of course you can — you been working for him for years. Well, except for when you wuz in the joint. But I can’t believe I am! This is gonna be great!”
“Shaddup already!” Franko Morelli said. “You want everybody to think you’re a stupid kid or sumthin’?”
“Oh, yeah. Right… right. Sorry about that, Uncle Franko. I won’t say nothin’ no more. I swear it. You don’t gotta worry about me embarrassin’ you or nothin’! I–”
Franko’s hand quickly shot out and covered the younger man’s mouth. “Don’t make me hafta tells you again, Lenny!”
“Who’s the kid?” one of the other thugs laughed. He looked to be about the same age as Franko.
“My sister’s kid,” Franko groaned. “She asked me to get him work.”
“Well, he come to the right place,” the other thug said. “The boss always did pay his boys well. You remember to bring his loot?”
“I remembered,” Franko said, holding up a bag. “You remember your stash?” The other thug held up a similar bag. Jason, looking down from his perch, realized that all the older men in the room were holding similar bags.
“Well, well! The gang’s all here!” a loud, shrill voice suddenly boomed. He grabbed one of the satchels and said, “I really do love these sort of things! As the kids used to say–” He reached into the satchel and pulled out a wad of money, which he tossed into the air. “–it really is my bag!”
“Did the kids really used to say that, Uncle Franko?” Lenny asked, receiving an elbow to the gut for his curiosity.
“Ah, yes, the gang’s all here,” the Joker said wistfully, sitting at a table in front of the assembled throng and placing the bag in front of him. “I knew I could trust my old gang to bring my ill-gotten gains back to me. And the ones I couldn’t? Well, they’re probably not enjoying it, anyway. Though you wouldn’t know it from the way they’re smiling!” Tears shot from the corners of his eyes as he cackled with laughter. The withered old clown banged on the table as he tried to regain his composure.
“Old faces, new faces,” he said, his gaze drifting across them. “I’ve brought someone new myself, though a few of you probably remember her — my assistant, Harley Quinn!”
A young woman dressed in a harlequin-style leotard and jester’s cap bounced into the room, taking the satchels from each of the older men and placing them on the table.
“There’s my puddin’,” the old clown said wistfully. “Come over here and sit on daddy’s lap.” The girl skipped over eagerly and jumped in his lap, hugging him around the neck.
“I guess the old coot’s still got it,” Lenny cackled, “if he can get a cupcake like that. She’s somethin’ else! Did you see that body?”
“You little idiot!” Franko hissed, grabbing Lenny by the collar and jerking him around so they were facing the opposite direction to keep anyone from overhearing them. “You wanna get us killed?”
“Wha–?” Lenny gulped.
“There ain’t many people in this world can say the Joker loves ’em,” Franko growled. “But she’s one of ’em. So you’d better mind your P’s and Q’s where she’s concerned. That cupcake is the Joker’s daughter!”
“Are you kiddin’?” Lenny yelped. “The Joker ain’t got no daughter!” But when he looked at her again and saw the pale skin, the long, green hair hanging from underneath the jester’s cap, and the red lips parting in a wide, wide grin, he knew it was the truth.
Kent family farm, Smallville, Kansas:
Lois Lane Kent removed cobwebs from her hair as she walked through the small, dusty house. “Well, Clark, we sure are going to have to do a lot of work to fix this place up.” She turned toward her husband.
“I have been planning to remodel it ever since the first time I retired,” Clark Kent said, scratching his head. “Where’s Clark, Junior?”
“Oh, he went into town to check out the similarities between Smallville and his own small town on his world’s New England,” she said with a worried look. “He lost everything. I don’t know if this is a good thing for him. How many people here had a duplicate on Earth-Prime?”
Clark took his wife into his arms. “Yeah, I remember traveling to all the parallel Earths and seeing people I knew but didn’t know me. I think Earth-Three was the hardest. Seeing a version of you married to Luthor, no matter how nice he was, just didn’t sit well with me.” (*) He hugged Lois closely.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Crisis On Three Earths,” DC Comics Presents Annual #1 (1982).]
“Well, it’s good to see that you can still get jealous,” Lois laughed as she crossed the room to look out the window. “You sure you won’t be bored being just a plain farmer?”
“About as bored as the big city reporter turned small-town publisher,” said Clark, smiling. “Anyway, I have to teach Junior how to use his powers. I won’t be bored with that; my parents never were.”
Clark walked into the kitchen and looked around. “I never remembered the house being so small,” he sighed. “I’ve hired a contractor from town to remodel it. She’ll be here tomorrow. I will definitely need a new barn and silo, also, and there’s that land the neighbors wanted to sell us. I will get to meet and greet a lot of people in the next few months.” He turned to look at Lois. “No, honey, I don’t think I will be bored at all.”
The cold Gotham City wind was blowing a little heavy this night. Atop a nearby building, Yolanda Montez — the new Catwoman — observed the thugs entering the supposedly abandoned warehouse.
What is it with these abandoned warehouses, anyway? Do people not care about real estate or what they purchase anymore? Every major city seems to have more than their share of them. The JSA just needs to catalogue them all and then attach monitoring equipment to them. That way, when a villain sets up shop, they can ambush them easily.
Watching the door close, Yolanda carefully climbed down the drainpipe. Without making a sound, she darted across the alley with a certain feline grace. She swiftly climbed the wall and crawled upon the roof.
Looking around, she saw nothing but the Gotham skyline and a stray bird here or there. “Good — no one here. Now let’s see who’s hosting this little fiesta.”
Approaching the skylight, Yolanda peered through the bottom of the pane, careful not to reveal herself in the process. What she saw gave her cause to be frightened. “Madre de Dios! The Joker!”
Yolanda stepped back for a moment. Yes, she was anxious to make her debut as Catwoman, but against the Joker?
When she was little, her father had read her stories about the exploits of Batman and Robin. All his adversaries seemed a little outlandish — especially the Joker — but there was a difference: the Joker scared her. Her cousins used to tease her that the Joker would get her one day, and here she was about to wade into the Joker and his gang.
Hearing a footfall behind her, Yolanda quickly dived into the shadows and watched as a laughing, maniacal figure did somersaults past her toward the warehouse, singing, “We’re in the money,” in a high-pitched nasal voice.
“Yer daddy’s gonna be real proud o’ you,” a musclebound middle-aged man with a Dick Tracy nose said.
“He better be, Uncle Franko,” the somersaulter said. When she stepped into the ray of light coming from the street lamp, Yolanda could see that she had long green hair and white skin. Obviously, the term Franko was just a term of endearment for an old member of the Joker’s gang. “After all the jobs we pulled off tonight, we’re sure to get the ex-Boy Blunder’s attention — just like he wants.”
Suddenly, the female clown’s attention was drawn to a figure coming out of the warehouse. “Hey, I thought Lenny and I were the youngest ones in this gang.”
“You are, Harley.”
“Then who the heck is that brat making off with that duffel bag?” Harley squealed.
“That no-good nephew of mine was supposed to be keeping watch!” Franko ran toward the thief. “Hey, you — kid! What in the hell do you think you’re doing?”
“I don’t believe this,” Yolanda whispered to herself. “The robbers are being robbed.”
“Don’t give yerself a heart attack, old man!” the boy yelled, leaping onto a strategically placed skateboard and taking off. He looked like any ordinary street kid around fourteen or so, with spiky punk-rocker hair, ripped jeans, and a black denim jacket with an anarchy sign painted on the back. He was obviously clever, though. He’d probably been casing the warehouse for ages and knew exactly when the thugs moved in and out, who was on duty when, and even when they took their bathroom breaks. She hoped for his sake that he hadn’t outsmarted himself.
“He’s getting away!” Franko cursed.
“The hell he is,” Harley said. “My bike’s over there. C’mon.” She pointed to a motorcycle painted to match her costume, ran over to it, and hopped on. Franko huffed after her and climbed on behind her, a twinge of fear going through him as he wrapped his arms around the waist of the girl who was not only less than half his age but the daughter of his psychopathic boss.
Yolanda watched as Harley and Franko took off in pursuit. She hoped the kid would be OK, but unlike Harley, her ride was not close at hand, so there was nothing she could do. The kid looked like he could take care of himself, though. She went back to watching the warehouse.
Jason Todd’s heart was filled with glee as he skated out onto the main road. He was rich. There would be no more sleeping in doorways or beneath bridges. No more having to steal or beg for what he ate. The best part was that he didn’t have to feel guilty for stealing this time, because the money was stolen to begin with.
His reverie was broken when he looked behind him and saw Harley Quinn and Franko in hot pursuit on her motorcycle. It wouldn’t take long for them to gain up with him. He was no Batman or Robin, but he did know a bit about fighting. You didn’t survive on the streets without learning how to take care of yourself, even against big guys like Franko. He had a way of turning their size and weight against them. They were probably armed, though, and he had no way of stopping a bullet.
He saw a car in front of him starting up, so he quickly slipped off his belt, which was a chain held together with a hook. Swinging the chain by the end without the hook over his head a few times, he managed to snag the bumper of the car just as it started up and pulled out onto the road, pulling him along. He squatted down to avoid being seen in their rearview mirror.
“They’re not going fast enough!” he cursed. “I’ll never shake them. What can I do to get them to speed up?”
As if in answer, a shot rang out, striking the nearby pavement. The car quickly sped up then. “They think they’re shooting at them!” Jason exclaimed. He gave Harley and Franko a salute as the car turned onto the freeway, pulling him along.
“Who the heck is that kid?” Harley cursed, turning onto the highway after the car and its unknown stowaway. “We been robbed by the kid from Gleaming the Cube or somethin’?”
“I don’t know who he is,” Franko growled, “but I can’t wait to get my hands around his neck.” He pulled out his gun once more.
“Put that away!” Harley snapped. “You want they should panic again?”
“It looks like they’re pullin’ off at Gotham Heights,” Franko said.
“They’re probably hoping they can lose us in all those windy wooded trails,” Harley responded. “We’ll show them.”
The next ten minutes were spent at a breakneck pace as the car flew around corners trying to shake Harley and Franko. Several times Jason Todd found himself airborne.
“I’m gonna give it another go,” Franko said, removing his gun from his holster.
“Might as well,” Harley said. “They’re gonna lose us soon anyhow.”
Franko was taking aim on Jason Todd when the car took another wide turn that caused his skateboard to leave the ground. Franko fired, and, rather than hitting its intended target, the bullet struck the chain and sent Jason Todd flying into the woods near Wayne Manor.