The Pagliaccio Ridente had hosted fashionable and wealthy crowds before. However, few past visitors could equal the sheer beauty displayed by the models walking the runway at the exclusive fashion show that day. While most of them knew each other well from past shows or photo-shoots, none of the models recognized a confident American blonde who kept to herself and modeled her outfits with an aloofness that bordered on the icy. She used the curious single name Battina and studiously ignored the other models.
The stranger was known to their employer, Estella di Rossi, and that was good enough to silence any overt speculation among the other models. Miss di Rossi was pleasant enough for a designer, but she allowed little if any familiarity between the models who wore her clothes and her own design team. If she wanted to add a late newcomer to the show, then that was her right. The beautiful black-haired designer looked as chic as any of her models as she watched them with a critical eye.
Estella was not really worried about the actual show. She had been in charge of countless other shows in the past, and her line always won over the buyers. Still, she was disturbed this day by her memories of the scene she and her brother had created the day before. She loved Anthony, but she knew that no one else could rub her the wrong way as quickly and effectively as her stubborn and volatile sibling.
Working out my aggression in the gym helped me sleep last night, but reviewing the whole fight today keeps me wanting to do something differently, she thought. If only I could make him see that the Legionary is more than a costume and a name. It stands for ideals that seem totally lost to him. Did we lose more than father when he died? Did his world and his values crumble with him when that bomb took his life?
The only answer to her troubled thoughts came in the form of strident laughter. As a mist filled the room and obscured the frightened models, the security staff, and the buyers, two garish figures sprang into view. The first woman was a nightmarish capering clown in purple and green. She lived up to her nom du crime as the Joker’s daughter, Harley Quinn.
Next to her stood a burly man in a costume of tiny black and white checkers and a domino mask that barely covered his wide features and animalistic expression. A silly yellow pointed hat perched on his head and strands of dirty straw-colored hair poked out of each side.
“Burlone, my pet, I think we’ve finally arrived! Look at all the beautiful people!” laughed Harley.
As the guards tried to protect the buyers and usher some to safety, the mist clouded the room and left them almost blind.
“A place named laughing clown couldn’t be more suitable for a Joker crime!” said Burlone.
Harley smiled broadly and said, “And when the pretty people all die with my daddy’s trademark grin etched on their perfect lips, it will create a new sensation! All the rich and trendy types will want the Joker Look!”
“They will die for it!” said Burlone.
Harley frowned and said, “I make the jokes here! Just shut up and look menacing!”
As they moved forward to rob the frightened crowd, Harley scowled as the models screamed and ran but failed to show any signs of physical change.
“Something’s screwy here!” she cried. “They don’t look all dead and happy!”
The new blonde model Battina ran forward and flipped through the air to land in front of Harley. She shook off her blonde wig to reveal dark hair. A swift wipe of one hand removed a pliable mask, while another gesture placed a bat-styled mask over her eyes. She removed her dress to reveal the purple and blue bodysuit of the Huntress.
“They’re fine!” cried the angry ex-blonde. “When I studied tapes of their last show, I saw your agents applying a special body makeup that was not part of the show. I realized you had secretly subjected them all to one chemical agent at their last show in Milan. That chemical would have reacted to your mist to create the effects of Joker toxin in them all, if I had not immunized them! The air-conditioning vents were sprayed with another antitoxin as well. The only one smiling here will be me when I take you in!”
“You may not be wearing your tacky boots, gloves, and cape, but I know you all too well — Batman’s brat!” shrieked Harley.
The Huntress, who had indeed taken part in the show as the American blonde with Estella’s consent, smiled and said, “I’d know you anywhere, too! Don’t be flattered, though!”
Burlone raced forward and started hurling bowling pin-shaped projectiles at the heroine’s head with surprising speed. The Huntress swatted them aside and gripped him by his collar. She flipped him forward over her own rolling body and sent him crashing into the wall.
Harley Quinn rushed forward and aimed a large lapel flower at the Huntress, but a hurled dagger sliced it off before she could use the acid within it. She whirled to see the Legionary charging forward.
“Stay down, woman! This is man’s work!” he cried. He raised his sword as the Huntress rolled backward to land on Burlone and knock him senseless with both palms.
“My, my, my!” said Harley. “You are a big boy! We could make beautiful music together!”
The Roman hero sneered at her and said, “The only music I would like to hear in proximity to you is a funeral dirge!” He punched at her, but she dodged and giggled madly.
“You play rough, don’t ya?” she cried.
The Legionary grunted and brought a net out of his belt with one deft pull. He whirled it around his head and tried to beat her across the body with it.
She capered backward and raised a large cartoonish gun. “Bang, bang!” she cried. The gun fired a razor-sharp projectile that resembled a flag with the word bang printed on it. The armored hero merely allowed it to bounce off his chest as he opened his net.
The Huntress ran forward and said, “Be careful! She is far more dangerous than her allies!”
“I need no warning from any woman,” said the Legionary. “Stand back and admire a true champion in action!”
He started to hurl his net at Harley when she rolled aside and caught him in the face with a small sphere. The pie-like projectile engulfed his head and cut off all oxygen.
“Hated to kill him, since he’s all beef studly, but what’s a gal to do?” she cried.
The Huntress slapped her across the face and shoved her off the runway as she hurried over to try to free the choking Roman hero. Egotistical jerk! Still, I can’t let him die! she mused. She pried the goo off his face, and he gasped in relief. “Stay here. I’ll handle Harley!” she said.
The Legionary struggled to his feet. “No!” he gasped. “I owe her for her foolish attack on my city! No one harms a Roman while I live!”
Harley laughed wildly and said, “You I-talians really have the gift for the gab!”
The Huntress aimed a kick at her head, only to fall hard as the lurching Legionary crashed into her by error.
“I told you to be still, useless female!” he cursed.
The Huntress shoved him off her legs and scampered forward to grab Harley’s legs. “No wonder the Musketeer told me you were dead. You are a total creep!” she said.
Harley struggled to free herself from the Huntress and said, “This is the end of our little globe-hop! My daddy’s club of villains will finish you off here and now! See, I’m not alone, honey!”
The Huntress whirled to see several new costumed villains charging at her from each side.
“Forget the supermodels! Forget the loot! I wanna hurt ya in Daddy’s name!” cried Harley Quinn.
A tiny man with dark skin and a shaved head tumbled into the room. He was clearly patterned after the dwarf jester of ancient Egypt, who had been called Danga over five thousand years ago.
A silent, white-faced Mime approached on stealthy feet, as did a roaring hairy man-beast known as Omo Selva Dego, or the Wild One.
The balding, heavily padded, red-and-green-clad Greek comic called Deikeliktas closed in from the rear, while the German Spassvogel giggled in a high-pitched bray and pulled his tiny blood-red gloves tighter over his shaven arms.
The Legionary tried to tackle the padded Greek clown, but he was too slow, and he only managed to slam into him momentarily.
Deikeliktas brought his own wooden facemask down on the Legionary’s head, but it shattered without truly harming the helmet-wearing hero. As they fought, Omo Selva Dego growled and grabbed him in a crushing wrestling hold.
The Huntress cursed the fact that she had left her utility belt and crossbow elsewhere in order to accommodate the outfits she had worn while posing as the blonde supermodel. She sighed and kicked the tumbling Egyptian into the air even as Spassvogel clawed at her long hair and tried to choke her from behind. She backflipped out of his arms and executed an amazingly agile spin that enabled her to loop his arms with her legs and send him crashing to the floor.
Harley was aiming another acidic flower at her when four heroic figures raced into the room. The Knight and the new Squire, the Musketeer, and a woman in a two-piece black costume that left her stomach bare above thigh-high boots and a brief pair of trunks came to battle.
“We couldn’t leave you to face this lot alone!” said the Knight. He swatted Harley across the lower back with the flat of his blade and sent her reeling to the floor.
The pretty blonde Squire charged forward to confront the Greek Deikeliktas. “Most base and common varlet, wouldst thou dare raise hand ‘gainst a noble paladin like the Lady Huntress?” she demanded.
Deikeliktas cursed her in Greek and circled warily as she feigned a forward swing before backing away and bringing her sword’s hilt down on his hand. He cried out in pain and fell flat as she spun the blade around and pinned him to the wall.
“Well done, lass!” shouted the Knight as he pulled the heavy Omo Selva Dego off the Legionary. The two men fought furiously for a few moments before the sheer savagery of the Wild Man failed to subdue the more skilled fighting style of the veteran champion of England.
“No doubt some would blame our Beatles for that look!” he said with a grin as he stood over the hirsute foe.
The dashing Musketeer twisted aside as the frantic figure of the Spassvogel leaped at him with wild abandon. “Too slow by far, good man!” he taunted. He whirled around to follow the falling felon and managed to pin him with his own body weight.
That left a furious Harley Quinn and the woman in black. “Who are you supposed to be?” shrieked Harley.
The beautiful masked woman said, “Cacciatrice! One who hunts your kind to safeguard the helpless!” She dodged Harley’s nimble kick and caught her leg in a tight grip. Cacciatrice shoved the clown to the ground and backhanded her across the face. Harley tried to hurl powder in her eyes, but she closed her eyes in time and rammed her own head into Harley’s face.
The Huntress reached down to pull the battered Harley away, but her arm extended wildly as a fake hand broke in the hand of the Huntress. Harley giggled through bloody lips and said, “I did what I wanted! Daddy’s got his own Jokers of All Nations now! Let your Daddy have his dumb ol’ heroes club!”
Cacciatrice aimed a spinning kick at the clown, but she missed as Harley faded from view.
Harley Quinn found herself back in the lab of Alexis Luthor, where the smirking redhead said, “Well, you activated the return signal just in the nick of time. I have completed my own plans, and now, once you recover a bit, we can resume our old agenda and bring Power Girl and the Huntress to an early grave!”
Harley nodded and said, “Yeah! Lexie, I gotta tell ya, I want to kill that stuck-up Bat babe more than ever! First, I only hated Red Robin, but now I want the Huntress more! Even though my Jokers of All Nations will return separately or together, someday I’m gonna be the one to kill the Batman’s little girl!” She laughed wildly, and even Alexis Luthor shivered slightly.
Back in Italy, as the international heroes and heroines compared notes, the Legionary confronted the black-clad Cacciatrice. “Estella, I know it is you behind that mask!” he hissed.
She put both hands on her hips and said, “I never expected to deceive you. I merely wanted to represent the side of father that you have forgotten about. I will also bring justice to Rome, but my justice will be tempered with mercy. There will be nothing of the vendetta in my crusade. Perhaps the example of the Huntress herself is what led me to finally use the training father gave me as a child. Still, I warn you, brother, do not cross me. My mission will not interfere with your own, unless I hear that you have again soiled the name of Legionary with bloodshed that was not in self-defense!”
The Legionary scowled, and he raised one hand, only to lower it as he met his sister’s equally fiery gaze. “You will only end your life with such foolishness. I cannot protect you from your own heedlessness,” he said.
She whispered, “And I feel the same way about you, Anthony.”
A weary Huntress thanked the foreign heroes as she prepared to depart. It had been a long and tiring journey, and she looked forward to returning to the streets of Gotham City, where she would continue to act upon her father’s example and build upon his legacy even as she created a legend of her own.