A few of the world's most beloved sociopaths share a boarding house. Essentially an experiment on what happens when you have several interesting, volatile, violent and often contradictory personalities forced to coexist. True enough, that's the philosophy behind reality shows, (shudder,) but instead of bored yuppies and bland college students, I've brought together a menagerie of endearing, brain addled misfits. Fictional book, movie and comic book stars running the gambit from the utterly deranged, to those who have simply been pushed to far. Hilarity and homicide is sure to ensue!

I'm aware most of these folks are technically dead, but they're fictional too and that didn't stop me. This chapter is really just a prologue, the real action won't start until the next one. I don't own anyone but Joe-Bob and Bobby-Joe. They were originally intended for mere exposition, but they went and developed personalities when I wasn't looking.

Welcome to the Madhouse.

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"I knew we should have never gone into this business..." Joe-Bob said to his girlfriend Bobby-Jo, co-owner of the Raunchy Horse Boarding Home.

"These people all need a place to stay, and they paid in cash." Bobby-Jo reasoned, "What's the problem?"

"The problem?" Joe-Bob practically screeched. His eyes widened and his mouth formed a peanut shape, betraying a hint of anime ancestry which drove Bobby-Jo wild. "Well, for a start, I'm at least ninety-nine point nine, nine, nine, nine, nine, nine percent certain most of these people are on the run from the law!"

"Look, I may just be a simple country girl-"

"You're from Seattle."

" -But I reckon that we all make a few little mistakes in our time- "

"That girl in the prom dress kept dripping blood on the floor."

" -And I'm not the type to pass judgment on others."

"Two of them remarked there was plenty of space in the cellar for dumping-" he raised both hands and made exaggerated quotation marks " '-toast.' "

"And is that the only reason you can give me why I should throw these good people out on the street?"

Joe-Bob gave her a look that suggested some nonessential section of his brain had just exploded. Out of the corner of his eye, he caught a movement. With graceless speed, he thrust his hands down and grabbed the squirming rodent, holding it up by it's tail for Bobby-Jo to see. "How about this? These damn things are everywhere now!"

"Mr. Stiles asked if pets were okay and you told him yes."

"I thought he meant a dog or an iguana or something!"

"You should have asked him, then."

"When you tell someone you have a 'pet,' it's expected they'll assume you *don't* mean hundreds and hundreds of rats!" He discovered that he was suddenly soaking wet. An oversized bead of sweat had somehow collected above his head and burst. "Not again..." he moaned.

"Sweetie," Bobby-Jo said soothingly, endeared and slightly aroused by his sweatdrop, "you're an angel, but you get so worked up over nothing. Now, I've got to go bring Mr. Renfield up his lunch."

"Can't he catch it himself?"

Bobby-Jo rolled her eyes. "You're hilarious, dear." She said with affectionate sarcasm. "Now why don't you go take a nice, hot shower, wash that sweat out of your hair. I'm sure you'll feel better after."

Joe-Bob grumbled, then relented at the sight of his lover's too-wide smile. He stalked off to the bathroom. "This'll all end in tears, mark my words!" But Bobby-Jo barely heard him, having spun on the heels of her massive platform shoes and trotted off to the kitchen, where she deftly removed a tray from the refrigerator and began carting it away. As the clip-clop of her shoes on the wooden floor faded into the distance, Joe-Bob disrobed and stepped in the shower, only to have three rats leap out of the stall at him. "Yaaaaaaaargh!" he screamed, inaudible through the bathroom door.

Meanwhile, Bobby-Joe walked through the hallway which led to the stairs, humming showtunes. The plate and silverware clinking together with each step she made. As she passed room 13, she paused and knocked on the door. It opened very slightly, with disturbing haste, as if the man standing behind it had been waiting there all along. "Can... uh, can I help you?" a soft, nervous voice came from behind it. The voice belonged to a tall, pale, dark-suited man who seemed to be fidgeting even when he wasn't.

"Hey there, Mr. Stiles. Listen, I don't want to be a broken record, but you should really try and keep your rats out of the rest of the house."

There was uncomfortable shifting on the other side of the door. "I know... and- and I'm sorry, but..." he stuttered, "you know they- they don't always do what I say..." he trailed off.

"I understand," she said, smiling like a telemarketer, "But just try, okay? At least keep an eye on the big one, Joey's been complaining he'd wake up and it'd be staring at him. You know how he is about that kind of thing."

"Yeah..." Willard said distantly, fingering the scars on his face. "Yeah. The big one." He snapped back into reality. "I'll try, Miss... uh... Miss Bobby-Jo."

"Super!" she said, with another fake smile that would have her shot in some of the more civilized dimensions. Turning, she decided to go down the hall to check on the border in room 666.

"My..." she said to herself, as if just realizing it. "We certainly have an odd numbering system in this place..." She knocked on the door, which unlocked itself and opened slowly, revealing to her the teenaged girl who was sitting on the bed across the room. Bobby-Jo seemed unfazed by the fact that the door seemed to have opened all on it's own, and doggedly plastered on another smile, greeting the young girl. "How are you doing?"

The wide-eyed blonde teenager was dressed conservatively, in a formal white blouse and a long, grey skirt with stockings, despite the heat. She turned off the Bob Dylan CD she'd been playing and addressed Bobby-Jo. "Fine, really, just fine. How are you?"

"A little concerned. I mean, you're still a minor, and..."

"I can take care of myself." she said simply.

Bobby-Jo smiled. "I know. And I'm not really worried about that, it's just-"

"Hey there, Bobby-Jo." A suave voice came from behind her ear. Bobby-Jo turned to see a poster-boy pretty face, adorned with a smug, suggestive smile.

"Edgler." She said coldly. There was an unnerving glint in his powder-blue eyes that would have been undetectable to most, and terrifying to the rest.

"You know, there's a broken pipe in my room. I was wondering when you were going to fix it." By the tone of his voice, he might have been asking her to dinner. But she was wise to him.

"I'll call a plumber to take care of it."

Edgler shook his head, dropping the issue and the facade along with it. "Never mind. Those plumbing companies ask too many questions."

She nudged past him, noticing his nostrils expand as he sniffed her hair. "Jerk." she muttered. As she made for the stairs, she noticed him turn his attentions to the girl inside room 666.

"Carrie," he said, his tone carefully crafted, "Has anyone ever told you that you're beautiful?"

"Once." she said, with quiet regret.

His voice faded into the background as he said, "You're not like all the other girls, are you? You're special..." Bobby-Jo shook her head with contempt. She felt uncertain about leaving Carrie there with him. But the girl seemed to shy to accept his advances. Bobby-Jo could always check on her again after dropping off Mr. Renfield's tray. The stairs creaked as she stomped up them. When she finally reached his room, she heard screams coming from across the hall. "No rest for the wicked..." she sighed, moving to see what was the matter in room 777.

She knocked, ignoring the ominous sign on the door warning her not to, and it opened. "Yes?" came a curt voice.

"Was that you screaming?" Without realizing it, she had emphasized the word 'you,' and the impossibly tall, thin man looked at her with suspicion.

"What are you implying?" he asked.

"I was worried. I thought maybe you'd hurt yourself or something."

"I don't do that sort of thing."

She looked puzzled for a moment, then her eyes filled with realization. "No, no," she chuckled, "I meant accidentally."

"You... you really care?" he said with mild amazement.

"Well yeah, I'm liable after all." She said with a smile.

"Ah." he looked disappointed. "Well, I assure you I'm fine. I was just talking with..." he paused. "I have to go now." he began to close the door.

"All right, have a good afternoon, Mr. C!" she called as the door closed.

"It's Johnny. Or, well..." he gave her an appraising look, as if going over all things, both kind and unkind she had said to him since he showed up just a few days ago. "I suppose you might as well call me Nny." The door closed.

Fairly certain she had just had a positive experience, Bobby-Jo whistled as she finally approached her destination: room 1313. The door opened as she knocked on it, unlocked and ajar. Heavy curtains were drawn over the windows, and in the dim light, the disturbed-looking man's eyes had an eerie reflective quality, like a cat's only not as much. "Yes?" he said in a voice worthy of Gollum, covering whatever was wriggling in his palm.

"I..." Her eyes kept straying to his cupped hands. "I brought up your lunch." Her smile this time was modest, since her lips were getting chapped.

Renfield's voice had an airy, gasping, almost hissing quality. "It must be a mistake. I didn't ask for anything." he made further, ineffective attempts to hide his hands. Suddenly his previously friendly, if creepy, tone was replaced by something angry and arrogant. "Is that why you came here? Can't you do anything right?! Can't anybody?"

Bobby-Jo held up her hand in a placating manner. Even after spending no more than a day with him, she knew this was very much her cue to exit if she didn't want a scar on her wrist. "I'm gone." she said, backing out of the room. She examined a piece of paper on the tray. "What a ditz I am!" she exclaimed, "This tray wasn't supposed to go to room 1313! It was supposed to go to room 131313! That sounds really stupid when I say it out loud." Sighing with relief, she opened the door at the end of the hallway. "Donnie? You in there?"

The lanky teenaged boy tore his gaze from the window he had been staring out of. "Huh? Yeah?" he asked, his voice hoarse.

Bobby-Jo shook the tray. "Food. Come on, get it while it's still cold."

"Oh, thanks." he said, smiling earnestly and accepting the tray. "I forgot that you were bringing it."

"Well, I almost did too. I was supposed to bring it up to room 131313, but I brought it to room 1313 instead."

"That sounds really stupid when you say it out loud." Donnie observed.

Bobby-Jo cracked one last aquafresh smile, "Yeah, tell me about it. So, are you enjoying your accommodations? No problems?"

"Uh-huh." He suddenly seemed distracted.

"That's good. You know, you aren't the only adolescent in this building, and I really feel like I should look out for you." she winked smarmily, "Maybe even keep an *eye* on you two, you know?"

"Uh-huh." He replied flatly. Bobby-Jo slowly noticed he was looking slightly to the left of her. "Uh-huh." he repeated.

"Well, Donnie!" she practically shouted. His attention returned to her. "I'll see you later." She swiveled and walked back down the hall, her jaw aching from the smiles.

Donnie held the tray and stared into a space slightly to the left of where she had been standing, then shook his head and went into his room.

Downstairs, while all this was happening, Joe-Bob had perhaps the worst shower of his life, if one were to keep track of these things. After the rat incident, the hot water had been gone. What's more, the meager amount of steam he *did* manage to get up left the words "Evil," "666," "Vote Republican," and other cryptic, devilish inscriptions in the mirror. This sort of thing had been happening a lot ever since their current group of borders had shown up, one by one, over the last few days. He had just replaced his clothing and was walking to the den when the doorbell rang.

"What now?" he all but whimpered. He opened the door to see a man with dark eyes and a soft, angular face.

"Hi." The man said, smiling up at him genially. "My name's Norman. I've come about the Help Wanted ad?"