Meeting your girlfriend's parents has always been a time of great worry for both parties. For some parents, the first encounter sets in stone who you really are, regardless of extenuating circumstances.
Linda's parents were a little put out, therefore, when she entered their home with a paranoid and distracted Arnold Wesker, who barely said two words to them and who didn't even eat some of the lovely roast beef that Linda's mother had spent all day preparing.
After dinner, Linda excused them and hauled Arnold out to the porch. "What is wrong with you?" she snapped at him the instant they were out of earshot of her parents. "I told you yesterday-"
"We've got to go back," interrupted Arnold, fingers clenching in his pockets. He could almost feel the weight of Mister Scarface in his arms. "Now. We have to-"
"I'm not going anywhere, and neither are you!" she hissed.
"We…" Mad inspiration struck him. "I left the iron on. My apartment could be burning down right now."
She gave him a suspicious look. "Arnold Wesker-"
"We have to go back and turn it off," he insisted.
She nodded slowly at him and went back inside for her purse. Arnold paced on the porch, elbows locked to keep his arms from lifting. Mister Scarface needed him, he could feel it.
What had he done, what had he done, what had he done? The thought circled around his mind. He'd walked out on Mister Scarface, he'd stolen Mister Scarface's woman, he'd ruined the plan.
Linda reappeared on the porch, snapping the clasp shut on her pearl-white purse. "Come on, honey, let's go," she said, placing one hand on his elbow. He jerked away from her touch as if it burned him.
"Yes, let's go," he muttered absently, all but racing to Linda's car. She raised one carefully-plucked eyebrow and followed him, satin pink heels clicking on the concrete.
Arnold stared silently out the window for the entire ride. What was he going to do?
They arrived at the parking garage down the street from Arnold's place. Arnold looked desperately up at the sky as they walked along. Maybe Batman would swoop down and capture him, carry him away before they got back to the apartment. Mister Scarface wouldn't be able to get to him in Arkham, would he?
They arrived at the apartment. Arnold shook as he opened the door.
It swung open to reveal Mister Scarface seated grimly on the couch, right-side-up, machine gun aimed directly at the doorway. Arnold gulped.
"Dummy. Get over here." Scarface's voice was flat with fury. Arnold ran over to his side and picked him up, cradling him gently in one arm.
Scarface's eyes clicked once to Arnold's face, then over to Linda. "You. Get in here, doll-face."
Linda folded her arms in the doorway. "That's not very nice, Arnie-"
A gunshot rang out, and a bullet hole appeared in the doorframe next to her head. "I'm not bein' nice anymore, toots. Get in here and stop talkin' to the dummy."
Linda, eyes wide, stepped hesitantly inside. Mister Scarface leaned forward, almost toppling out of Arnold's arm. "I want to make a little proposition to you, doll."
"Arnold, what's going on?" she squeaked.
"He just wants to-" Arnold started to stammer.
"You had your chance, dummy. Now dummy up and keep out of it," snarled Mister Scarface as he swiveled around to glare venemously at Arnold. He turned back around to look at Linda, who was inching back to the open door. "You may not know this, but you owe me a little something. Time to pay up," he said, gesturing with the gun.
"I don't owe you a thing," Linda insisted, "and anyway, I don't have any money on me-"
"Money? Toots, you owe me more than that," he snapped. His free hand flung itself backward, indicating Arnold. "I arranged your little meeting with him, start to finish."
"So?" she demanded.
"Start to finish, doll. You remember Bud, don't you?" His jaw dropped in a malevolent grin. Linda took an involuntary step backward.
"He…he died in an accident," she stammered. "You couldn't have-"
"Oh, I didn't." Scarface chuckled. "Dummy here helped me. Pushed the lever to drop that machinery quick as anything."
Linda gasped and looked at Arnold. Arnold was shaking his head, looking down at the top of Mister Scarface's head. He wanted to deny it, wanted to deny everything.
"And now it's time to pay up." Scarface grinned again. "For a start, you'll be with me from now on, not the dummy."
"You-" she gasped as Scarface lowered the gun to the floor, "you can't be serious…" She started backing slowly out the door. She stopped, trembling, on the threshold as Scarface leveled the gun and aimed it right at her face.
"You ain't goin' nowhere," he growled at her.
There was a sound of horseshoes on asphalt outside. The carriage for their moonlit ride through Gotham's parks had arrived.
Linda looked at the two of them- Scarface threatening her with the miniature machine gun, Arnold silently pleading for her to go along with it. Suddenly Arnold started to walk toward her, Scarface reaching out with his empty hand for her shoulder.
She screamed and swung her purse at them. The white satin of the purse connected with the dirty felt of Scarface's hat in a perfect backhand and Scarface went flying across the room. As Arnold ran after Mister Scarface, Linda turned and bolted out the door.
"Get her!" Mister Scarface ordered the moment he was back in Arnold's hands. Arnold bulled through the open doorframe and caught up to Linda, who was hoisting herself into the carriage. Arnold heard the driver mutter something to Linda about Arkham.
Linda whirled in her seat and stared with a new terror at the pair of them. To Linda, who never read too much of the paper if she could help it, it wasn't altogether surprising that she'd never heard of them. After all, with all the Joker toxin, fear gas, and overactive plantlife in Gotham, there was very little room for a ventriloquist and his dummy on the front page.
The driver threatened Arnold with the long whip he used on the horse.
"Get out of that thing right now!" Scarface snapped.
Linda shook her head. Her baby-blue eyes flickered orange in the light from the lanterns.
Scarface raised his gun and aimed it at her. "I'm not just askin', doll."
Linda stood up and put her hand on the back of the carriage. Arnold grinned with weak relief. She was going along with it, it was all going to be all right-
The lantern caught him in the chest and burst open, splashing him and Mister Scarface with oil. Flames began to lick over them as Arnold screamed. He ran back to the apartment's entryway as fast as he could. Throwing Mister Scarface down in a dirt pile, he rolled frantically around in a pile of rotting garbage to douse the flames. The drunk that had been picking through it for scraps ducked as bits of refuse went flying.
Sparks from Scarface set the open door alight. Arnold rolled over to him and hugged him tight, smothering the flames with his own body. They got up and ran out into the street.
The carriage and Linda were gone.
They turned back around and looked at the apartment building, now merrily blazing in the evening air. Arnold felt Mister Scarface shift in his arms, away from the streaks of rotting garbage down his front.
They watched the fire. "Dummy?" Scarface said.
"Yes, Mister Scarface?" muttered Arnold.
"Forget the dame."
He turned and stared at Arnold. Arnold, for just a moment, one tiny shining moment, wanted to hurl Mister Scarface as hard as he could into the blazing inferno that was once their home.
He met Mister Scarface's stare again, and bowed his head.
"Yes, Mister Scarface."
They walked away.