Title: Puppet Mistress (1/1)
Disclaimers: All characters belong to DC Comics. I will not be profiting from this story.
Summary: The Joker apologizes to Harley the only way he knows how - by amusing himself and torturing others. There are some people you just don't push, though.
"Oh, puddin'," Harley whispered before she squealed. And here she'd been worried that Mistah J's surprise was a fish fry dinner!
"Well, you were right after all," the Joker said magnanimously. "I shouldn't have let the babies ruin your precious Punch and Judy dolls. If you hadn't walked out two days ago, I might never have realized the error of my ways. Of course I couldn't replace them, so I thought - what would make it all better for my Harley?"
Her Puddin' was so smart, Harley thought. Who needed a pair of hand puppets (even if they WERE antiques valued at several hundred dollars apiece) when you had your very own life-sized marionette?
The room was bare and quite large, in order to accommodate the contraption the Joker had set up. Hanging suspended in the rear, partly shrouded in darkness, was a life-sized puppet, its feet a few inches above the floor. Although its head was down, it was obviously supposed to be a female doll judging by its design. It was clad in a brilliant, tight-fitting costume covering its whole body below the neck except for its hands and feet, the costume featuring a diamond pattern in purple and white. Around its wrists and ankles were white ruffs, although they weren't just for show. Instead of strings, cables - made of some kind of metal, probably to support the weight of the marionette - were attached to the doll's wrists and ankles through the ruffs.
Perched on the doll's head was a tall, pointed dunce hat, also covered in purple and white diamonds. A lone cable went through a hole in the back of the hat. Evidently it controlled the head. The puppet didn't seem to have hair, although it could have been hidden beneath the hat. The cables went up into the ceiling, although the ceiling was so high that Harley couldn't tell in the darkness how long they were.
"We could call this room the playroom, if you like," the Joker suggested, a gleam in his eye.
"Mistah J, you're the bestest boyfriend a girl could have!" Harley said rapturously, jumping into his arms and hugging him fiercely. "I wanna play, I wanna play!"
"Now now, patience, Harley," he said once he'd disentangled himself from her embrace. He waved a finger at her, as if she were a small child. "You know toys these days - all bells and whistles and moving parts, not to mention a book of instructions just for the remote control!" The Joker brought his other hand out from behind his back. In it was a remote control that did in fact look complicated. It looked more like something used to drive a small, battery-powered car, with an antenna, three levers, and a big, red button.
"Ooh, it's mechanical?" Harley asked.
"What isn't these days?" the Joker said theatrically. "Oh, Gepetto, yours is a dying breed!"
"Can I play now?" Harley said, bouncing on her heels.
"You can watch me use the controls first," he replied. "Once you understand the rules, then you can play for as LONG as you want."
Harley closed her eyes and sighed happily. What a swell guy!
"First, of course," he explained, "you have to turn it on."
With a finger he mashed down on the red button.
The cables crackled for a moment, before electricity came out of the ceiling and floor, running along the metal wires. The marionette suddenly jerked as it was flooded with energy. The head snapped back, and for a few seconds the doll was wracked with convulsions. Harley could hear a groaning, grunting noise coming from the . . .
Harley stared at her new toy as the voltage was cut off. The doll's head dropped back down again, but it continued to move as it panted heavily. "Uh, Puddin'?" she said. "Speaking of Gepetto, was the Blue Fairy here while you were out? Because I think my puppet is a real girl."
"Have you seen how much they charge these days at department stores!" he thundered. "I wasn't going to pay all that money for a machine! Besides, I wanted only the best for you. A machine doesn't have the - flexibility that a flesh-and-blood puppet has."
"Oh," Harley said, nodding hesitantly. "You're so, um, thoughtful."
"Yes, very thoughtful," the marionette croaked.
Harley gasped. She hadn't gotten a good look at her puppet's face, but now she ran forward and carefully lifted its head with her hands.
The marionette had white facepaint on, except for heavy black paint around the lips and eyes, so that it almost resembled Harley's mask. But Harley had absolutely no difficulty in recognizing her new toy.
"Red?" she asked, horrified.
"Get me the fuck out of here," Poison Ivy whispered.
The Joker, who'd been so unusually restrained up to this point, now burst out into gales of insane laughter, while Harley stood transfixed.
That fish fry dinner was looking awfully good right now.
Harley turned around slowly. All her earlier joy had drained out through her feet. What she wanted now was to get Ivy out of those electrified cables right away, and bring her back to Robinson Park.
Somehow she suspected Puddin' wouldn't let her, though. Not even if she asked really nicely. And she had a feeling that hysterics or outrage wouldn't be entirely productive. Not while Mistah J had that big red button next to his finger.
So, she managed to restrain herself.
A little, anyway.
"What?" he asked, sounding injured. Except Harley knew what being injured really sounded like. Like the harsh, labored breathing of the woman behind her - now IVY sounded injured!
"Why'd you hurt Red!" she whined.
Joker leaned forward and squinted. "Why Pammy, it IS you! Isn't that a coincidence! When I sent my goons out to bring me the nearest redhead with a fixation on sawgrass, I thought it could be anybody!"
"Sure you did," Ivy growled weakly. "And they just - happened to be treated with an antidote to my special chemicals."
"They were my henchmen! Enslave your own!"
"Mistah J, enough!" Harley interjected. "Just let her go, please? I - I'm sorry I got upset about the dolls, I'll never walk out on you again!"
The Joker looked at her for a moment. "I apologize, I admit my mistake, I get you a make-up present - and this is how you repay me!"
"Well - " Harley said nervously.
"I spent hours getting your gift ready!" he screamed, shaking a fist. "If you don't want it, fine! I'll just take it back! Now where's that dratted receipt?" Joker started going through his pockets.
Harley looked back at Ivy. "Calm down, Red," she whispered. "I'll get you out of here in no time."
"No you won't," Ivy muttered.
"Of course I - "
"He's a self-absorbed egomaniac, Harl! He only does things if they suit him, and right now punishing YOU and watching ME suffer are of a lot more interest to him than accepting your apology for something you didn't even do wrong!"
"Darn," Joker said, seemingly mindless of their discussion. "No receipt. Maybe they'll let me exchange it if I say it was . . . defective!"
He twisted one of the levers hard to the left. The cable attached to Ivy's left wrist suddenly pulled her in one direction. Ivy jerked and cried out as her left arm was tugged savagely, but the other cables held her body still. Before Harley could even open her mouth, there was a POP as Ivy's shoulder was dislocated.
Ivy screamed through clenched teeth, then hung limply again as the cable stopped pulling.
"Puddin', no!" Harley shrieked.
"Hm, that might do the trick," Joker mused. "Maybe I should just be sure, though." He pressed a second lever gently.
The cable running through Ivy's hat rose slowly, pulling her head back. Ivy's eyes widened.
Harley realized that if all the cables were as strong as the one attached to her left arm, the Joker could very well break Ivy's neck.
"I like it, I like it!" she screamed desperately, jumping up and down, waving her arms. "Please don't take it back, I want it!"
Joker looked at her doubtfully as Ivy's forehead became damp with sweat. But the cable had stopped pulling. "You didn't seem to want it a minute ago," he said.
"I - changed my mind. Ain't a girl got the privilege?"
"Oh, very well." He pushed the lever back the other way, and Ivy's head dropped. "On with the lesson then."
"Uh, Puddin, you know, I can figure out the rest from here," Harley said quickly, holding out a hand.
Joker shrugged. "Women - and they say I'm insane!" He cackled as he dropped the remote control in Harley's outstretched hand.
"Thanks," Harley muttered. The minute he left, she'd shatter the whole thing, AND that red button, all over the -
"And Harley," he added before leaving. "We can't let the battery go to waste. If you accidentally break the remote, let me know. I have another on/off switch right here."
He reached into his jacket and pulled out something no bigger than the power lock activator they put on key rings. On it was a small red button. He pointed it at Ivy and pushed the button.
Harley put a hand in front of her eyes as Ivy was hit with thousands of volts for the second time that night. It was over after two seconds, but Ivy's frame jerked and flopped for several seconds more afterwards.
Harley's lip trembled as the Joker laughed and strolled out of the "playroom". "Oh, Red," she said miserably once he was gone. "I'm so sorry!"
Ivy slowly lifted her eyes. They were dark with many things - fury, pain, mortification. "Quit the apologies and find a way to get me out of this, Harl!"
Harley put the remote down and ran over to Ivy's side. "Let me see how I can take these things off you," she said, reaching for Ivy's right wrist.
"No!" Ivy said instantly, pulling her hand back what little she could. "You'll set the others off! Your boyfriend showed me what would happen if I tried to pull free earlier," she snarled.
Harley's hand shrank back. "I don't know, Red. Um, maybe . . . the Bat always seems to get out of Mistah J's deathtraps."
"NO Batman," Ivy retorted. "I will NOT have him see me like this!"
Ivy always did have her pride.
"Then I don't know!" Harley whimpered, bursting into tears. "It's my fault you're like this. I NEVER should have walked out on Mistah J!"
"Under ordinary circumstances, I'd be glad you did, Harley," Ivy said quietly.
Harley smiled through the tears. "At least now we can spend more time together?" she suggested weakly.
Ivy responded with a glare like a death ray.
"Maybe not," Harley admitted.
Logic wasn't overly popular in any Joker hideout, and Harley's doctors had diagnosed her as "prone to irrational behavior" a long time ago. But as Harley picked her way through the dark underbelly of the Joker's lair - also known as the basement, where the rats allowed her to live only out of professional courtesy - she was forced to think things through.
First, she had to get Red out of there. Before leaving the playroom she'd used the remote control to awkwardly lower Ivy so that her knees rested on the floor, instead of forcing her to hang in midair from the cables, exaggerating the pain from her dislocated shoulder.
And every time she touched the control, she felt sick and dirty.
But she couldn't just not "play" with her. Otherwise her puddin' might decide it was HIS turn. Or he might follow up on his thread to throw her out with the rest of the trash. And even if Ivy managed to escape serious injury for a few days, sooner or later the Bat would find them like this. Red might never forgive her for the mortification of being found looking like THAT by the Bat. Or worse, by the police.
She might not forgive her anyway. This was all her fault.
Depressed by that dismal thought, Harley shouldered on. Somewhere here was the generator that powered the hideout. It wasn't like the electric company sent bills to this part of town. Not unless they wanted to be paid in Monopoly money, anyway.
Logic dictated she shut off the generator. IF Ivy was to be freed, THEN the cables had to be removed. IF Mistah J had no intention of letting Red go, THEN Harley would have to do it herself. IF she had no key, THEN she had to sever the cables by force. And IF the cables were electrified, THEN the power had to be cut.
That college diploma had its uses after all!
Finding the generator in one corner of the basement, chugging along merrily, Harley reached out for the lever. Puddin wouldn't be happy that she'd let her toy - that she'd released her best friend! She had to stop herself from thinking of Ivy as an "it". Anyway, he wouldn't be pleased.
At least he was asleep. Maybe Harley would have time to get Ivy out.
She pulled the lever, and the generator slowly powered down.
Suddenly a dim light shone on her face, and she looked up, squinting. It was coming from, of all things, a monitor that someone had mounted near the ceiling.
"Harley, Harley," Joker said from the monitor, shaking his head. "My mother always taught me not to stick a fork in the wall socket. Heh, maybe she should have told me not to stick forks in the girl next door, ay?"
Harley swallowed, her eyes growing wide. The generator was off but the power was still on . . .
"Anyway," he went on, "I know you grow bored easily, dear Harley, but there are just some things you shouldn't play with. You should have stayed in your room and played with your new doll."
"Uh, Mistah J," she squeaked.
"It's a good thing I've hacked directly into the central power grid," the Joker continued, ignoring her, "or I'd have to reset the VCR! Fortunately, only I know where the linkup is. Wouldn't want you giving yourself a jolt, would we?"
She wanted to say that he was being thoughtful of her, swell guy that she was, but somehow she couldn't do it. Besides, her mouth was dry.
"Still, I'd better check the power," he mused. "Think I'll give all the appliances a little extra juice for twenty seconds or so."
Harley put a hand in front of her face as the glow of the monitor grew stronger. She heard rats making aggrieved noises as they fled from the brighter light.
And something else . . .
"Oh no!" she gasped. "Red!"
Turning on her heel, she ran for the stairs. Joker's laughter echoed behind her.
Bursting into the playroom, Harley cried out as she saw Red convulsing as the electricity poured into her. "No!"
The power abruptly cut out, but Ivy kept twitching as her body sank, held up only by the cords connected to her wrists. There was a bad odor coming from her, and at first Harley thought the electricity had singed her clothes.
Then she realized that Ivy had - a pun leapt to her mind, unbidden. Kinda like her flowers, Ivy had watered herself.
Shocked, Harley stamped on her own foot and bit off a scream for even THINKING such a thing.
At a loss as to how to free Ivy for the moment, the only thing she could do was find some way to ease a humiliation which, for the proud plant woman, must have been as intense as the pain.
"Hey, Red," she whispered dolefully as she came back in a minute later with a bucket and cloth.
"H-Harley," Ivy managed to say.
"Shhhh," Harley said. She dipped the cloth into water that was relatively clean, then used it to begin scrubbing the facepaint off. Ivy didn't even have the energy to protest as Harley began to scrub more vigorously.
When the paint was all gone, Harley looked hesitantly at the costume. Undoubtedly Ivy would want it burned once it was off of her, but for now it was the only thing Harley could offer her. All of her clothes were too small for the taller, bustier redhead, and she couldn't find whatever it was Ivy had worn before being abducted.
Either Puddin' or his henchmen had undressed Red, and then put the motley on. Harley hoped this thought hadn't occurred to Ivy, but it probably had.
At least she could do something about that stupid hat . . .
With scissors, she carefully cut around the cable passing through the duncecap's fabric, then vertically so she could peel the hat off and reveal Ivy's luxurious red locks.
Harley pulled the hat away and stopped. And stared.
The cable was connected to a metal "helmet", like the sparring gear boxers wore on their heads when training. Most of Ivy's hair had been cut away to fit the helmet on.
Red was so proud of her hair. Well, she was proud of her entire body, but she always kept those bright, gorgeous strands of hair lustrous as they cascaded below her shoulders. Harley had always secretly envied Ivy's hair, as well as having a costume that granted her the freedom to show it off. She'd always imagined that if she looked just a little bit more like Red - a little more busty, a little more leggy, a little more Ivy - Puddin' would have been even less able to resist her cha -
And Mistah J cut it all off.
He'd kidnapped Red. Her BEST friend. And he'd tied her up, stripped her naked, dressed her in the silliest outfit imaginable, and electrocuted her. AND he'd cut off all her hair!
"Harley?" Ivy asked, her voice a little stronger now. "What is it?"
"I have to go," Harley said, and Ivy was taken aback by the snarl in her voice. "I'll take you out of here when I get back."
"I trust you can do that without shocking me again," Ivy said uneasily.
"Sorry about that," Harley replied guiltily, but then the anger came back. "I just have a few - loose ends to tie up."
Without another word, and resolutely not looking at Ivy, Harley stood up and marched out of the room.
"Harley? Harley! Damn that girl," Ivy muttered. WHAT had she seen when she looked at her? Not knowing would drive her insane!
If her misbegotten boyfriend had died her hair purple, he would die SLOWLY.
"Hiya, puddin! Wakey-wakey!"
The Joker put his arm over his eyes as sudden, blinding light struck him in the face. "Damn it, Harley! You're supposed to put me to sleep, not the other way around. Why, I oughta - "
"Aw, but Puddin," Harley said brightly, "I've been doin' naughty things. Violence and mayhem! Driving thousands of people crazy!"
"Crazy, eh?" he asked, feeling grumpy. Since when did she get ideas of her own? She'd better not have stolen one of his, like the time with the piranhas! "Been practicing how to drive people crazy on me all this time, that's what you've been doing."
"Silly rabbit," she chided him, bouncing back toward the bedroom door. "Dontcha want to know what I did?"
Joker sighed. He showed off his whitest grin. "Sure, baby, if it'll mean you turning the lights off."
Harley broke into peals of laughter. Confused, Joker chuckled weakly.
"Oh, Mistah J, you say the funniest things!"
"Of course I do . . . I did?"
"Sure! In a minute, the lights'll be out all over the city!"
He frowned. "It's the middle of the night. They ARE out all over the city."
"Oops, right. Well, they won't be able to turn 'em back on!"
"I planted timed explosives at the local power plant, that's why! Soon Joker bombs are going to stop any more juice from going into the power grid." She looked at her wrist. "Thirty seconds."
Joker stared at her. "You - shut off our electricity?"
"Whoops, silly me. Well, you always said I couldn't do anything right."
And as Harley looked back at him, the humor vanished from her eyes. The Joker swallowed. He'd encountered her volcanic rage a few times. For all he cared not to admit it, at those times she terrified him.
Thirty seconds ticked by, and - nothing happened.
"Uh - oops?" Harley said again, shrinking back.
Joker growled. "Har-LEY!"
Then the lights flickered and died.
"Yes!" he heard her whisper.
"You're dead, Harley. Dead! Whoah!"
Stumbling out of bed, he promptly slipped on the marbles Harley had strewn all over the floor around his bed.
"Nighty-nighty," Harley told him before she clubbed him over the head with a frying pan. "Like you said, I'm the one who puts you to sleep."
She pulled off her tassels and got her tools. This would take a while. And the Batman would be here sooner or later, once he'd figured out who left the bombs.
Time to do - no, make something right.
"Oooooooo," Joker moaned as his eyes twitched. "Yes, I'm your cousin Pat . . ."
As his eyes cleared, he noticed that he wasn't exactly lying in bed in his "comfort position". The comfort position involved being horizontal, not vertical. And his wrists needed to be free.
In fact, he wasn't comfortable at all.
Looking around, he saw he was in the playroom. All alone in the playroom. Pammy was missing. She'd have to be missing, since the cuffs chaining her to the electrical cables in the ceiling were around his wrists now.
"Harley, you kinky little minx," he muttered.
The only light source was a lantern on the table across from him. Lying next to it was . . .
His eyes widened. Next to it was the little device he'd rigged to activate the power supply wired into the cables. The red button was obscured by a brick someone had placed on top of it.
The only reason he hadn't been shocked silly was the fact that the power was out.
"Heh heh - Harley? Batsy? Someone? Drew Carey? Anyone?"
Had he just squeaked? The Joker did not squeak.
"This will take weeks to grow back!" Ivy said plaintively as she regarded her shorn locks in the mirror in horror. Her marionette's costume was a torn heap in the corner of the hideout, Harley having found her an outfit Pammy had left behind one time. She'd set up a couple of personal little hideaways in Gotham, just for those times when Mistah J wanted some me time and Red was out of town. "I look like - oh, I don't know what I look like. A thorn bush!"
"It'll be all right, Red," Harley said anxiously. "Can't you just whip up some plant cream to make it grow faster?"
"Yes," Ivy grumbled, "but even then it will take two weeks at least for it to regain its former luster. I simply cannot allow myself to be seen like this."
Harley's tassels drooped. "Going out of town again?"
"I think the island in Micronesia will do just fine. Get as far away from Gotham as possible," Ivy muttered. "Or better yet, that lovely little preserve we set up in Costa Verde."
"And - me?"
"You probably want to get far away from me too," Harley mumbled, looking at her feet. "Puddin' did it to get back at me. You were just a - "
"I am NOT a victim," Ivy shot back.
"Right, right," Harley said, holding her hands in a surrender position.
Ivy looked at her and sighed. "Oh, Harley, I'm not mad at you. I'm proud of you."
Harley's head rose. "What?"
"The trouble you went to? And you were so quick about it too. I would have thought it would take you days to defy him," Ivy replied.
"And we're still bestest pals?"
Ivy looked heavenward. "Yes, Harley, we're still friends."
"Do ya think I could come with you then?" Harley asked hesitantly. "I don't think Mistah J and I want to be in the same room right now."
"Well, just a week or two," Ivy said, as if she didn't care, when in fact she greedily seized on the opportunity to have her all to herself for a few weeks. Hm, maybe her hair could grow back a LITTLE more slowly than it needed to.
"Aw, Red, you're the best!" Harley bounced to her feet, but before she could hug Ivy, she caught a glimpse of something out the window. She smiled.
"What is it, Harley?"
"Oh, nothing. Just looks like the power's back on."