What has three heads and no brains? "No, your other left!" the Riddler snapped angrily at his henchgirls as they made ready to burst through the wrong door. Really, if he hadn't needed them as muscle, he'd have left them at home. Better yet, he would have never hired them. Or no, even better, he'd have never gone to that damned bar and gotten drunk near them in the first place. When he'd agreed to hire them, they'd assured him that they were professionals and he'd drunkenly believed every word they said. Now, in the harsh light of sobriety, their claims seemed rather weak.
The girls rearranged themselves around the correct door. "Marteau chanceux," they murmured, clanking their guns together ("For luck," they'd explained to a baffled Riddler the first time they'd done it, never mind the fact that at the time they'd been "robbing" one of his empty lairs as a rehearsal for today and thus hadn't needed luck). Three booted feet whomped hard into the door. It refused to fly dramatically off of its hinges. "Ouch!" the girls yelped, limping backward to reassess the situation.
Eddie had his face buried in one gloved hand. Idiots. "Use the doorknob!" he hissed.
Before the girls could obey, the door creaked open. A thin, bespectacled man with a half-eaten Twinkie in one hand leaned out. "Can I help...you..." he trailed off as he noticed three scantily-clad women aiming deadly weapons at his face. They paused in a silent tableau.
One of the girls, Query, stepped forward with a look of intense concentration on her face. "What's...what's yellow and oblong-"
"Eldritch," interrupted Question from the left. "What's yellow and eldritch and weighs as much as a ton of gold?"
"No, that's not it," the third, Quiz, said, lowering her gun to argue with the other two. "It's supposed to be 'what's golden and heavy and-"
"Forget it!" Eddie snapped, all hope of pulling off a respectable themed robbery completely evaporating as he watched his three henchgirls fumbling their way through the riddle. One riddle he'd given them - one! - and they couldn't even repeat it. "Just get in there."
"Right, boss!" Query grabbed the man by the collar and walked him backward into the room. "This is a stickup!" she bellowed happily to the other occupant of the room, a middle-aged woman with her hands wrapped around a gigantically messy sandwich. The woman shrieked and thrust her hands into the air, sending the sandwich flying. With a wet thudding noise, it hit the fluorescent light in the ceiling and disintegrated. Tomatoes, lettuce, lunchmeat and various other tasty things rained down on the disgusted Riddler and his girls. The mayonnaise-smeared bread flopped neatly over the end of Question's gun.
Eddie delicately removed a slice of half-eaten ham from his shoulder. He'd have done better to hire that set of thugs from Jersey, he fumed to himself. Okay, so they were uncouth and smelled like the bottom of a monkey's cage, but at least they didn't take lessons from B-movies on proper criminal behavior.
Quiz bounded over to the safe in the corner. "I got it!" she shrilled, wildly spinning the dial, one ear pressed to the door of the safe to listen for clicking tumblers.
Eddie rolled his eyes and shoved her out of the way. 54-23-12. The safe door creaked open to reveal beautiful stacks of money. Finally, something had gone right! They reached in and grabbed the cash, stuffing it into large canvas sacks. Eddie took the opportunity to bolster his own share by secreting a few bundles of cash in his pockets.
"Let's go," he snapped, ignoring the two stunned workers as he stormed out. In a whirl of fishnet tights, the girls followed him.
When they had safely made it to the van, Eddie started to relax ever so slightly. He'd at least gotten it through their thick little heads that they needed to get away as fast as possible. He buckled himself securely into the passenger seat as Question revved the engine and squealed out of the parking lot.
They hadn't even made it a block away from the heist before Query yanked a fistful of bills from her bag. "Whee!" she crowed, tossing it in the air. Laughing, Quiz did the same. They pelted one another with money as Question aimed them toward the freeway.
Eddie was trying very hard to ignore them. He'd get them home, he'd get his cut of the money, and then he'd kick them to the curb. He was never going through this again. Ever. This was worse than the time that he and Harley Quinn had tried to rob Wayne Manor on the same night.
He scowled out the passenger window. "Can't you two be quiet?" he growled as the two girls in the back shrieked with joy.
"Sorry, boss!" they chirped, beginning to stuff the cash back into its sacks.
Blessed, blessed silence reigned for almost thirty seconds.
"Hey, that's mine!" Quiz said, snatching a bill from Query's hand.
"Liar! I had all the hundreds-"
Eddie tipped his hat over his eyes, counting very emphatically to ten as the two henchgirls proceeded to re-enact the final fight from 'Rocky' in his backseat. They would be home soon. He only had to put up with them for another few minutes.
His thoughts were interrupted by a soprano scream from the driver's seat. "Oh hell!" Question screeched, slamming on the brakes. Eddie's seatbelt suddenly did an amazing impression of a boa constrictor. His hat flew into the air, uncovering his eyes just in time to reveal the side of a sleek black car directly in front of them. Crunch! Money fluttered down around him in the sudden, stunned silence.
Okay. Everything would be okay, they'd simply have to walk home. They'd just grab the money, ignore the other driver and...and...The other driver was glaring at them through a giant hole in his window. One of the pointy ears on his cowl was bent at a funny angle...
Oh God, they'd T-boned the Batmobile.
At least there'd be no worry about exchanging insurance information.
Question had rammed their van into the driver's side, which would have bought them an extra few seconds if the Batmobile had had doors instead of a sliding roof. Eddie tore off the seatbelt, snatched up his hat and cane and scrambled out of the van.
To hell with the girls and to hell with the money. This atrocity of a day was not going to end with a trip back to Arkham if he had any say in it. He tore down the street, taking only a brief moment to glance over his shoulder. Batman had his hands full with the three terrors, who were swarming him like starfish clinging to a tasty oyster.
Splash! The Riddler yelped with shock as his foot came down in an icy puddle, splattering him with frigid, muddy water. There was no time to change course, so he gritted his teeth and pounded through the rest of the puddle, sending what was essentially liquid mud up in fountains around his ankles. A particularly large spray caught him in the face as he rounded the corner, wet shoes skidding wildly on the pavement.
Where the hell was he? That little coffee shop looked familiar...oh yes, he knew where he was now. He had a lair right down the street! If he could just make it there before Batman finished with the girls, he'd be safe.
Lungs burning, ankles aching, Eddie ran. He slid around the last corner like a hockey player, sending a sheet of water splatting over a newsstand as his feet hydroplaned through yet another puddle. A grin of triumph broke over his face as he splashed down the stairs that led to his underground hideout. The awning above him repelled most of the rain (and incidentally blocked the sight of him from the street).
He hadn't been here in at least two years. The prospect of spending the night in a dusty, neglected lair wasn't exactly making him jump for joy, but it was certainly better than anything that awaited him at the hands of the Batman. When he was safely under the awning, he removed his suit jacket and squeezed a good portion of the water from it before putting it back on. He was fairly certain that he'd left some spare clothes in the closet and some canned soup in the kitchen cupboards. It was hardly the celebratory dinner he'd wanted, but then, what was there to celebrate? He'd come away with something like a thousand dollars, hardly enough to even replace the van.
As he drew closer to the door, he noticed a musky, rich scent wafting through the air at him. He frowned. The last time he'd smelled something like that before opening the door, it had turned out to be a dead rat in the ventilation system. Oh, for the life of a rogue, he thought bitterly. Musty old clothes, canned soup, and Eau de Souris Mort in the air ducts. Bliss.
The doorknob turned easily in his hand. He didn't remember leaving it unlocked, but then it had been a good two years since he'd last been there...Muttering about dead rats and cleaning bills, he shoved the door open. His mouth dropped in shock.
Someone had been here. Someone had broken in and...and repainted. Nothing was green! Nothing was green and all his question-mark stuff had vanished! Who had replaced his couch with that red monstrosity in the middle of the room? Who had put pictures of cats and unicorns on the walls? His lair was not a home for unicorns.
There was a gasp from the kitchen. He turned furious eyes on a young lady standing at the stove, a wooden spoon in her hand. They simultaneously pointed accusing fingers at one another and shrieked "Who are you and what are you doing in my house?"
(to be continued)