Spoiler Alert: If you haven't seen the movie 'Nothing but Trouble', prepare to experience some major spoilers. In fact, why not go rent it right now? I'll be here when you get back.
Oh, good, you're back. Join me in a little game of 'Let's Pretend', hmm? Let's pretend that the last ten minutes of Nothing But Trouble ended somewhat differently. Let's pretend that instead of a mine fire, there was a firefight. Think Boondock Saints with a side order of the Three Stooges. Let's pretend that the handful of Valkenheisers that represent the judicial system died. (Oh, except for Dennis, who now owns the property and has left it to rot while he's living it up with the Brazillionaires.) While we're at it, let's pretend that Valkenvania is located about a hundred miles away from Gotham City...and that it's four in the morning on a hot summer's night.
The stars glimmered gently down on the ruins of the town. It was a small village with only one main road that whipcracked around the deserted buildings in a series of sharp turns.
A purple car screamed through the night, screeching around corners and leaving trails of rubber where the whirling tires touched the earth. "There!" the man in the passenger seat cried, pointing an imperious finger at a street they had already passed.
The woman driving sighed internally and pulled the car into a turn, skidding round in a complete circle before she was able to take the requested road. Neither of them knew where they were going. Frankly, at this point, they didn't much care. Where they were running from, however, was another matter entirely.
So maybe their crime spree hadn't been such a good idea. Christmas in July, what was wrong with that? But when Puddin' had decided that instead of celebrating, he was going to destroy stuff, well, Batman got a little irked. Broken-bones-and-dislocated-shoulders irked. And anyway, it's not like they'd meant to torch that orphanage. The used car lot next door with the big Santa balloon was the real target. Could Harley help it if her aim went all funny when she was sneezing?
So now they were driving up some deserted road out in the middle of nowhere. People got a little peculiar out in the country, even she knew that. But this particular countryside was getting a little too weird, even for her.
She slowed down. A rusty, neglected drawbridge lay across a narrow canal directly in their path. A silver tongue gleamed inside the mouth of a giant fish sculpture deep within the canal, poised in mid-leap as if in the midst of savaging whoever dared to enter its presence. "Puddin'?" Harley asked, uneasily eyeing a filthy plywood angel covered with undecipherable writing.
"Drive," the Joker ordered, taking in the sights with hungry eyes. Old lawn ornaments thrown together in piles surrounded small patches of grass. Three cement dolphin heads beamed cheekily through a curtain of weeds. An ancient ticket booth, red and yellow paint peeling in stripes, rested in the shade of a leafless oak tree. Ooo, he was beginning to like this place...He smiled as they passed through a hill of toasters, the jumbled chrome reflecting their headlights like a disco ball. They rounded a curve and were welcomed with the sight of an ancient squared-off manor, shingles missing from the roof. A sea of dying metal was wrapped around it. Cars and washing machines were piled together in giant dented heaps amid ancient stoves and other detritus. If it had ever been made of metal, it was here and rusting. "Park the car. We're staying here tonight," he ordered.
Harley glanced nervously at the mound of flattened cars next to them as she pulled in. "You sure, Mistah J.?" she asked. "Seems kinda creepy."
Oh yes. This place was special, he could feel it. Without bothering to answer, he slid out of the car, white spats shining in the moonlight.
Neither of them noticed the set of eyes gleaming silently at them from inside the ruins of an old model T.
They spent the next few hours exploring the mansion. With every room they found, the Joker's grin grew wider and wider. Someone loved him very much, of that he was certain. How else had this wonderland come to exist?
The mansion was a dusty mess. It had obviously been abandoned years ago. But under the dust and debris, he was finding such wonderful things. The kitchen table was rigged up with a toy train to deliver condiments to the diners. Walls loaded with silent clocks glared at paintings of bulbous Victorians. Strange toys and bizarre taxidermied animals lurked in every corner.
He was currently in the master bedroom, poking with gloved fingers at the pile of human thighbones spilling out from a gaping hole in the wall. How had they gotten there? Why just the leg bones? Did severed legs make good insulation?
"Mistah J.!" Harley shrieked from the back of the house. "Come quick!"
He was tempted to ignore her. After all, he was wrist-deep in femurs! Priorities!...but the girl did know what fascinated him, and perhaps she'd found something even more interesting. He tossed a femur aside and picked his way down the rotting stairs, giggling quietly as he skipped over a mound of dented trophy cups.
He found Harley quivering in the back room, hands up over her face. "Pooh?" he asked happily.
"M-mistah J, there was...there was a...a bat," she said, shuddering theatrically. "A little furry squeaky rabid bat that tried to attack me!"
The Joker patted the gun tucked into his waistband. "What fun! I haven't killed a Bat in years," he beamed. Harley gestured at the door to the outside, which had been locked, bolted, and nailed shut with planks until she came along with her lockpicks and her boundless curiosity. He stepped through, blinking in the light of a new dawn.
When his eyes refocused, the first thing he saw was a human skull. Then another. Another. They were piled high atop one another below what appeared to be a bull's-eye target. This place was magnificent.
He turned to see what was aimed at the target. It was nothing more than a hollow tube jammed through a fence...disappointing somehow. He climbed up to it and peered over the top of the fence. It led to the back of a giant network of leather bands and wheels. The broken belts swayed gently in the breeze. One wheel squeaked as the wind pushed it around.
He clambered over the fence, needing to get closer. He could feel the pulse of something grand calling him, drawing him nearer with scrambling steps. Thrills of joy burned behind his eyes as he took in the bloodstained machinery beneath his feet.
There were fences boxing in the front of the machine. He climbed up on the railing at the front, which looked remarkably like a roller coaster track, and crept forward onto the tiny conveyor belt enclosed inside the fence. He tilted his head up to behold the most glorious thing he'd ever seen.
He fell to his knees, reaching out a trembling hand to touch a grin - a shiny, metal grin under round, mad eyes, housed in a face the size of a school bus. One silk-covered finger caressed a gleaming, sharp spike in the deadly mouth. His eyes rose to the top of the machine.
Emblazoned on the figure's top hat, the words Welcome to Mister Bonestripper gleamed menacingly at him through the rich golden light of the sunrise.
Overwhelmed with sheer delight, he collapsed onto the conveyor belt that led into the machine.
Heaven was real. Heaven was real and here he could be a God.
"Harley!" he bellowed, making plans as he stared up at that grinning face. He'd need her help to get his new favorite toy up and running again.
(to be continued)
Author's Note: If you aren't able to track down a copy of the movie at your local video rental store, there are a few clips available on YouTube. I'm attempting to write this so that you can follow along without having a clue about the movie, but I can't hope to do justice to the fiery wonder that is the Bonestripper without visual aids.