Batman and Robin were on the coaster track, darting nimbly from beam to beam as fast as they could. They could have moved faster on the ground, but they couldn't trust the ground. The house was nothing but gadgetry and traps. They had to assume that the grounds were the same.
The Joker couldn't have pulled all of this together in four days, Batman thought as he leaped a curve. It's just...impossible...
The sight of the Bonestripper, metal teeth gnashing at the heels of the Joker, did what very few sights had managed to do: it stopped him dead in his tracks. Since he had been moving at a fair clip through treacherous terrain, this meant that he failed to curve where the track curved and ended up hurtling toward the grass.
"Batman!" Robin called from the track.
Batman smashed hard into a pile of blenders. "Get that thing turned off," he yelled up into the darkness as he rolled to his feet. Shattered glass sparkled off of his cape and tinkled merrily down onto the wreckage as he tore across the scrubby land to the little fenced-in area where the Joker was crawling for dear life.
"About that sentence," he wheezed as he saw Batman approaching, "I could maybe turn it into community service..." The trailing end of his judge's cloak wafted on the wind into the Bonestripper, where two serrated teeth punched it like a train ticket. "Feel free to jump in at any time," he snapped irritably at Batman, who was doing his best to pull the corroded metal of the fence apart. Rust flakes showered down onto the ground as he threw a shoulder against the thin iron bars.
The ghosts were very, very angry now. Together, they lifted one of the many stuffed and mounted birds that lined the fence and hurled it at Batman.
Batman jerked backward with a mouth full of partridge feathers. "Fluh," he spat, ducking as another bird whipped toward his head.
The Joker's knees were really starting to hurt. He took a precious second to wrench off a shoe and scrambled to his feet, leaping away with a falsetto yelp as the Bonestripper's teeth clashed shut mere inches behind his ankles. Now he was running for his life, which was marginally better because he'd had a lot of practice at it. His empty shoe, still firmly tied to the other one, banged hard against his calf as he wildly tried to keep pace with the moving belt beneath his feet.
Batman, doing his best to ignore the flock of dead birds smacking into his face, climbed up to the top of the fence and seized the Joker by the golden chain of office wrapped loosely around his neck. He pulled, intending to swing him over the fence like a cowboy lassoing a flying pig.
Instead, in midair, the weak and ancient chain snapped, sending the Joker flat on his back in a spectacular pratfall. The conveyor belt gleefully swept him toward the machine. His eyes rolled back into his head to see those massive metal teeth ready to close on his head and he was screaming laughter into the night...
And then there was nothing.
No, wait. There was something, a squealing noise of metal being wrenched apart. The scrapyard echoed with the sounds of the Bonestripper pulling itself to bits thanks to Robin's ministrations.
When the noise stopped, the Joker cautiously slitted an eye open. A metal spike dangled menacingly over his forehead, the sharp serrated edges a mere inch away from cracking his skull like a walnut. He frantically scooted forward, twisting to keep an eye on the horrible machine as he backed away from it.
His shoulders hit something hard and unyielding like a pair of miniature trees. He craned his head back to see Batman gazing solemnly down at him. "They just don't make deathtraps like they used to," the Joker giggled in a rush of adrenaline. He was alive!
"Puddin!" Harley came racing out of the darkness, leaping onto the conveyor belt and tackling him, planting huge wet kisses all over his face. Normally, he would have smacked her away in disgust, but since kisses were infinitely preferable to steel spikes, he let it slide.
Robin popped up from atop the giant machine. With a look of pure and utter fury on his face, he catapulted down to the little group on the conveyor belt and seized the Joker by the lapels. "Did you kill those people?" he snarled, shaking him. The Joker giggled. Robin shook him again, harder. "Did you?' he demanded.
"Robin?" Batman asked.
"There's a pile of bones back there," Robin snarled. He hadn't been quite as delighted as the Joker when he'd laid eyes on the heap of skeletons piled high below the bullseye target. As a matter of fact, he was as far from delighted as it was possible to be without venturing into the boundaries of psychotic annoyance. He shook the Joker once more for good measure, setting his teeth rattling as he laughed.
"They were there when we got here," Harley volunteered. A spike clattered somewhere in the depths of the Bonestripper. She shrieked and tumbled backward off of the belt, landing face-first in the dirt for the second time that day.
Robin shoved the Joker into Batman's waiting grasp. The Joker briefly considered popping his switchblade out - but no, he had the feeling that that would be a terminally bad idea. If ghosts could pick up dead birds and throw them, they could surely shift his aim so that he stabbed himself rather than the Batman. He didn't resist as Batman firmly cuffed his hands behind his back.
With one hand grasping the Joker by the scruff of the neck, and the other encircling Harley Quinn's upper arm, Batman led the clowns into the darkness of the scrapyard. Robin called after him "What about this thing?"
Batman glanced over his shoulder at the obscene grin. "Blow it," he said firmly.
Robin nodded and dug into a side pouch. The small group of ghosts were horrified to see him pull out a set of explosives. With quick movements, Robin fired them off into the deep recesses of the Bonestripper. When every bomb was placed and triggered, he hurried away into the darkness.
The Valkenheiser ghosts were swarming around in the depths of the Bonestripper, screaming voicelessly to one another and trying to dig out the explosives. But all of them were fighting with different explosives, and some were trying to disarm them, and some were trying to detach them...
With a crackle like God's Rice Krispies, the Bonestripper exploded in a series of fireballs. The ground shook as huge, warped pieces of metal slammed hard into the dirt. There was a sickening gravelly crunch as the ground beneath the dead deathtrap opened up in a sinkhole, pulling the wreckage down after it.
The Valkenheisers floated above the carnage in a state of shock. Ghostly tears streamed down Eldona's face.
And then, with a sparkling, shimmering glissando of joy, the other ghosts appeared all around them. They sang and shouted and danced around the sinkhole, pointing and laughing as the last metal spike disappeared into the glowing mine-fires. A woman in a red leather suit and a man with slicked-back, greasy hair gave one another a passionate kiss as the ground beneath their insubstantial feet cracked and crumbled.
The songs of joy reached their peak as ghosts started to rise in the sky like fireworks. With happy laughs of utter delight they soared into the air and popped into nothingness, their unfinished business finally complete.
The three men stared in the darkness at the blazing glory of ghosts swirling to their final reward. Each of them was thinking something different. Batman was noting the scientific details: how high off the ground the ghosts were when they disappeared, the order they went in, and physical descriptions that might match old missing-persons records. Robin was simply gazing in awe at the rainbow arcs of light shooting across the sky. The Joker was gaping at the ghosts, wondering uneasily if an army of spirits with a grudge against him was waiting for him back in Gotham.
And Harley Quinn was in the Batmobile, frantically digging in the glove compartment. She finally found what she was looking for - a set of Batcuffs - and snapped them firmly over her wrists. "Come on," she yelled to the other three, who didn't notice. With a sigh, she curled herself into a ball on the floorboards and tied her tassels firmly over her eyes.
Author's Note: Wasn't that fun? Y'know, in an 'Oh-God-why-does-this-exist?' way, that is. It's like a bunch of spiders in a birthday cake...
Thanks to Dan Aykroyd for the glorious weirdness that is 'Nothing but Trouble' and the hours of amusement it has afforded me with the Bonestripper and the wall of femurs. Also, thanks to my husband for putting up with a continuous loop of 'Nothing but Trouble' for a few days while I settled the details in my head. Lastly, thanks to you for reading (and double thanks to those of you that leave reviews that make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside)!
Tune in next time for a Two-Face one-shot, "Grim Grinning Ghosts", and then it's back to the non-spooky stuff for a while with "Housemates", a sequel to "Get out of My House!" I'm excited. Are you?