Like a zombie or a horror movie franchise revived solely for the purpose of making schlock and a quick buck, Knock, Knock rises from the grave! For all the fans who never gave up hope and the people who recently reviewed it, here it is again! The hiatus is over, everyone's back at work, and I proudly present the final segment of this lengthy bastard.
Batman was a lot scarier in person. It was easy to crack jokes about a man who ran around dressed like a flying rat, until that flying rat was standing in front of you and you came to realize just how well-muscled and foreboding he was. John was now faced with that predicament.
"Wow. I'm meeting Batman." John said.
"Yes, and I'm meeting a man with an interesting story to tell. Your friend's waiting; let's go." Batman said.
"Sure, okay. I'll take the stairs and meet you down there." John said.
"No, you're coming with me. Over the edge."
John emitted a long, pitiful shriek that echoed from one end of Gotham to the other. Batman had just grabbed him and leapt off the roof! Every survival instinct howled with vigor, and John clutched desperately at Batman. This was suicide, this was crazy, this was stupid, there was a reason man invented stairs!
Instead of free-falling, the descent quickly became controlled. John continued to howl and strangle Batman with a deathly tight hug. By the time the hero and the Jehovah's Witness were safely back on the ground, Batman was sure he'd suffered some hearing loss.
The Riddler took one look at John and burst out laughing. "Another riddle. What falls from the sky and screams like a cougar thrown into a wood chipper? You."
"That was crap." Paul muttered.
Batman had to pry John off him. John finally slid into a shaking mass on the ground and whimpered. He looked as though he had just had another run-in with the red-eyed monkeys the Scarecrow's poison forced him to hallucinate.
"John, are you all right?" Paul asked.
"No, Paul, I'm not. I was forced to jump off the roof of a police station. I have lost control of my extremities, and I am afraid Batman is going to tear my head off and eat it. Will you ask him to stop glaring at me?" John said.
"Oh, he isn't glaring. That's the only expression he's capable of producing. I deduce that you two will be spending a good deal of time with Batman in the future, so I suggest you get used to it." The Riddler said.
"Nigma, when I need your opinion, I'll ask for it. Shut up until then." Batman growled.
Smirking as though he was in possession of some secret knowledge Batman would be begging for soon enough, the Riddler closed his mouth. The quiz-loving villain continued to watch John and Paul with great interest. Their story was bound to be a fascinating tale, and Nigma had a front-row seat.
"Now that he's quiet, I want both of you to talk. Start from the beginning, and make it fast." Batman said.
John and Paul both bit their lips. They could start at the beginning easily enough, but making it quick wasn't going to be easy. It was quite difficult to explain how you had accidentally stumbled upon the most infamous of Gotham's citizens, and had survived both physically and mentally intact, at least for the most part.
"All right, it all started with the Joker and Harley Quinn. We were handing out literature in a poorer neighborhood because people there tend to be receptive. We rang the doorbell, and Quinn answered it. The Joker invited us inside, then he made fun of us, smashed our car with a hammer, and left us to walk home." John said.
Paul picked up the story. "A few days later, we ran into the Scarecrow. It was utterly by accident. We were proselytizing in an apartment, and we heard someone screaming in rage. We went to investigate, and it's the Scarecrow! He made me read Stephen King and John read Darwin. Can you imagine? Then he gassed us and we started seeing things. The landlord threw us out like garbage and then we had to go to the hospital because John was seeing flying monkeys."
"They weren't flying, they were humanoid and disgusting. One looked like the Vice President." John corrected.
"Of course they were." The Riddler quipped.
"As a matter of fact, they were. I can vouch for it. They were so bad I fainted. In a manly way, of course."
Not even Commissioner Gordon could completely hide his grin. It was physically impossible to faint in a manly way. It was like trying to run naked down the street in a modest fashion.
"Paul took me to the hospital, and while we were sitting in the ER, Two-Face was dragged in by some paramedics. They thought he was a burn victim or something. He knocked the heck out of them, and was going to shoot this one guy for being an idiot. Paul stopped him."
"How? I don't mean to offend, but you refused to part ways with a shoe. I didn't get the impression that you were up to such a challenge." The Commissioner said.
"I talked him out of it. And then he told me something that made me want to retreat inside myself and never come out. He predicted, I swear to God, that we were going to meet more villains. He said we were God's special messengers to the rogues. Is Two-Face in anyway clairvoyant?"
"No." Batman, Gordon, and the Riddler answered simultaneously.
"Lucky guess then." Paul said.
"When Two-Face left, John was finally able to get the antidote to the poison and the monkeys went away for good. We went home, and the next day we went shopping." Paul continued.
"I wanted to buy a flower for my grandmother. And guess who the florist was. Pamela Isley, and I think I love her. She bashed Paul over the head with a ceramic pot, and then, to make it up to us, she gave us peace lilies. I still have mine; I haven't forgotten to water it even once." John said.
Paul nearly gagged. "John, for the last time, let it go. She kills people with plants. You spread the word of God. They're incompatible careers."
Batman would have warned John about the dangers of falling for Poison Ivy, but he felt time was short. He was fully aware of the incredibly graphic broadcast the Joker and Quinn had sent out last night. He needed to figure out why these two men were in such danger, and then find a way to keep them from being mauled by a rabid blonde clown.
"I think I get the gist of your story. Skip to the part when you offended Harley Quinn so badly." Batman said.
"We were on the bus, because my rental car crashed into a fire hydrant. It was Killer Croc's fault." John said.
Killer Croc? Batman was tempted to hear the unabridged version of that account. Denying his curiosity, he signaled for John to continue.
"A passenger on the bus kept changing forms: once he was a hooker, another time he was a handsome guy with black hair. This shape-changing finally made me so crazy I got out of my seat and attacked the guy. He transformed into Clayface, and I was sure he was going to kick the crap out of me. I sweet-talked him out of it, and then gave him something to occupy his time." John said.
"What kind of something?" Batman asked.
"The kind that comes back to bite you."
"What exactly did you tell him to do?"
John swallowed, his throat almost unwilling to work. "I, uh, suggested he knock the other villains down a notch. I may have suggested he turn into the Joker wearing a pink, frilly outfit and parade around town like that."
Commissioner Gordon sighed and rubbed his forehead, as though he had suddenly developed an acute migraine. Nigma smirked, probably because he knew first-hand just how dangerous a scorned rogue could be. Batman mercifully didn't fly at him and begin to knock his internal organs out, as John originally feared, though the hero's perpetual scowl became more pronounced.
"The Joker in a pink dress made the news, Harley saw the broadcast, and now she's out for your heads." Gordon said.
"I would really like to keep my head where it is. Batman, do you have any way of helping us? I realize just how stupid John was, and just how much extra work he created for you, but he didn't mean to do it." Paul said.
Extra work for him, for the police, for innocent citizens walking the streets, in short, for anyone living in Gotham. Still, Batman couldn't really fault the Witness. He had been terrified for his life, faced with a morphing clay monster. His mouth had spit out the first thought that came to his frightened brain. It had been a very stupid thought upon reflection, but at the time it had saved his bacon.
"I am not going to leave you at the mercy of criminals." Batman said.
"Because they have no mercy, and Harley Quinn would literally rip you limb from limb should she get her hands on." Nigma clarified.
"Thank you." Batman growled.
The Riddler reached for his bowler hat, only to find it had become dislodged in the crash. Unable to tip a literal hat at Batman, he mimed the motion, instead. Batman's scowl became so deep it threatened to actually cut his face and draw blood.
"So you have a plan? Great, I was expecting this to be difficult." John said.
The look on Batman's face suggested he had just walked into a brick wall. John's joy faded instantly.
"You don't have a plan, do you?"
"It isn't as though I ever thought I'd need to save two Jehovah's Witnesses from a long list of villains out to kill them. I don't go home every morning and dream of the most implausible situations I will ever encounter." Batman snapped.
"No, he goes home and hangs upside down in the attic until the sun sets." The Riddler said.
Batman ignored the Riddler's jabs. He had to think up a suitable solution on the fly, but so far he was coming up blank. John and Paul were in mortal danger. There was no kinder way to put it; they would almost certainly die in some particularly heinous manner if they were abandoned to their own devices. The fact that they had survived thus far was evidence someone was watching their backs, but a guardian angel had to get tired eventually.
"You're not safe anywhere in Gotham. The Joker has a network to gather information for him. Eventually, he'll find you." Batman said.
"And if he doesn't, I'm sure fate will hurl you at someone else equally capable of doing to job." The Riddler added.
Paul glared at the Riddler. His patience for the smart-talking, question-mark bedecked villain was beginning to wear thin. If he was forced to stand by the Riddler for much longer, he might just feel the need to remove a hubcap from the wrecked vehicle and clobber the insane questioner with it.
"He's right, damn it. No matter where we go or what we do, there's some lunatic there. We go to the hospital, Two-Face shows up. We try to get our drivers licenses back, we run into the Mad Hatter. We go to the police for protection, Killer Moth flies into the window. Gotham City is one big, sprawling death trap." John moaned.
"What if we put them in protective custody, the Witness Protection Program, something like that? Officer Mendez has some hideous fake beards he's been dying to glue on someone." Gordon said.
"Nothing against your men, Gordon, but once they know something, the Joker knows it five minutes later. These two need complete secrecy." Batman said.
This was a puzzle nobody seemed able to solve. Except the Riddler. He had figured out how to save John and Paul only seconds after hearing the details of their entertaining plight. He just wasn't ready to divulge that information yet. He was willing to bet there was a 'get out of Arkham free' pass with his name on it if he could play the game right.
"What if we just never leave our apartments? We could have people pass us food through the mail slot, and our fellow Witnesses could hold prayer meetings outside the door. It wouldn't be so bad." John said.
"That's not exactly realistic. I don't know about your apartment, John, but you know mine is small and crappy. I couldn't stand being cooped up in there for more than a week or two. I'd go insane, sew myself some skin-tight costume, and start holding up banks." Paul replied.
Brains were wracked, thought-processes were flogged into action, gears grinded and nothing clicked. John had several ideas akin to hiding in his apartment—hiding in a fallout shelter, hiding in a tree, hiding under a rock like a terrorist or a bug—but they all had the same flaw: they were stupid. Paul could only think of changing his name to something Islamic and starting a whole new life, but knew he would one day screw that up by giving out his original name. Besides, he didn't speak Arabic, didn't know one thing about Islam, and he hated the thought of what wearing a turban would do to his hair.
"Well, I think I'll just come out and say it. We're dead." John said.
"You're not dead." Batman said.
"I'm going to go home, eat all the chocolate I own, order a pizza, eat that, order some Chinese food, eat that, get my Bible, eat, I mean read that, and then I'm going to watch bad sitcoms until I fall asleep."
"That proposal makes a sort of sense." The Riddler said. "At least you'll be brain dead come morning from overexposure to the swill that passes as entertainment. You won't be aware of your own death should someone break into your home and bludgeon you with a blunt instrument."
Ignoring the fact the Riddler had just been in a high-speed crash and had suffered injuries, Paul kicked him. The Riddler's response was first to glare, and then to begin cycling through his obscenely long collection of riddles and word games. Paul, whose brain was not programmed to solve puzzles, began to howl in pain as his mind was overloaded.
"What is at the end of time, yet present at the beginning of eternity?"
"I have seven heads, four eyes, five mouths, and pink hair. What am I?"
"Someone, please, shut him up!"
"He has one, a person has two, a citizen has three and a human being has four. What am I?"
"I'm sorry I kicked you. Please, stop with the riddles. Please."
Gordon stepped in with a pair of handcuffs ready. "Enough, Nigma, or I'll stick you in a holding cell."
"Commissioner, I wouldn't do that if you have any concern for my new friends' wellbeing." The Riddler said.
"How is torturing him with riddles helping anyone's wellbeing? How is listening to him cry helping my wellbeing? How is any of this going to save them?" Gordon asked.
"That's a very simple riddle, actually, and I know the answer." The Riddler said.
Batman was on him in an instant. He lifted the Riddler up off the ground and brought his leering, scowling face inches from the villain's. "Spit it out."
"Absolutely not. As I see it, I am depriving my fellow rogues of revenge they rightly deserve. After all, what takes years of toil to build, yet only seconds to destroy? A reputation." Nigma replied.
Batman gave the Riddler a good shake, as though that would knock the answer loose. Nigma kept his smug grin in place, despite the rattling. He had something golden, and he wasn't going to give it away for nothing.
"What I meant to say is that I won't simply give you the answer. You may be able to barter it from me, however."
"I've got twenty bucks and a picture of my nephews. You might as well keep the wallet, too. It's worth ten dollars or so." John offered.
Nigma snorted in disbelief. "Your life is worth twenty dollars and a worn faux-leather wallet? I wouldn't sell you a used stereo for that price."
"We're not paying you, Nigma. John, put your wallet away." Gordon said.
Paul, no fan of the Riddler, offered his own solution. "Beat it out of him."
Batman was curious about the Riddler's asking price. He doubted if he could merely threaten information from Nigma; the man was far too clever to divulge anything over a little shaking and scowling. Batman was unwilling to follow Paul's advice. Nigma had been injured in the car crash, and Batman was a dark hero, not some sadistic fruitcake who abused people until they cracked from the pain.
"What do you want for the answer?" Batman asked.
"Freedom. You let me go and forget about the whole blowing up a studio incident. Now that I know who was behind the embarrassing episode, I've regained control." Nigma said.
"No." Batman replied instantly.
"All right. Take me to Arkham, and scrape those two of the sidewalk when you get back." The Riddler said flippantly.
"I don't want to be scraped off the sidewalk." John said.
"That's a shame, then, isn't it? I'm giving you an excellent deal. It isn't as though I'm demanding a virgin sacrifice or anything of monetary worth. Simply the ability to walk, eh, limp out of here untouched and unbothered."
Paul was making explicit punching gestures with his fists. Somewhere, in light of recent events, Paul had picked up a worrying violent streak. John would have to watch his friend in the coming days, always assuming they lived that long.
Batman and the Commissioner decided they needed a private huddle to discuss the Riddler's proposal. While they were off weighing pros and cons, John and Paul were left standing next to the villain. With his babysitters gone, Nigma decided to commence with the riddling. He took dark enjoyment from Paul's misery.
"Perhaps one of you can solve this riddle. It could be called the oldest in the book. What has four legs in the morning, two at noon, and three in the evening?"
To Paul's surprise, John answered, "A human being. Four legs as a baby when he crawls around, two as an adult, and three as an old man with a cane. Ha!"
"Congratulations. I see one of you isn't a hopeless case. It would be a shame to see your corpse decorating the front page of the Gotham Times." Nigma said.
John looked to Batman and the Commissioner. "If either of you care, I vote you let the Riddler go. I mean, he'll do something evil in the near future, and you can always catch him then, right?"
"I did let all those people leave the studio before I blew it up. I could have murdered them, but I didn't." The Riddler pointed out.
"For anyone else, I wouldn't even consider it. But Nigma probably won't go down to the end of the block and kill the first taxi driver he sees." Gordon said.
"I'll just hobble home to my lair, find something to immobilize my leg with, and not be a bother to anyone."
"All right, you have a deal. What's the answer to our problem?" Batman asked.
"You're going to kick yourselves when you hear it. To save them from the villains of Gotham, simply remove them from the city. Put them on a bus, boat, or train, and send them somewhere far, far away. Once they are out of harm's way, track down Clayface and reveal his fraud. I would advise keeping those two out of the confession." The Riddler said.
It was now John and Paul's turn to huddle. "It's not a bad idea, but where does he expect us to go?"
John remembered something that had sounded useless and just plain weird at the time. That paramedic they kept running into had said that, faced with the Witnesses' tribulations, he'd tape himself to Superman's ass for protection. John wouldn't go so far as to break out the duct tape, but he wouldn't turn down a trip to Metropolis.
"I have a destination, Paul. What do you think of Metropolis? It's cleaner than Gotham, there are no clown-themed villains, and it's got Superman."
"That's brilliant." Paul replied.
"Let's share out brainstorm with Batman."
Batman was more than happy with the plan. Metropolis was large enough for John and Paul to totally disappear among its citizens, it was safer than Gotham, and, once they were in the city, they could be Superman's problem. Batman had a monumental mess to clean up, and he could do it much better if he didn't have to worry he'd find confetti-sized chunks of Jehovah's Witnesses littering the street. He was so grateful to get rid of them, he was even willing to drive them to Metropolis himself. At least then he'd know nothing killed them on the way.
"Nigma, don't let me catch you out tonight. You two, come with me." Batman said.
"I suppose I'll go explain what I can to my officers. And call someone to tow that wreck off the sidewalk." Gordon said.
Batman led John and Paul to the Batmobile. They stared at the vehicle with pure awe. It looked like something that had come from the future, from a time when rockets and cars mated and produced offspring.
"How much did this thing cost?" Paul asked.
"How fast does it go?" John asked.
"It cost more and goes faster than you really want to know. Get it, and don't touch anything." Batman said.
John and Paul ogled the Batmobile for a few more seconds before finally climbing in. Once inside, they found the huge assortment of buttons, levers, and things that glowed almost overpowering. They had to fight back the primitive urges that demanded they start pawing everything in sight.
"It's like the control panel of the space shuttle." John said.
"Yes, except the space shuttle doesn't have a button that launches missiles or a net." Batman said.
"It has missiles? Can we see them?" John asked.
"No. Now, tell me where you live. I can't send you into hiding with only clothes on your back. Especially not when the clothes look like that." Batman said.
Some time later, the Batmobile was filled with peace lilies, plastic shopping bags hastily stuffed with clothes, and a week's supply of food. Paul had tried to find room for his remaining pamphlets and booklets, but decided having something to eat was more important than having something to read.
After they had been blasting toward Metropolis for twenty minutes of awkward silence, Paul dared to ask the question he and John had always wanted to know.
"Batman, have you been saved?"
"Several times, by various brave individuals."
"I meant more in the spiritual sense."
"I know, and I'm not answering that."
Paul shifted nervously. "I was just curious."
John patted him on the shoulder. "Don't worry, Paul. We'll save it for Superman."
I may post an epilogue, but for all intents and purposes, it is done. Hallelujah!
And since you may be wondering the answers to the riddles, here you go.
At the end of time and beginning of eternity? The letter E.
I have seven heads, four eyes, five mouths, and pink hair. What am I? A Liar.
He has one, a person has two, a citizen has three and a human being has four? Syllables.
Thanks for reading and reviewing. Thanks to all the folks who loved it, and all the folks who got offended. Have a delightful holiday season, live long and prosper, long days and pleasant nights.
Night Monkey, over and out.