Disclaimer: Don't worry if your readership is small and your copyrights are few, just remember that the mighty Lansdale was once just as unknown as you.
CATverse A/N: This story is part of the CATverse. Don't know what that is? Go check out freewebs. com/ catverse to find out. This takes place in arc seven.
A/N: I took a perverse, twisted sort of pleasure in writing Harley Quinn's characterization in this; couldn't stop smiling the whole time. Thus, I am forever shamed. Also, I can't tell you when this will be updated again; things have been nuts around these parts lately and are bound to get even nuttier. Hopefully I can wrap up the story by summer's end, but I make no promises.
Finally, if you've never seen Murder by Death, Clue or Who Killed Who?…now would be a good time.
Two-Face woke. He staggered out of bed, hungover, and shot the first henchmen who dared make a noise as he stumbled across his path. The young man (Charlie Muckle, only twenty-three, blonde, balding and prone to stuttering) took the bullet to the shoulder like a trouper-a few tears aside. As he clutched his bleeding arm, he offered what was left of the Bloody Mary he had made for his boss, half of which was now spilled on the floor-and whimpered a very contrite and very convincing apology.
The criminal grabbed the glass and killed the contents in two and a half swallows. Charlie had gone a little heavy on the Worcestershire sauce and Two-Face considered shooting him again on principle, but ultimately decided it wasn't worth the effort. Especially not if it meant the sound of another gunshot assaulting his tender ears.
"Buh-buh-buh-boss," the sniveling, bleeding hench ventured, garnering a bloodshot glare from his employer, "somebody…somebody left somethin' for you. An…an in-in-invitation."
Two-Face growled, hurled the glass at the nearest wall where it shattered on impact, and then hauled poor Charlie up by the collar. All the blood drained from the young man's face and he came dangerously close to wilting into a faint. "Well? Where is it?"
"Buh-buh-buh-" Charlie swallowed, his Adam's apple bobbing up and down in his throat like a ping-pong ball, "buh-bathroom, sir."
With a grunt, Two-Face dropped Charlie unceremoniously to the ground and started for the bathroom. The fluorescent bulb buzzed to life when he hit the switch and he winced, shielding his eyes with one hand until they could adjust to the blinding white light. When he finally drew his hand away from his face and surveyed the bathroom, he found a piece of paper taped to the mirror. The invitation was handwritten and all the letters were backwards, a not-so-subtle hint that he should hold it up in front of the mirror to read it properly.
He did so, frowned thoughtfully at the message and then gave his reflection a glance. He had to admire this proposed host's sense of whimsy. Words that had to be read in a mirror to be understood? How very fitting.
Harvey Dent watched as Two-Face flipped his silver dollar and caught it deftly. He tore his attention from the mirror and looked down at the scarred face of Lady Liberty.
Two-Face tore the invitation up.
"Her name was Looooola, she was a shoooowgirl," Harley sang, dancing around the kitchen she shared with Poison Ivy as she watered the plants that hung from every piece of available countertop, "with yellow feathers in her haaaaair and a dress cut down to there! Somethin', something', la la la la laaaaaaaa…"
On the couch, lying on her stomach, Poison Ivy pressed her pillow to either side of her head, trying to stifle the racket. "Harley!"
"Yeah, Red?" Harley turned, the waterspout of her watering can carelessly tipped a bit too far to one side, dribbling water onto the linoleum.
Ivy sat up, fixing her best and only friend with a cool, appraising look. "What's the rule?"
The blonde bit one side of her bottom lip and looked upwards as though trying to recall. In a few seconds, her face lit up and she grinned ear to ear, pleased with herself. "Never wear white pants after labor day."
Ivy's glare got just the least bit steelier. "The other rule."
"Uhm…don't bring home any more stray kittens?" Harley guessed.
"No Manilow before breakfast."
Harley's brow furrowed and she frowned. "Oh. Sorry, Red. I forgot."
Ivy released a sound somewhere between a grumble and a sigh as she flopped back down on the couch. "It's alright, Harl."
Harley beamed at being forgiven and returned to the task at hand. "You know, Red, you really need more music in your life. It makes plants flourish, y'know? There are studies and everything."
Ivy didn't respond, but rolled over onto her side, back to her bubbly roommate, intend on returning to slumber. Sleep hadn't been forthcoming until five in the morning and even plant people needed some respite from the harsh rigors of man's world. Her eyes slid shut and she listened to the rhythmic, hypnotic shuffling of Harley's feet as she shambled around the kitchen, watering the plants and preparing breakfast. Ivy sighed, yawned widely and let sleep overtake her for a few precious seconds before…
Knock, knock, knock, knock-knock!
"Two bits!" Harley automatically responded in a sing-song voice that shook Ivy out of her nap. Ivy sat up, blearily glaring at the door where the knocking originated. Harley skipped across the kitchen and opened the door, not caring that she was only dressed in a baggy t-shirt and socks.
Standing in the doorway, dressed in an outfit that was halfway between a drum majorette and a bellhop, a cheery young woman stood, grinning for all she was worth. Her short, curly brown hair was stuffed underneath a pillbox hat and her bucktooth smile made her look like a very merry chipmunk.
"You're inviiiiiited!" the singing telegram burst out, flinging her arms wise. She started to match in place, theatrically gesturing every few seconds as she sang to the tune of 'The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down'. "Oh, yes, you! There's a party in town and you're on the guest list! Trust me, dollface, you don't wanna miss this!"
Harley cackled and clapped with delight as the telegram continued her song, completely oblivious to the creeping jennies that were making their way across the kitchen floor behind her. "It's the biggest bash you've ever heard of! With a band of rogues we promise you'll love! So come on down! Join the fun! Come to-"
The slinking vines struck suddenly, bypassing Harley entirely and grabbing the singer by the throat. Several tendrils wrapped around her arms and legs, effectively trapping her and keeping her immobile as the others strangled her. Harley spun on her heel and looked at Ivy in horror. "Red! Stop it!"
Ivy remained impassive, meeting Harley's shocked and horrified gaze evenly. The telegram gagged and made a valiant effort to claw at the vines around her windpipe. The pink envelope she'd had in hand fluttered to the corridor floor. "She knows where we live, Harley."
The choking sounds started to subside. "Nobody can know where we live, Harley."
"But…" Harley turned back to look at the telegram with regret. The girl was starting to turn purple, her jaw moving sluggishly as she tried to grab a precious mouthful of air. "But she has such a nice singing voice."
Harley sighed and pouted as the vines released their hold on the telegram, dropping her to the ground once they were through squeezing the life out of her. "I guess you're right, Red."
"It's for the best, Harley." The vines gathered up the body of the singing telegram, wrapped her in a protective cocoon of greenery and pushed her to the door of the suspiciously overlarge garbage chute at the end of the hallway. Once the body was properly disposed of, the vines withdrew back into the apartment, grabbing up the pink envelope as they went. The slip of perfumed recycled paper was deposited in Ivy's hand by her loyal plant and she tore it open, giving its contents a perfunctory glance.
"What is it, Red?" Harley asked as she closed the door and returned to her breakfast making duties.
"An invitation." She gave a little snort. "To a dinner party."
"Oooh!" Harley squealed, hopping in place twice. "Can we go? Can we? Oh, please?"
"No one invites us to dinner parties, Harl. It's probably a trap."
Harley's eyes went wide and pleading and she clasped her hands in front of herself. "Pleeeeeeeeeease?"
Ivy didn't break eye contact with her friend for several agonizing moments and sighed heavily, a sign of the beginning of surrender. "I'll think about it."
"Yay!" Harley beamed.
"Sorry, Red. You go back to sleep. I'll wake you when breakfast is ready." Ivy lifted an eyebrow and Harley hastily corrected herself. "I mean…maybe lunch. I'll wake you up in time for lunch."
Harley returned to her breakfast as Ivy collapsed back on the sofa. The botanical terror breathed deep, relaxing into the cushions for a few more hours of shut eye. Silence-blessed, blessed silence-reigned for a few minutes, but then the blonde in the kitchen started to hum. Ivy didn't mind much. Humming was fine, as it was completely ignorable, but eventually Harley started mumbling the lyrics, growing incrementally louder until finally she belted, "Caaaaaaaaaaan you head the drums, Fernando?"
"No Abba, either!"
Yogurt kitten spout,
Open throttle trout,
Ukulele waddle fiddle,
Acetate chocolate griddle,
Returning adder blues,
Existence misfit shoes,
Incredible orange barbarian,
Night sediment librarian,
Vampire mime willow,
Island shriek itch pillow,
Target ruthless raven,
Even shocking craven,
Dueling cavalier caviar!
"Some nonsense," the Mad Hatter said meaningfully to his favorite teacup, "is less sensical than others."
He crumpled the invitation and stuffed it under his hat.
"Ukulele waddle fiddle indeed," he grumbled, refilling his teacup to the brim with air. "Everyone knows that a waddle fiddle is a type of mandolin!"
Little known fact: Killer Croc's mail is often too soggy to bother reading.
Another little known fact: Solomon Grundy eats his.
Selina Kyle sat at her customary table at a tiny neighborhood bistro on the upper west side and looked over the menu even though she didn't really need to. She gathered a few inquisitive glances-a beautiful woman eating alone usually did-but she didn't notice. Dining alone was something she enjoyed doing, having never been a particularly social creature, and considering how much her life as a socialite demanded interaction at various soirees, she took a strange sort of delight in quiet, solitary moments like this.
The waiter approached, a cute little redhead with face full of freckles and a crooked smile that Selina couldn't help but return. He was seventeen if he was a day. "Uhm, are you ready to order ma'am? Uh-miss! I mean miss! Are you ready to order, miss?"
Her eyes lit with unexpressed mirth as the waiter nervously ran his fingers through his shaggy hair. "Ma'am is fine. I'll have the chicken salad sandwich, on wheat and a glass of tomato juice, please."
The waiter took her menu and blushed when her fingers brushed his during the exchange. She smiled just a little wider, enjoying how easily she could still fluster a youngster with just a glance. She was used to being ogled, but there was something so charmingly innocent about the waiter who couldn't hold her gaze for more than a second at a time that she couldn't stop grinning, even after he stumbled away.
She turned her attention to the large picture window and looked out at the hustle and bustle of Gotham in the midday sun. For once, the sky was blue and virtually cloudless and the citizens were out in full force, eating at hotdog stands and sipping coffee on street corners, enjoying the unusually nice weather.
"Excuse me, miss? Erm…ma'am?"
Selina turned and met the eyes of the flustered waiter. He held a deep violet envelope in his hands, trimmed with black. In elegant script, the words "The Brunette at Table Nine" were written in emerald green ink.
"I think this is for you." He offered the envelope shyly and she took it.
"Thank you," she responded politely, frowning as she studied the handwriting. The writing was very delicate, bordering on the feminine, and was obviously made by a steady, practiced hand. The waiter excused himself and she brought the envelope to her nostrils, giving it a whiff. The cloying, sweet scent of a very high end perfume assaulted her senses and she sneezed.
She sniffled twice and tore the envelope open. An ivory invitation was enclosed. The paper was thick, expensive card stock, and the message on it was handwritten, alternating lines of black and purple ink.
How much is that kitten in the window?
The one with the bullwhip and mask?
Instantly, Selina's head jerked up and she scanned her surroundings. She gave every patron of the bistro a glance, trying to determine who might be watching her for a reaction. Everyone else was engrossed in whatever they were doing-couples gazing at each other over their sandwiches, girlfriends gossiping over their salads-no one gave a fleeting look in her direction. Selina bit her lip and looked back down at the invitation.
A date and time was printed at the very bottom of page, as well as an address. Her eyebrows knit together as she considered. While she was suspicious, she was also terribly, terribly curious…
She smirked to herself, shook her head and tucked the invitation back into its envelope.
"Oh, no. Not this time."
Lex Luthor's invitation arrived in the form of a gift basket full of rocks that were painted neon green.
He was not amused.
Oswald Cobblepot's invitation was delivered by a Strip-O-Gram.
He was amused.
A cad die olive truly irony
A flagrancies right omit too op
Egomania ginger, I.
Slain vile sunday log on!
With a flourish, Edward Nygma withdrew a pencil from his breast pocket and made short work of deciphering the senseless anagram, muttering to himself the entire time.
"Just because it's an anagram," he grumbled, crossing out each letter as they were used, "doesn't mean it's clever. A little effort would be nice."
You are cordially invited
To a gathering of import
In Enigma, Georgia.
Villains and rogues only!
Eddie chewed the end of his pencil and the phone rang, pulling him from his thoughts.
"Hey, Eddums?" a voice crackled over the line.
"Yeah. Strange question. Are you having a party?"
He frowned. "What?"
"We got invitations," she replied. "Dinner party, Enigma, Georgia. We figured…"
"No, not me."
"I got one too."
Edward was silent. So was Techie. The silence stretched to the point of awkwardness, then went on a little longer, just for good measure.
Edward scratched his head and cleared his throat. "So…uh…you guys going?"
"Eh. Sure. Why the hell not?" There was another awkward silence. "You?"
Edward looked down at the invitation, turned it over in his hands a few times and shrugged, even though she couldn't see it. "I guess."
"Then...uhm. We'll see you there."
"Is Jonathan going?"
"He's not exactly in love with the idea." Techie chuckled nervously. "But after the Captain Cold incident, I don't think he'd let us leave him behind."
Edward's eyebrows shot up. "Captain Cold…incident? There was a whole incident?"
"Um. Yeah. Airport parking garage, hypothermia. It's a long story. Look, I've gotta go. We'll see you at the party."