“Gift for you, Mister Edge,” said the intercom. “Want it sent up to your office?
That’s odd , thought Morgan Edge, real estate mogul and the richest non-Luthor in Metropolis. No one likes me enough to give me gifts . “Sure, bring it up,” he said.
A few minutes later, a comically oversized white gift box, complete with bright red bow, was dropped by dolly outside Edge’s office door. Edge dragged it into the office, only for the top to pop open and a strange woman dressed like a clown to pop out. Before Edge could yell for help, she produced a large wooden mallet from seemingly nowhere and swung it straight at his head, knocking him out cold.
“Got him, sugar,” said Harley Quinn into her cell phone. “Ya coming?”
Poison Ivy materialized out of the potted tree in the corner of the office. “You know I could have done this much more easily. I come in the office like I did just now, grow some knockout spores, he keels over before he knows what hit him. And it would give you more time to set up the bombs.”
“I know, sugar,” said Harley, “but come on, you gotta let me put on a show sometimes. What’s this guy gonna remember better, my scheme or yours?”
“Fair enough,” said Ivy with a chuckle. “Now come on, we’ve got work to do before he wakes up.”
Morgan Edge awoke in a strange, upside-down warehouse. Except he quickly realized, from the rushing of blood to his head and the tightness around his left ankle, that it was actually not the warehouse that was upside down. Looking up at his feet, he saw he was caught in a leafy vine hanging from the ceiling. Looking down at the floor, he saw Ivy and Harley, one wearing a terrifying scowl and the other struggling to contain giggles.
“Let’s cut to the chase,” said Ivy. “You’re planning to destroy a total of about two thousand acres of forest for your new luxury housing development. Serenity Gardens, was it? We aren’t okay with that. So Harley here has rigged three of your major office buildings with explosives, which she can remotely detonate at any moment, one by one.”
“You lunatics!” said Edge.
“Don’t worry,” said Ivy. “They’ve been completely evacuated, and I’ve set up briar perimeters to stop anyone from getting close enough to be hurt.”
“That’s not what I care about!” said Edge. “Do you have any idea what those buildings are worth?”
“Right,” said Ivy. “Sorry, I forgot you were a soulless piece of shit for a second. Anyway, I know all your tenants have renter’s insurance, so the only person who stands to lose anything if those buildings go down is the landlord. “ Ivy seemed to cough up some mucus as she let out that last word.
“What the hell do you want?” said Edge. “Not that I’m in the habit of negotiating with supervillains.”
“The only villain here,” said Ivy, “is the one who drew up plans to kill millions of plants and animals for no other reason than to bring his fat pockets even closer to bursting. Harley, tell him what we want.”
“Number one,” said Harley with a grin, “you’re gonna call off all plans for Serenity Gardens. Number two, you’re gonna donate the land to the Department of the Interior as a new nature reserve. And number three, you’re gonna donate two thirds of your personal bank account, which I believe comes to juuuust about four billion, to Conservation International. Sound like a plan, sweetie?”
“Each of those demands is an office building you get to keep, by the way,” said Ivy. “We’ve got your checkbook and your cell phone right here. Should just take a minute.”
Edge tried to hide the fear in his eyes. “If you think I’m just gonna bend over and—“
“My girlfriend has a very short attention span, you know,” said Ivy. “She’ll probably get bored of this conversation in about thirty seconds, and when she’s bored, she likes to blow things up.”
“Superman! Help me!” Edge shouted as a hail-mary.
“No good!” said Harley. “This place is ultra-soundproofed, tech courtesy of Master Jailer himself. He didn’t even charge us, he thought our plan was such a hoot!”
“Alright,” said Edge. “Here, give me the phone and the checkbook.”
“Oh!” said Harley, handing Edge a piece of paper along with his phone and checkbook. “Almost forgot. We wrote up a script for the calls, just in case you were gonna say some secret password to let someone know you were in trouble.”
“Follow it to the letter,” said Ivy, “and make it sound convincing.”
“Fine,” said Edge. “Fine, you ruthless psycho bitches.” He began to make the requisite calls.
“You hear that, sugar?” said Harley. “We’re ruthless psycho bitches! You wanna put that on our business cards?”
“Definitely,” said Ivy with a smirk. “Now come on, we’re in goddamn Metropolis. We gotta jet back home before Big Blue catches our scent.”
A day and a half later, Harley and Ivy were taking an afternoon walk in hoodies and sunglasses, Ivy with a large drip coffee and Harley with a soy cappuccino.
“I appreciate you getting soy, dear,” said Ivy.
“Ya think I’m dumb enough to consume animal products around a lady who’s literally strangled factory farmers before?” replied Harley with a chuckle.
“Fair enough,” said Ivy. “But I wouldn’t strangle you. I might just put stinging nettles in your underwear.”
“Appreciated, sugar,” said Harley. They were passed by a pickup truck hanging a full-sized Confederate flag over its bed.
“Bleh,” said Harley. “Remind me again why we moved to Nashville of all places?”
“Because it’s far enough from Gotham that the cops won’t be looking for us,” said Ivy, “and because it hasn’t had any major superhero activity in years.”
“Ah, right,” said Harley, “so there’s no competition! We’ll be the only game in town! Smart thinkin’, sugar.”
“I more meant that we’re safe from capes who would get us thrown back in Arkham,” said Ivy, “but that too.”
“Maybe on the side of getting recognized as real superheroes,” said Harley, “we can finally get our country act off the ground!” She produced an acoustic guitar from seemingly nowhere and began strumming. “West Virginia, mountain mama…”
“How do you do that?” asked Ivy.
“How do I do what?” replied Harley.
“Grab stuff out of nowhere,” said Ivy. “I didn’t think you had powers?”
“I dunno, it’s just a thing I can do,” said Harley. “Never really thought of it as a superpower or anythin’.”
“So you haven’t been taking lessons from Zatanna, then,” said Ivy with a smirk.
“Nah,” said Harley, “I haven’t seen her in, what, eight months? Nine?”
“Wait,” said Ivy, “when did you fight Zatanna?”
“Oh, it wasn’t actually a fight,” said Harley. “I went to raves a bunch for the first couple months after I got away from… you know… and one day I recognized Z at the club, and we hung out.”
“You hung out?” said Ivy. “Elaborate.”
“Well…” said Harley, looking away from Ivy, “you know…”
Ivy gasped. “You didn’t.”
“I… might have,” said Harley, giggling.
“No,” said Ivy, beginning to laugh herself. “I didn’t even know she liked girls!”
“I don’t think she did, either,” said Harley.
“Did she know who you were?” asked Ivy. “I can’t imagine you were at the club in costume.”
“There were a couple moments I thought she mighta cottoned on,” said Harley, “but in any case she didn’t seem to care.”
Ivy guffawed. “My girlfriend’s fucked a Justice Leaguer?! Damn, when does your honorary police badge come in the mail?”
“To be totally fair,” said Harley, “so has Selina, a bunch of times.” Ivy giggled.
“So whatcha wanna do today, anyway?” said Harley. “We still have most of the money from the coal plant, neither of us have jobs, and we’re in the beautiful city of Nashville, Tennessee!”
“I thought you hated Nashville,” said Ivy.
“Bah, I contain multitudes,” said Harley. “Ooh, what’s this?” She stopped in her tracks and pressed her nose against the window of a pleasingly anachronistic toy store, whose sign read COMFORT & TOY.
“You’re such a kid,” said Ivy with a chuckle. “Sure, let’s take a look around.” The two entered the colorful store, observing all sorts of gorgeous mechanical knickknacks, and, surprisingly in this century, a complete absence of licensed or branded toys. A shriveled old shopkeeper stepped out to greet them.
“Welcome to Comfort & Toy,” said the shopkeeper. “Anything catch your eye?”
Ivy froze. “Oh, we were just browsing butwereallyneedtobegoingnowbye!” She grabbed Harley by the collar and escorted her swiftly out of the store.
“What’s goin’ on, Ivy?” said Harley once they were a block away. “I was gonna buy something!”
“That guy in there?” said Ivy with a grave look. “That’s the Toyman. I recognized him from one of my stints in the Secret Society or the Injustice Gang or whatever it was called at that point. He’s bad news.”
“What,” said Harley, “he made some wacky toy gadgets, stuffed Superman in a jack-in-the-box for a while? Doesn’t seem like that big a deal.”
Ivy grabbed Harley by the shoulders. “Harley,” she said, “he’s killed kids.”
Harley’s smile went away at once. “And you ran away? We need to do something! He didn’t look so tough, we coulda taken him easy.”
“I left,” said Ivy, “so we could come up with a plan. Jumping him in his lair, surrounded by deathtraps, with no knowledge of what he’s trying to do, isn’t how we save lives. We gotta play this smart.”
“Okay,” said Harley, pensively grabbing her chin and sitting down on a public bench. “Well, he’s never worn a mask, has he?”
“No,” said Ivy, sitting down next to her. “Why?”
“That means his face has gotta be in some databases. So if he’s showin’ it out in the open, he’s not playin’ the long game. He’s trying to do something soon, or else he’s already done it.”
“Smart,” said Ivy. “Distribution was always his gimmick. Sell innocuous-looking toys to random kids, flip a switch, toys turn into murder bots.”
“Well,” said Harley, “we can’t track down every single toy he’s sold. And even if we could—wait.” Harley’s expression turned from pensiveness to shock. “Who even buys old-style toys like that anymore? Kids these days want video games and drones and whatever.”
“So you’re saying his plan is impotent?” said Ivy.
“No,” said Harley, “I’m saying he’s going for a different market. Collectors! There’s a big toy expo in Nashville this time of year! I’ve been there!”
“Then what’s the shop for?” said Ivy.
“They won’t let you sell at the con unless you’re an established toy vendor,” said Harley. “And Toyman’s gotta be usin’ a new alias here since he’s been busted so many times, so maybe the shop is just setup for the con.”
“Not the most airtight reasoning,” said Ivy, “but it’s our best lead, since we don’t exactly have the means to track down everyone who’s bought from the shop. When exactly is the expo?”
Pensively resting a finger on her chin, Harley said, “I don’t know off the top of my head, but narrative momentum would dictate…” Suddenly a flyer marked “NASH TOY FEST” blew from across the street and landed on Harley’s face. “Yep! It’s tomorrow.”
“Okay, now you’re just showing off,” said Ivy.
“How? I didn’t even do anything!” said Harley.
Back at their studio apartment, Harley and Ivy talked strategy for a bit, then went to bed together to get some rest before the convention. Ivy dozed off quickly, but Harley restlessly squirmed and made uncomfortable, scared sounds.
“What’s wrong, babe?” said Ivy, roused.
“It’s just… I thought about… it’s nothing,” said Harley.
“Hey,” said Ivy. “He’s never going to touch you again. You’ll never even have to look at him.”
“How do you know?” said Harley, fear mounting in her voice.
“Because I’ll kick his ass,” said Ivy with a chuckle. “Who are you betting on, an elemental or a clown?”
Harley suddenly giggled. “Oh, so clowns are weak now? I see how it is.”
“Oh no,” said Ivy, “you’re not a clown, you’re a harlequin . Harlequins are way more badass.” They peacefully drifted off together.
Back at Comfort and Toy, the Toyman was greeted by a familiar presence. A man in a red suit with no head but a blank red mask floating above his shoulders, stepped out of seemingly nowhere.
“Are they ready?” asked the visitor.
“Of course,” replied Toyman. “Easiest job I’ve ever had, to be honest. And you’ll find him for me after this is done, right?”
“He’ll be free,” said the visitor, “but he’ll be just as doomed as you and as everyone else. It’s all going down the drain.”
“What?” said Toyman. “You never said anything about–”
“Cry me a river,” said the visitor. He walked away into nowhere, and as he left, the Toyman began to weep.