“And she’s sure it’s the Toyman?” Batman asked as he piloted the sleek Batmobile through the sleeping streets of Gotham City. He conversed with his old friend Commissioner James W. Gordon through a hands-free speakerphone mounted in the dashboard, a special innovation he had designed.
“That’s what she says,” Gordon replied. “The security camera at the toll booth got a picture of the vehicle — a green 1985 Corolla. No clear shot of the driver or the license plate.”
“A Toy-ota,” Batman said dryly. “That would be him, all right.”
“Do you want to call in Superman?” Gordon asked. “Winslow P. Schott is his punching bag, after all.”
“No,” Batman replied. “If Toyman came to my city, he’ll have to deal with me.” What Batman didn’t tell his old friend was that Superman, as Clark Kent, was on a well-deserved weekend getaway with his fiancée, Kristin Wells. Batman wasn’t going to disturb him unnecessarily. “I’ll handle it, Jim. Batman out.” At the sound of the final two words, the automated phone broke the connection. “Batcave,” Batman said, as he turned the Batmobile down Finger Avenue.
In a moment an English voice, only slightly sleep-blurred, came through. “Yes, sir?” he asked.
“Alfred,” Batman said, “please run a check of computer records of all car rental companies in Metropolis. Find out who rented a 1985 Toyota Corolla, color green, in the past week.”
“Very good, sir,” said Alfred Pennyworth. “I should have the answer for you within ten minutes.”
As the Batmobile turned down Dozier Place, Batman saw two gangs of street punks battling each other. The mad-eyed youths attacked one another with broken bottles, short-bladed knives, and their own fists. “That should be just about right,” he said as the Batmobile braked to a stop.
Nine minutes later, dusting his hands, Batman returned to the Batmobile. “I have the information you requested, sir,” Alfred’s voice came through the speakerphone. “I am sending you the printout now.”
“Thank you, Alfred,” Batman said, settling into the driver’s seat. A thin strip of paper printed out from beneath the dashboard; Batman tore it off and brought it up to read. Only two green 1985 Corollas had been rented in Metropolis in the past week, one in the name of Bradley Parker. Batman smiled grimly. As long as these villains insisted on being cute, he would never have trouble finding them.
“Jim,” Batman said after reestablishing a voice link to police headquarters, “I have the license number of the car Toyman is driving. Please have your men look for it and notify me.” After he read the number to the commissioner, Batman added, “Oh, and there’s a cleanup on Dozier, near 66th.”
Fifteen minutes later, the Batman received a radio call from a patrol car that they had spotted the vehicle in question. It was on the outskirts of Gotham City, headed for the elite hills where grand mansions, monuments of an earlier time, dotted the landscape spaced far apart. Wayne Manor was one of these. There weren’t nearly so many now; most had been torn down as the occupants had lost their fortunes one way or another, or been converted into public museums or reclusive medical clinics and the like. In fact, Batman could think of only one other such mansion still in private ownership as a residence. He wondered if the Toyman could be headed there.
As he sent the Batmobile rocketing toward the area, Batman considered the Toyman’s motives. While awaiting the radio call and searching for the Corolla on his own, Batman had done a quick computer check of likely targets in Gotham City for the Toyman. He found none; no valuable antique toy exhibits, nothing like that. This puzzled him. Batman had never faced him in battle, but it was his understanding that the Toyman was a theme villain not unlike the sort he usually fought, slow to depart from his obsession.
As he neared the general area of the mansions, Batman put the Batmobile on silent running. The headlights cut out, replaced by an infrared display. There were no street lights out in this area; in the shadows of the night, the Batmobile would be nearly invisible.
In a very short time, Batman saw what he was searching for. The green Toyota came cruising across his path, driving slowly. Batman saw the driver’s head, turning this way and that, searching.
Batman nearly smiled. He’s lost!
Sure enough, the Corolla slowly braked to a halt at the side of the road, and the chubby man inside took out a piece of paper. A sudden fit of violent coughing shook him, then subsided, and he began to study the paper.
As the Batmobile door silently slid open, Batman almost felt sorry for his quarry. He never had a chance.
“Mawther Avenue… Mawther Avenue…” the Toyman muttered to himself as he scanned a map with the aid of a pencil-flashlight shaped like a miniature pogo-stick. “Why in the world can’t they have proper street signs out here in the sticks? Mawther…”
“Lost your way?” a stern voice at the Toyman’s side suddenly demanded, making the villain yelp with fright and drop his flashlight. He turned his head to face the speaker, and started in fear again.
“B-Batman!” he cried.
“The same,” Batman agreed. “You’re a long way from home, Mr. Schott. Come with me; I’ll help you get where you belong.”
Toyman tried to act defiant under his fear. “Y-you have no right to harass me, Batman! I-I’ve broken no laws!”
“No?” Batman asked. “When you left Draper’s Island, you didn’t exactly use the front door. And now you’ve crossed a state line. You’re a fugitive, Mr. Schott. I won’t even add the part about renting a car under a false name.”
“Y-you know about that?” Toyman stammered, impressed.
“Bradley Parker,” Batman confirmed. “Be more imaginative next time.”
“I’ll do that,” Toyman growled, suddenly flinging his hand in Batman’s direction. And the night erupted in a brilliant blaze of light.
Unaffected by the sudden glare, Batman yanked the Toyota‘s door open with his left hand and roughly hauled the Toyman out of the car with his right, in a single fluid motion that made the portly villain shriek with terror. The shriek turned into a coughing fit, then to whimpered sobs.
“Flash powder, Toyman?” Batman sneered as the whimpering villain cowered on the pavement. “I’m disappointed. No jack-in-the-box armed with submachine gun? No exploding yo-yo?“
“I-it was spur of the moment,” Toyman said, recovering his wits somewhat and climbing awkwardly to his feet. “I like the idea of the jack-in-the-box, though; I’ll have to use that someday. Why didn’t my flash blind you?”
“That would be telling,” Batman said, dismissing the question. No need to tell the Toyman about the polarized contact lenses he wore under his cowl. “Now, suppose you do some telling. What are you doing way out here?”
Toyman sighed a resigned sigh. “It’ll probably go better at my trial if I cooperate now. I was invited to come here, Batman.”
“Invited?” Batman asked, an eyebrow raising beneath his mask. “By whom?”
“I don’t know by whom,” Toyman continued. “I received an anonymous letter inviting me to come to 1955 Mawther Avenue to purchase a green kryptonite meteorite. Naturally, I was intrigued.”
“Kryptonite!” Batman exploded. This angered him. All kryptonite on Earth at the time had been transmuted into iron by a chain reaction years ago, but more meteorites had landed on Earth since, drawn through the space-warp created by the ship that brought his friend Superman to this planet.
“Oh, yes,” Toyman continued. “I had such grand plans for it — radio-controlled toy airplanes dropping kryptonite bombs, that sort of thing.”
“Well, you can forget those plans,” Batman snarled. “You and I are going to keep your little meeting. And your mysterious seller is going to jail right along with you!” Legislation had been passed, years ago, making the possession or sale of kryptonite a criminal offense. “Where did you say it was, again?”
“1955 Mawther Avenue,” Toyman replied.
Batman’s eyebrow raised again.
The Batmobile had halted about a block from the mansion. They got out and walked the rest of the way, Toyman in front, Batman behind.
“We go in slow,” Batman advised. “I’m not going to alert anyone to my presence until I have to; then again, I’m not letting you out of my sight.”
“Sir, yes, sir,” Toyman joked. Batman saw his hand stealing into the pocket of his pink-and-blue-striped coat; quickly, a powerful hand garbed in dark blue leather clamped down on Toyman’s wrist.
“Easy, easy!” Toyman said. “I was just getting the coin.”
“What coin?” Batman demanded. He relaxed his grip; Toyman produced a small, blank metal disk from his pocket.
“This came with the message,” Toyman said, holding it up for Batman to see. “Apparently, I need it to be admitted.”
Batman took the coin, turned it over in his fingers a couple of times. “Electronic,” he decided. “Probably opens some kind of automated lock.” He handed the disk back to Toyman. “Very well.”
Soon the unlikely duo were at the front steps of the mansion. It was dark and uninviting; no lights burned that were visible from outside. Toyman knocked on the door once, then gasped in surprise as the door slid open, all on its own.
“The electronic lock system,” Batman whispered. “It must have recognized the key coin.” Toyman nodded. He stepped across the threshhold; Batman slipped in quickly behind him, even as the door began to close. It must have been set to admit only one. When the door closed, the pair were in darkness, utter and black.
“Welcome, Winslow Schott,” a woman’s voice sounded from the darkness. “I’m so glad you could make it!”
“What is this?” Toyman demanded. “Turn on the lights! What’s going on?”
“I’m afraid I haven’t been quite honest with you,” the voice continued. “I have not brought you here to purchase kryptonite. You are here to pay for what you did!”
“What?” Toyman screamed. “What I — who are you? What is this?!”
“You are here,” the woman went on, “to be executed… for murder.”
“Murder?!” Toyman screamed, terror in his voice. “No! Th-this is crazy! Turn on the lights! Let me out!”
Batman, beside the frantic villain, contemplated the scene in silence. The voice was speaking only to Toyman; whoever controlled this house must not have been aware of his presence yet.
Suddenly, the lights blazed on. Toyman’s hands flew to his face to cover his eyes from the sudden glare; Batman, behind his polarized lenses, merely stared grimly.
“Look on the face of your victim, Toyman,” the woman’s voice said, from everywhere and nowhere. “Look at the boy you murdered!”
The room was filled with framed photographs of all sizes. The photographs all showed a boy at varying ages from about three to around twelve. In each photograph the boy was surrounded by large, expensive toys. As the boy in the photographs grew older, his expression grew less and less happy. In the photos where he looked the oldest, he was positively scowling.
Toyman looked from one photograph to the other, terror showing on his face. “Y-you’re insane!” he declared “I-I’ve never seen this boy bef–” Toyman fell silent as his eyes landed on one of the more recent photographs, the boy on the verge of his teens. “Oh, my God,” he whispered.
“Recognize him?” Batman asked.
“I-I think I do,” Toyman muttered, terrified. “B-but that’s incredible! H-his name was Nimball! J-Jack Nimball!”
“Nimball?” Batman asked, remembering the name from the Justice League files. “The man who took your place as Toyman, when you were supposedly reformed?”
“You didn’t really believe his name was ‘Jack B. Nimball,’ did you?” the voice accused. “As if any mother would name her son that! No, that was a name he adopted, when he turned his back on his family! The man you murdered, Winslow Schott, was Andrew Coleworth, Junior — my son! And I have brought you here to die for it!”
Toyman whimpered in fear.
Batman watched the Toyman’s terror with contempt. “I thought nobody wanted to trap you, except the good guys,” he said. Then he wondered why he had to get a dig in; he figured he had been spending too much time in the company of Green Arrow.
“P-please!” Toyman begged. “I-I didn’t know he was your son! I swear I didn’t! I-I didn’t mean — let me out! Please, let me out!”
“I was very young when I married old Andrew Coleworth,” the voice went on, as if Toyman had not spoken. “Less than half his age. I wanted money, fame, a place in society… and I took the easy way to get it. Nothing mattered to Andrew but his financial empire. When our son was born, I have to admit we both neglected him to pursue our own interests.”
“Madam, please,” Toyman whimpered, on the verge of tears.
“Andrew spent his every waking moment running his empire, acquiring more, ever more,” the voice continued. “And I lived only for the society parties, the personal appearances, the paparazzi. Our little boy was given every indulgence, rooms filled with expensive toys — everything a child could want, except the love of his parents.”
Behind the cowl of the Batman, Bruce Wayne’s jaw tightened. He had seen other wealthy children treated thus.
“At first, little Andrew loved his toys with a child’s love. But as he grew he began to resent them, saw them for what they were: replacements for a mother’s love, a father’s devotion. He realized that he had parents who saw him as little more than another toy. But we, wrapped up in our own cares, were oblivious to his needs, his desires.”
Screaming in terror, Toyman ran to the door and yanked at the knob, pounding on it with his fists. Another coughing fit shook him, but he remained steadfast in his determination to escape. His portly body shuddering with coughs, he continued to pound on the door. The voice droned on.
“As a man, young Andrew seemed determined to bring shame on his father, flunking out of one university after another. The big blowup finally came; seeing him as a threat to his empire, my husband denounced his own son and sent him away. For the first time, I realized what I had lost: my son. For possibly the first time, I truly loved my boy. I wanted him back. I pleaded with my husband to make peace with him. But I was just a toy to my husband, and he coldly pointed out that there were a dozen younger, prettier women ready to take my place. So I kept quiet after that. Shortly after, my husband died of a heart attack while shouting at his board of directors. I tried to get my son back; wrote him letters, hired private detectives, sent him checks that were returned uncashed. My little Andrew had turned his back on everything connected with his home.”
Batman listened intently. It was clear what he was dealing with. Now the problem would be getting out.
“Eventually, I heard of what Andrew had done,” the voice continued. “Changed his name to ‘Jack B. Nimball,’ of all things. Hired that disreputable Monitor person to provide him with special weapons. And, on your temporary retirement from crime, Mr. Schott, set out to make the objects that had come to symbolize his alienation from his family into the tools of a spectacular life of adventure and roguery. In short, Toyman, he became the new you.”
Toyman sank to his knees and rested his forehead against the door, sobbing with terror.
“But your retirement was short-lived, wasn’t it, Mr. Schott? And, when you decided to return to crime, so was my son — short-lived, that is. You snuffed out his life with a toy — a toy!” A pause. “And now, Mr. Schott, I am going to return the favor. The game has changed on you, Toyman, and I am writing the rules now.”