Toyman cried with fear; he turned his head slightly, and his eyes widened on seeing Batman, as if remembering that the Caped Crusader was there. “Batman!” Toyman cried, holding out his hands to Batman in supplication. “Please! Y-you’ve got to save me! You can’t just let her kill me!”
“Sadly, no,” Batman agreed. “I can’t.” Batman slightly lifted his head. “Mrs. Coleworth, this is Batman. You must know I’m here. I understand your outrage at Schott, but you don’t have the right–”
“I will give you a sporting chance, Mr. Schott,” Mrs. Coleworth’s voice went on, as if Batman had not spoken. “You do love games, don’t you? Then you’ll love this one. I am waiting for you in the center of this house. If you can find your way safely to me, we will leave the house together and never see one another again. On that, you have my word.” On cue, a door on the other side of the room noiselessly slid open. “Your journey begins here, Mr. Schott. Good luck to you.”
Batman frowned. He wasn’t used to being ignored.
“W-what can we do, Batman?” Schott asked, trembling with fear. “Sh-she means it! She’s crazy!”
“It takes one to know one, I suppose,” Batman said. “You heard the lady, Schott. We’re playing by her rules. All we can do is play the game out.” The Caped Crusader moved unhesitatingly toward the open door.
“What?!” Schott cried. “No! S-she’s crazy! She’s going to kill me! I-I’m not going in there!”
“Suit yourself,” Batman said, without breaking stride or even looking back. “Good luck staying here… alone.”
Toyman thought for just a second. “Wait!” he cried, scrambling after Batman. “D-don’t leave me here!”
Batman halted at the door. Toyman came up short behind him. Batman placed a finger to his lips, signaling for silence; Toyman nodded. The room behind seemed to be an old-fashioned music room, with a concert grand piano, plush sofas and chairs for listening, and a central area for a singer to stand where he or she would be surrounded by the audience. Another door stood on the far side of the room.
Suspecting a trap, Batman threw his batarang into the room. It made a circuit of the room and returned to his blue-gloved hand. Nothing happened.
Slowly, cautiously, Batman stepped into the room. Toyman followed.
They were halfway across the room when it happened.
“Aaah! My ears!” Toyman cried, clapping his hands over them to block out the sound, but it was no use.
It seemed to be coming from the piano. It was a childish tune, one Batman barely recognized from his halcyon days before the murders of his parents, but magnified so loud that even momentary exposure would shatter the eardrums. His own were protected within his lined cowl, but even that would not hold up indefinitely.
Batman snapped a mini-bomb from his utility belt and hurled it at the piano. The beautifully crafted instrument was demolished in a small explosion, and the deafening sound died away.
Toyman, panting for breath, slowly removed his hands from his ears. “That — I — she nearly–!” the villain stammered, unused to being on this end of a cleverly constructed death trap.
“What was that song?” Batman asked.
“Huh?” Toyman said. “The song? The Teddy Bears Picnic. Why?”
“Just curious.” Batman continued walking across the room to the other door. When he got within ten steps of it, the voice came on again.
“Congratulations, Mr. Schott,” it said. “You have made it past the first of my little traps. As you have no doubt guessed, the house is full of them. You see, I’m giving you a better chance than my poor Andrew had. I don’t intend to murder you in your sleep, as you did him. We’ll see if you’re as adept at surviving traps as you are at making them!” And the door slid open.
“So this is what this feels like,” Toyman muttered. Batman scowled, but did not favor Toyman with his wrath.
Single file, Batman leading, the unlikely duo walked slowly into the next room. This was a library, ever wall lined from floor to ceiling with shelves stacked with books. Batman noticed there were no chairs, no tables, no place to sit and read. Obviously another trap; nothing to hide behind. The floor was black and white marble tile.
“Wait,” he said to Toyman. The villain nodded, pressing the back of his fist against his mouth to stifle another cough. Batman unclipped a small capsule from his belt and rolled it across the floor. Nothing.
“Perhaps weight-sensitive triggers,” Batman said, more to himself than to Toyman. “Nothing for it but to try.” Slowly, Batman walked into the room. “Stay behind me, and step only on the tiles I step on,” Batman said. “No point in you setting off any traps that I–”
“What’s that?” Toyman screeched, pointing. As Batman stepped on a tile, a book fell off a shelf of its own volition. It landed on its spine, flipped open, and a cardboard figure of Robin Hood popped up, bow drawn.
“A pop-up book,” Toyman began. “In a library like this? I–”
His words were cut short as the cardboard figure launched its arrow. Batman easily deflected it with his cape. “Some kind of poisoned dart, I’d guess,” he said.
“Batman!” Toyman cried out, as dozens more books dropped from their shelves.
“Get down!” Batman yelled, whirling his cape into a shield. He had no idea if the rest of the books would have as easily dispatched threats as the cardboard arrow, or if more drastic measures were required.
Toyman took the decision out of his hands. From a pocket inside his coat, Toyman produced a miniature winged dragon that flew over Batman’s head and incinerated the books with a blast of fiery breath.
Batman was astonished. “You — you had that all along?”
“You never asked,” Toyman said.
Batman admitted that was true. He hadn’t checked Toyman for concealed weapons; the man’s own buffoonish manner made Batman forget that he could be dangerous. After years of fighting men like the Joker and Penguin, Batman should have known better. “What else do you have?”
“Do we want to worry about that now?” Toyman asked. “If I do have anything else, I should keep it in case more — HAAAKK!” Another coughing spasm shook the villain, and he covered his mouth with his fist again.
“You should get that cough looked at,” Batman suggested, mirthlessly.
“I will, if we get out of here alive,” Toyman agreed. The two men arrived at the next door.
“I’m impressed, Mr. Schott,” the voice said again. “I didn’t expect you to make it this far. You’re almost there; think you can make it?”
“She doesn’t seem to know you’re here, Batman,” Toyman said.
“I know,” Batman agreed. “Come on, let’s see what the next room has to offer.”
Slowly, cautiously, Batman opened the door. And Toyman screamed.
“Good Lord!” Toyman cried out.
It was a wind-up monkey, a classic children’s toy, that clanged two metal cymbals together when it was wound up. The only visible difference between this specimen and the classic model was that this one was roughly fifteen feet tall.
“This woman must have hired the Joker’s engineering firm,” Batman quipped.
As the giant chimp moved, another difference became evident. This one did not clang its cymbals together; it slammed them forward in an attempt to smash Toyman like a bug.
Batman dived, tackling Schott like a football player and shoving him out of the way moments before the metal cymbal struck the floor. Almost before they were on their feet again, the second cymbal came hurtling toward them.
In one fluid motion, Batman drew a batarang and threw it. It struck the robotic chimp’s arm, deflecting it just enough that the cymbal missed them by inches. The impact still knocked them off their feet.
“Schott,” Batman said, “if you have any more tricks, now may be the time!”
“Just these,” Schott said, pulling a fist out of his jacket pocket and opening it. A handful of small wooden squares, with letters of the alphabet engraved on them, rested in his pudgy palm.
“Scrabble tiles?” Batman asked. “How will–?”
“Just get the chimp to raise its hands above its head!” Toyman declared.
Batman hesitated just a second, then fired his retractable bat-line to the ceiling. He swung upward on the rope, kicking past the chimp’s face, hoping that the robot was motion-activated as he thought.
Sure enough, the twin cymbals flew upward at the swinging Batman. Toyman then hurled the handful of wooden tiles at the giant metal cymbals.
Batman let go of the rope and somersaulted to the floor, watching the cymbals clang together, apparently crushing the tiles between them.
“I don’t know what those things were supposed to do, Toyman,” Batman said, “but they–”
Then Batman noticed. The cymbals were still stuck together. The robot chimp was trying desperately to pull them apart, but they remained together.
In spite of himself, Batman was impressed. “Magnetized?”
“Super-strong epoxy,” Toyman corrected. “Makes the stuff they attach wings onto planes with look like rubber cement.”
The eerie grin frozen on its face, the chimp pulled harder and harder to separate the cymbals. So hard, its robotic arms tore free from their sockets in a shower of sparks. Batman whipped his cape up over himself and Toyman to protect themselves. The chimp then fell over backward, deactivated.
“Bravo, Mr. Schott, bravo,” the voice came again. “You have passed the three tasks of peril. I congratulate you. You have reached the center of the house.”
“I-I have?” Toyman stammered, anxiously. “I won? I’m free?”
“I wouldn’t say that,” Batman added grimly.
“I am behind this last remaining door,” the voice said. “Open it, and we will leave this place together, and you will never hear from me again.”
With glee, Toyman reached for the doorknob. Batman stood still, a grim frown on his face.
Toyman flung open the door, a wide grin on his face. The grin changed to an expression of shock and sheer terror, followed by another coughing spasm.
“Oh, no!” Toyman sputtered around his coughs.
In the center of the room, surrounded by flowers of every imaginable color, stood a shining silver bier. On that bier rested a coffin of pure, sparkling glass. Within lay the preserved body of a middle-aged woman, eyes closed in serenity, hands folded over the breast of the white gown she wore.
“That’s right, Mr. Schott,” the recorded voice said. “I am dead. I knew I would not live to see completion of my grand scheme of revenge; my doctors told me that. I did not expect you to get this far, but now that you have, I will keep my word. You and I will leave this place together. In ten seconds, a bomb is going off that will reduce this mansion and everything in it to random atoms.”
“A bomb!” Toyman screamed. “No! Y-you can’t!”
“Farewell, Mr. Schott,” the voice droned on. “Or perhaps simply au revoir. Maybe we’ll meet again — in Hell!”
“A bomb! She lied! She tricked me!” Schott screamed. “Batman! We’ve got to get out of–” Schott whirled on his heel and found himself alone. “Batman!” he cried out. “W-where are you? Batman! Batman!” In terror, Schott ran out of the room. He passed the broken robot chimp, the ashes of the books, the ruined piano, and finally the front room. He stopped dead at the front door.
Batman stood there, cape about his sides, like a grim bird of prey perched atop a dead branch.
“Batman!” Schott screamed. “W-we have to get out of here! Th-there’s a bomb! It’s going to–”
“Do you mean this?” Batman asked, producing a small black box from under his cape. Two wires led from connectors on the box, red and black, snipped neatly in two.
Schott goggled with amazement. “Y-you… how did you find it — in only ten seconds?!”
“I had a little more time than that,” Batman said. “As soon as we were told there were no more booby-traps, I went after it. I had a device in my belt that helped me locate it; it detects electronic timing devices.”
“B-but — h-how did you know?”
“I suspected something like it from the first,” Batman said. “Mrs. Coleworth always spoke only to you, never mentioned that someone else had crashed the party. And I doubted she would give you any chance of getting out of here alive, after murdering her son.”
Schott hung his head in shame. “Batman, I — you — thank you. You saved my life.”
“Don’t thank me, Schott,” Batman snapped. “I saved your life because I feel no one has the right to take another’s life, not because I felt that yours was worth saving.” Before Schott could react, Batman had quickly snapped handcuffs onto his wrists. “That’s in case you have any more clever toys in your pockets. Now, come on — I want you to meet a friend of mine. His name is Gordon, and he just loves finding new homes for overgrown children with dangerous toys.”