|Detective Comics #826|
|Gallery of Images · Main Discussion|
The story opens with Robin riding his motorcycle on a snowy Christmas Eve, being chased by several cars filled with gunmen. As he flees from his pursuers, Robin recalls how things got this way: for an entire week, he had been investigating a ring of gun dealers, but on the day that he had picked out to apprehend them, a mob of rival dealers showed up. He had been caught in the resulting conflict. During the chase, Robin's motorcycle is destroyed, and in return, he hurls a smoke grenade into the window of one of the dealers' cars. Unfortunately, one of the cars can still function even after the resulting crash, leaving Robin in a rather desperate situation. Suddenly, an SUV pulls up, yelling for him to get inside.
Needing distance from his attackers, Robin jumps inside, only to find out that his "rescuer" is none other than Joker, who knocks him unconscious with a knockout gas-spewing device before he can do anything. As he falls unconscious, Robin's memory suddenly shifts back to a conversation that he had with Dick and Bruce about The Joker's past, as well as his nature. Both crimefighters tell Tim that to Joker, the screams of his victims are "a sip of rare wine, the chorus of a favorite song", and that when he enters a scene, he finds the person most scared to perform his "routine" on.
Tim then wakens to the sound of Joker singing a Christmas song, and finds himself gagged, as well tied to one of chairs in the SUV with duct tape, Christmas lights, and a seat belt. Joker, driving the SUV, cheerfully greets him, and informs him that he had tossed Tim's utility belt out the window already. As Joker continues to prattle on, telling Tim how the meeting was pure coincidence, and how he had no ulterior motive to save him, Tim steels himself, determined to show no emotion toward the Harlequin of Hate. As he inspects his environment, he realizes that Joker has turned up the seat warmers as part of his torture, and notes a putrid smell inside the SUV.
Joker wraps up his "conversation" by informing Tim that he intends him no harm, and plans on letting him go. A few seconds later, however, he deliberately runs over a man with the SUV, and proceeds to run over him a second time under the pretense of "checking up" on him. Subsequently, Robin finds the real owners of the SUV (a young married couple that Joker had killed, thus explaining the smell) in the back, but is unable to do anything. Joker, meanwhile, dials 911 on a cell phone and reports a hit-and-run - one that he commits a few seconds later on a woman. As Robin watches, helpless, Joker proceeds to run over several more people, before going off to look for something to eat.
By now, Robin has figured out the Ace of Knaves' gag - to kill everyone he can, make him watch, and then kill him. He deduces that the owners of the SUV have kids, and thus, that there must be something under the seats that they dropped that he can use to escape his bonds. Just as he finds a small toy car that he can use, Joker pulls up to the Drive-Thru of a fast food restaurant and proceeds to start giving his order. Unfortunately, he is speaking far too quickly for the employee manning the Drive-Thru to understand, and when asked to repeat himself, the Harlequin of Hate suddenly breaks into a rage and demands to see the manager of the restaurant. The manager arrives, but Joker simply shoots him in cold blood and drives off.
Joker casually reflects on the disappointments in life, before snatching the toy car out of Robin's hand, explaining that he had set it there as a prank to instill false hope. He then reveals that he has no intention of letting the Boy Wonder go, and promises him that he will find nothing else under the car seats. Robin is shaken, but refuses to give up. At this point, Joker (oblivious to the fact that Tim has almost gotten his hand free using his sweat) tears the duct-taped gag out of Robin's mouth, wanting the Boy Wonder to beg for his life, but Tim steadfastly refuses. This prompts Joker to administer a bit of "persuasion" - namely, driving the SUV straight toward a Mall Santa and several children. Right before the SUV hits them, however, Robin quotes a line from the Marx Brothers ("You can't fool me. There ain't no sanity clause."), causing Joker to suddenly swerve away, amused.
The Harlequin of Hate congratulates Robin on knowing the classics of comedy, and Robin, seizing the opportunity, strikes up a conversation about the Marx Brothers. Joker soon gets into an argument with the Boy Wonder about where the "sanity clause" line had come from (Robin claims it to be "The Big Store"; Joker insists it is from "A Night At the Opera"), and soon begins to recall exactly how the scene went. As he become distracted, Robin, having gotten himself free by now, attacks him. Joker, caught entirely off-guard, is soundly pummeled, and thrown out of the SUV when Robin uses his own knockout gas nozzle against him. As he gets to his feet, Joker is run over by a gas tanker and thrown over the bridge that they had been driving over. Several minutes after the incident, Tim is joined by Batman, who informs him that Joker's body had not been found. Tim despairs at such a "Christmas present", but the Dark Knight comforts him, stating that he is proud that Tim had taken the worst that Joker could throw at him. Tim muses that such a pride in his accomplishment is something, to which Batman replies that sometimes, it is all that they receive.