Ben peered through the cracked doorway and then swore silently. It 
wasn't all of them. As far as he could see, the only occupants of 
the room were one of the Joker's muscular torpedos and the young 
woman who had aided in her boss's escape yesterday. It looked like 
she was packing a case. They would be on the move again. Not this 
time, he thought.

He waited until the thug passed close to the door, then Ben burst in 
and fell upon him. The fight was a short one. The Joker's henchmen 
were little more than muscular bar room brawlers, and they were no 
match for a trained martial artist. The beaten thug hit the floor 
with a meaty *THUD* and he stayed down.

Ben turned his attention to the Joker's lovely young female 
assistant. She was still standing wide-eyed near her case, and was 
clutching a handful of clothing.

"Aw, jeez," she muttered helplessly.

Her eyes flew to the door, but Ben took a few steps and closed off 
her avenue of escape. Resignation crossed her face, but she managed 
a small, tentative smile.

"Where is he?" Ben asked simply.

"Well," she said in a friendly tone. "Heh..fancy seein' you again."

"But this time I'm not looking down the barrel of a gun," Ben 
answered, unmoved. "Where is he?"

No longer disguised for the courtroom, where she had managed to 
smuggle in weapons, the tall and slender girl was still strikingly 
attractive, in a punkish sort of way. Short orange and black dyed 
hair framed her striking face, and dark green lipstick colored her 
full, pouting lips. She was certainly a match for the Joker.

The girl, for she looked to be no more than twenty now, gave a 
nervous smile and a shrug. "He...he's not here...anymore."

Ben gave a small sigh. "Fine. We wait, then. Sit down."

She did as she was told, sitting on the sofa. He looked at her, and 
she seemed to fold in on herself a bit in defeat. He couldn't help 
but think she looked like a girl who had simply fallen in with bad 
company. A girl who had fallen for the lure of easy riches and 
danger. He found himself feeling a pang of sympathy for this young 
woman who had been gullable enough to toss her life away.

"Are...are you takin' us in?" she asked in a small voice.

He regarded her as she looked at him with an expression that held out 
a sliver of hope, even though...

"I think you know the answer to that," he answered. "In fact..." He 
reached behind him and produced a pair of handcuffs. Better safe 
than sorry. He wasn't going to lose any of them. He walked toward 

Her eyes widened a bit, and she slid along the sofa as if to 
forestall his approach. "Umm...w..wait. Wait a minute..."

He paused. Perhaps she would tell him now. She looked about the 
room for a moment, then her eyes fell upon a small table. She half 
rose from the sofa, indicating the table.

"Can I have a cigarette..?" she asked.

He looked over at the table, and saw a package of cigarettes and a 
small lighter laying on top of what looked like a blueprint to a 
bank. He didn't see a weapon on the table. He looked back at her, 
and she smiled hopefully.

"Y..y'know..just a cigarette," she said, as if her captor hadn't 
understood what she meant. "I've only got a pack of the Joker's 
knock-out cigarettes, but I promise...I *promise* not to blow any of 
the smoke in your face."

Ben blinked and arched a brow. "I'm sorry? Did you say knock-out 
cigarettes?" he asked incredulously.

"Yeah," she said, smiling like someone who has to admit something 
embarrassing. "See, when you smoke 'em you can put a guy to sleep if 
you keep blowin' the smoke at 'im."

Ben just looked at her blankly. Was she hearing herself?

"They're supposed to taste kinda shitty, but the whole point is to 
use 'em to put somebody to sleep, y'know?" she confided.

"And...the Joker told you this, hmm?"

She smiled and nodded. "Yeah. But..but I won't use 'em on *you*."

He shook his head a bit, dumbfounded at the way the Joker had played 
with the girl's head. He had probably also told her that the gun she 
carried into the courtroom was loaded, but there was no mistaking the 
look of surprise on her face when she was fleeing the scene, pulled 
the trigger, and watched a small umbrella pop out of the barrel. She 
was clearly meant to be just another piece of eye candy for the 

"I see," he said. "So why do you want one, then?"

"Well..." she said with a bit of a nervous laugh. "Just to...calm me 
down, I guess. I mean, you're takin' us to jail, right?" She stood 
from the sofa. "I mean, after the Joker gets here an' all. 
So..y'know..while we wait." She smiled. "I'll be good. Honest."

He watched her standing there, like a child waiting for permission to 
have a cookie. Might as well keep her relaxed while they waited. If 
she was all wound up when that door came open, there was no telling 
what complications might arise.

"All right," he nodded. "But slowly." He put his fingers on the 
grip of his holstered sidearm for emphasis.

With a delighted grin, the girl moved over to the table and retrieved 
the package and lighter. She took a cigarette from the pack, placed 
it between her lips, and carefully lit it. She exhaled a plume of 
pale pink-ish smoke. She wrinkled her nose a bit and smiled 
sheepishly at Ben.

"They do taste shitty," she said, smoke still wafting from her lips.

Ben simply nodded and watched the door. He kept half an eye on the 
young woman as she stood by the table, just in case she got any ideas 
of raising an alarm or bolting for the door. 

They remained that way for a couple of minutes. He watched and 
waited, and she puffed. Now she moved hesitantly over to Ben. She 
smiled uneasily.

"Ummm...look, mister," she said. "I..ahh..I lied to you a little 
while ago."

"What do you mean?" he asked, expecting a bit more cooperation from 
the girl now that she had a chance to consider her situation.

"I mean...I *am* gonna put you to sleep..." She held up her 
hand. "With the cigarette."

He sighed a bit, exasperated. "You are, huh?"

She nodded. "Yeah, I gotta. I mean, Joker'll be really pissed if he 
ends up goin' back to Arkham...and it would be like so cool if I 
captured *you*, instead, y'know?"

She looked at him wide-eyed, as if she hoped he'd see the logic in it.

"So even though I said I wasn't goin' to, I'm gonna hafta use the 
cigarette to put you sleep." She smiled apologetically and shrugged.

Ben gave her a look. It was almost amusing. "And how are you going 
to manage that?"

The girl rolled her eyes, as if it were her turn to be 
exasperated. "Well, I'm gonna blow the smoke in your face, of 
course. See the smoke is like this really amazing knock-out gas if 
you haven't had the antidote, and when you breathe it you'll fall 
asleep for like hours. It's so cool."

Ben looked to the door again. He didn't want to be caught flat-
footed and having a ridiculous conversation when his quarry 
arrived. "I see," he humored.

"Yeah," she said. "I mean, it won't hurt or anything. It'll smell 
kinda sweet and then it'll make you feel like super sleepy...and then 
you'll fall asleep, okay?"

"Sure," Ben answered.

" wanna lay down so you don't fall?"

Riiiight. "Ah, no, I think I'll be quite all right."

The girl shrugged and started to take a puff of her cigarette, then 
she paused and looked at Ben.

"Umm...look, this might sound kinda dumb, but..."

Ben sighed again, wishing the Joker would just show up and put an end 
to this farce. He arched an inquisitive brow at the girl.

"Joker is like always on my case to work on 
personality, y'know? So could I just sort of try it out on you?"

"Look, miss, why don't you just..."

"Pleeeeease? C'mon, mister. Please?"

For the love of... "Sure," he said curtly. "Fine."

"Thanks for makin' all this easy," she said with a grateful 
smile. "I really appreciate it."

She stood straighter and her face assumed an expression of bored 
amusement. When she spoke, her voice was silky and of a more mature 

"You've put up a good struggle, my dear," she said. "They're aren't 
many who can challenge the likes of the Jokeress."

Ben started to comment, but reconsidered. Jokeress. Yeesh.

"But now," she said with a somewhat imperious wave of her 
cigarette. "It's time to put an end to this little game."

She stepped closer to Ben.

"I think it's time for you to take a little nap. Here...sample a 
bit of smoke from my knock-out cigarette!"

She drew deeply on the cigarette, then rounded her lips and blew a 
thick stream of the pinkish smoke into Ben's face. As the girl had 
said, the smoke had an extremely sweet fragrance. To his alarm, he 
discovered that that wasn't the only thing she had been telling the 
truth about. He felt the smoke immediately dulling his senses and 
making him feel irresistably sleepy! Realizing that he had just made 
a very serious mistake, he staggered back a step, trying to wave the 
smoke from his face.

"What's wrong, my dear?" the girl asked, staying with him. "Feeling 
a little sleeeepy? Perhaps more of my smoke will help you along."

He saw the her bring the cigarette to her lips again, and made a grab 
for her arm. Already the smoke had effected his coordination, and he 
missed her entirely. She blew another cloud of the drugged smoke at 
him, and he turned his head away.

"Now, don't be a naughty boy," she said reproachfully. "Nobody is 
here to help you, and my lullaby smoke is sure to put you to bed 
sooner or later. Like it or not, you're going to sleep for me."

She took another puff and smiled kindly at him, with smoke escaping 
from between her parted green lips. His fingers were not obeying him 
as he tried to get them to pull the pistol from its holster. The 
room seemed to be tilting crazily now.

"Just relaaax, dear," she said, smoke floating gently into Ben's face 
as she spoke. "Let the sweetness ease you to sleep. That's right. 
All you have to do is breeeathe..."

She slowly and seductively blew out the remainder of the smoke, 
encircling Ben's mouth and nose. He sank to his knees as 
consciousness began to desert him.

"Awww...are you going sleepy-bye?" he heard her coo. He felt her 
supple hand under his chin, lifting his head. He looked weakly up at 
this young woman who had managed to subdue him with such ridiculous 
ease. She smiled, then drew deeply once more on her cigarette.

"Yes," she murmured, bring her face down to his. He could smell the 
impossibly sweet smoke as it slipped from between her lips and wafted 
from her nostrils. "I"

She blew gently, and again wreathed his face in a fragrant cloud of 
smoke. He sighed as he felt darkness pulling him inexorably down.

The girl's expression changed, as she abandoned the facade of the 
villainess character. She beamed at him.

"Wow, that was great! Thanks, mister!" she piped up cheerfully.

Ben tried hopelessly to focus...even to regain his feet, but to no 

"You might as well lay down and go to sleep now," she suggested 
helpfully. "I gave you a lot of smoke."

Before she could even finish what she was saying, Ben fell heavily to 
his side. He found that he could no longer keep his eyes open.

"I don't think that anyone..." the girl was continuing.

Suddenly he heard a key being turned in a lock. With his remaining 
will, Ben opened his eyes just enough to see the door swinging open. 
A pair of highly polished shoes walked into the room. Just above the 
shoes, he could see the cuffs of purple colored pants.

"Jokesie!" the girl squealed.

Ben moaned quietly as his eyes closed and oblivion claimed him.