"Is that it?"
Commissioner Gordon jumped, his right hand slipping involuntarily towards his side-arm. No matter how or where he positioned himself on the rooftop, the Dark Knight always managed to catch him by surprise.
"Came today," he replied, handing over a thick envelope. "The desk sergeant found it lying face up. From the lettering we assume the Riddler is back—"
Suddenly James Gordon realised he was talking to himself. The Batman had disappeared as silently as he had arrived.
"What have you there?" asked Dick Grayson of his famous mentor.
"A Christmas card from the Riddler. Notice the way he's cut and pasted individual letters from different newspapers. The scene on the front is a typical Victorian street; the message inside is much more intriguing."
"What does it say?"
"A MARY CHRISTMAS AND A PIECEFUL NEW YEAR!"
"Maybe it's just a normal Christmas card. Alfred must have more than a hundred upstairs on the mantelpiece. People do send cards at Christmas."
“Unlikely. It's too clearly the Riddler's modus operandi. He's planning a heist and teasing us with this clue. I'm going to run some tests on the paper. Maybe something will turn up."
"Some hot punch, sir?" Alfred knew that Bruce Wayne preferred to be left alone when he was in the Bat Cave. But he also understood that the Detective tended to brood over bothersome details.
"Thank you," Bruce said, helping himself to one of the glasses. "Where's Robin?"
"Master Dick is presently hanging upside down from the chandelier in the conservatory, replacing some bulbs. He'll be down shortly."
What do you make of this?" Bruce asked, once his protégé and sidekick had returned.
"MARY and PIECE, presumably. Any ideas?"
"There's an exhibition of Impressionist paintings at the Mary Robinson Peace Centre, but the spelling doesn't agree."
"What about the 'Pieces of Eight' Buccaneers tour at Gotham Museum? Blackbeard's treasure's gonna be on display."
"But what about MARY?"
"An anagram then?"
"The computer says not."
"Any residue on the card?"
"It's curious. I found a trace of a rare tobacco that's only sold at the boutique of the Gotham Crown Plaza hotel. There's a society wedding booked for tomorrow night, the entrepreneur Stephen Pea and the fashion model Cynthia Podd. But I don't see the—“
"Peas to marry," exclaimed the Boy Wonder. "It's corny but it sort of fits. The Riddler's gonna nab the wedding presents."
"I don't know. It sounds too easy to me. Still, there's no harm in staking it out."
"Holy Mackerel, Batman!" interjected Dick, grabbing hold of the Christmas card. Do you see what I see?"
"Any sign of him?"
"Yeah, Boss," said a crackly voice over the walkie-talkie. "I can make out his silhouette on the roof overlooking the hotel. Reckon he's watching for you to make your move."
"Splendid," chuckled the Riddler. "Dear old Bats fell for my little ruse. Okay lads, let's go crack that safe."
Eight minutes later the gang of hoodlums had broken into the Gotham diamond exchange, knocked out the guards and disabled all the alarms. They were just setting the plastic explosives when another call came through on the radio.
"Boss, the Batman. He's (crackle) here!"
"What did you say?"
"It's not (crackle). He's, like, deflating (crackle) it's a doll."
Suddenly the glass roof exploded. Two masked figures crashed in upon the crooks, batarangs and shurikens flashing through the air.
BIFF ... DOUBLE BIFF
The Riddler opened one swollen eye and peered around in astonishment. He and his men were securely bound with ropes while the Dynamic Duo towered over them.
"Why weren't you at the wedding?" he gasped through badly bruised lips. "I sent you all those clues..."
"You did indeed," responded Batman, his latex-covered torso rippling with muscles. "But a little birdie spotted your trick. One of the shops in your Victorian street scene was clearly a fishmongers and it boasted a 'red herring' in the window. So we deduced that the message inside was a hoax."
"And the only other shop window in the picture," continued Robin, "was a jewellers, hinting that you were after hot rocks rather than wedding cake."
"Rats," grouched the Riddler, cursing his overweening vanity.
“Not to worry," said the Batman. “We had to drop by anyway to deliver your Christmas card. Then, leaving behind an envelope marked for Edward Nygma, Batman and Robin disappeared once more into the night just as the police sirens drew up outside.
Batman, created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger, appears courtesy of DC comics
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