The Last Laugh

 Copyright © 1999

 DISCLAIMER: Many of the characters herein are trademarks of DC Comics, Inc.
 No attempt is made herein to dispute said ownership, and their use herein
 should not be construed as an attempt, real or implied, to move said
 characters into the public domain. The author is not affiliated with DC
 Comics, Inc.

 It was another cold, wet night in Gotham. The shadowy figure known as Batgirl
 could hear the sounds of traffic and life in the distance, but here in the
 mist-swept waterfront area there was only the occasional buoy bell. She
 pulled her cape closer around herself to ward off the chill.

 Batman and Robin weren't around; tracking down the Riddler in Metropolis. So,
 when the bat-signal appeared in the sky, Batgirl knew she would have to
 respond. The news had been grim. Commissioner Gordon, her father (although he
 didn't know her true identity-a tribute to her skills of acting and
 disguise), told her that the Joker had once again broken free from Arkham
 Asylum with the help of his henchwoman/ girlfriend, Harley Quinn. The two of
 them had gone on a one-night crime spree, committing three armed robberies
 within six hours, leaving the police breathless trying to catch up.

 That had been three days ago. Since then, there had been nothing. And where
 the Joker was concerned, silence was almost worse than action.

 Batgirl had begun by checking out the three places that the Joker had hit.
 Two chemical companies and a wholesale hardware superstore. In the last, he'd
 gone down the aisles with a shopping cart, complete with bicycle horn and a
 big picture of himself on the front. He'd shoveled more than $5,000 worth of
 hardware and plumbing supplies into it and then just walked out. The store
 staff hadn't wanted to tangle with the two hyenas that Quinn had had on a

 Smart staffers.

 There were precious few clues as to what the Joker was planning. The chemical
 companies were easy; the sick genius of the Joker was particularly adept at
 fashioning new toxins and poisons. But plumbing supplies? This felt like
 something big. But you never knew with the Joker; he could be making the
 world's biggest toilet. But Batgirl wasn't going to bet on it.

 The Joker's getaway van had been found parked not too far from here, and this
 particular section of the waterfront was, as Mayor Hill would say, "in need
 of serious economic improvement". Nearly half the warehouses were abandoned;
 a perfect hiding place.

 There was a slight letup in the drizzle, and Batgirl decided to give yet
 another of the dark, seemingly lifeless buildings a try. The Batman had
 taught her nothing if not persistence. If she had to, she'd personally check
 every bolt-hole in the city until she was able to ferret out the Joker's new
 hiding place; unless he made his move before then.

 The lock was child's play for Batgirl, and the door swung open with only a
 slight creak. Her small hand-held flashlight pierced the darkness of the
 warehouse. Old crates were stacked up to the rafters, and the shadows were
 deep. She looked at the shipping label on the outside of one of the boxes;
 "Whoopie Cushions".


 It wasn't a sure thing, but a warehouse full of novelty-store gags was a big
 clue that the Joker might indeed be here. She spun around as she heard a
 voice behind her, grabbing a batarang from her utility belt.

 "Well lookey what we got here, Mr. J," said a high-pitched Brooklyn voice.
 "One of the bat brats!" Harley Quinn had an over-sized revolver pointed
 straight at Batgirl. She judged that it was too big to be holding regular
 ammunition, but there was no telling what it did have inside.

 "A second-stringer? Just who does Batman think he is?" the Joker himself
 stepped out from behind a tall stack of boxes. "Still, you know what they
 say. One down, two to go. Get her, Harley!"

 Immediately Batgirl hurled the batarang at Harley Quinn's weapon, but it was
 too late. It hit, but an instant after the white-faced moll pulled the
 trigger. Batgirl tried to dodge out of the way, but the projectile from the
 specialty gun exploded right next to her, enveloping her in a cloud of
 blue-gray gas.

 Batgirl tried to hold her breath, but was caught unprepared. She inhaled a
 little by accident, and immediately started coughing and choking. That
 brought more of the gas into her lungs, and she knew it was too late. Her
 vision swam a little, she felt slightly disoriented, and then she started
 laughing. It started off as a slight giggle, but it quickly swelled into
 uncontrollable guffaws. She flicked a switch on her utility button just
 before she completely lost control of herself.

 "HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!! Oh N-no! L-laughing gahahahahahas!!!!"

 She collapsed to the ground, clutching her sides and laughing non-stop. The
 laughing gas swirled around her, not dissipating, clinging to her body in a
 great blue-gray cloud. "Hahahahaha!!" It wasn't humor, it wasn't anything,
 just an overwhelming compulsion to laugh. "Hahahahahaha!! Hehehehehe!!" She
 was completely powerless.

 In the meantime, Harley had picked up the laughing-gas gun and was hanging on
 to the Joker's elbow. "Y'know, Mr. J.," she said, "If she could find the
 hideout, then Batman probably can, too."

 "Mmmmm… you know you may have a point, there, Harl. How 'bout it, Batgirl?
 How'd you find our hideout?"

 "Ahahahahaha!!! Noohohoho!!!! Hahahahaha!!!" Batgirl couldn't have answered
 if she wanted to. Her lungs were aching from laughing so hard, and she was
 too weak to even stand. The incredibly clingy laughing gas wasn't even
 starting to dissipate.

 "Won't talk, eh?" said the Joker. "We'll see about that! Harley, bring her
 along to the play room. I'm going to see how our little science project is
 doing" He turned and walked away into the shadows, letting his trademark
 hysterical laugh trail off in the darkness. Batgirl could barely see him
 through her tear-filled eyes.

 "Right, Mr. J!" Harley slipped on a breathing mask, grabbed Batgirl's ankle,
 and dragged her across the warehouse floor. "Oomph! You ever think about
 losing a little weight, kiddo?"

 An exhausted giggle was Batgirl's only reply. She was barely able to breathe,
 but noticed that the gas followed her as she was dragged across the floor. It
 was only now starting to dissipate, but she was too weak from the non-stop
 laughing to do anything about it.

 By the time her head had cleared for the most part, she found herself
 strapped down in an elaborate padded reclining chair, her wrists clamped
 firmly down at her sides and her ankles similarly secured. "Okay, Harley,
 this has gone far enough. Let me out of this thing right now or I'll…"

 "Ha!" she replied. "And they call me crazy! You're not goin' anywhere until
 you tell me how you found our new hideout."

 She decided to go with the truth. It might just throw her off. "I just looked
 in all the empty warehouses until I found you. The whoopie-cushions were a
 dead giveaway."

 "Oh, yeah," Quinn replied. "Like I'm gonna believe that! Looks like we'll
 have to do it the hard way. Hard for you, that is…" The harlequin-costumed
 criminal walked to the foot of the chair and yanked off one of Batgirl's
 yellow boots with a single tug, then the other. She checked to make sure the
 metal bracket was still secure. It was.

 "Hey, what are you doing, you nutcase!?" Batgirl asked as her boots were

 "Nutcase? Oooh, you're going to pay for that, toots. Right on your tootsies,
 too. Hahahaha!"

 "What are you talking about?" Batgirl was apprehensive now. There was no
 telling what this psychopath would do. In a way, she was even more
 unpredictable than the Joker.

 "Well, the way you reacted to Mr. J's new laughing gas, you sure seemed to
 like to laugh! So let's see how you really do like it…" And with that she
 immediately launched her fingertips at the soles of Batgirl's helpless feet,
 fluttering against the arches wildly.

 The reaction was immediate, and everything Harley could have hoped for. Even
 though she was almost completely exhausted from laughing from the laughing
 gas, Batgirl erupted in laughter. "No! Please! Not that!! Anything but that!!
 No tickling, not after the gaaaaaahahahahahahahahas!!! Hehehehehehehehe!!!"

 "That's right, Bat-brat. Kitchey kitchey koo! You gonna tell me how you found
 us, or do you want me to keep tickling? I got all night."

 Batgirl let out a moan… all night? She'd die! But all she could say was
 "Nohohohohoho!!! I t-told you! Plehehehehehese stop!!! Hahahahahahahaha!!!!"

 "Have it your way; this is gonna be fun!" And Harley kept up the non-stop
 tickle-torture. First the arches, then the toes, then the crevices between
 the toes; that was the worst. She would drag a foot-long feather between each
 one of Batgirls helpless wiggling toes, and each one was more maddening than
 the last! This went on for what seemed like days, but in reality was probably
 only hours.

 "I think I know how to make you talk," Harley said, and temporarily stopped
 the merciless tickle-torture. Batgirl was covered in sweat, gasping for
 breath, completely exhausted. If Harley hadn't stopped when she did, Batgirl
 might have cracked, told her anything to get her to stop.

 "Oh no! What are you doing now?" Batgirl asked.

 "You'll see. Or rather, you'll feel. Hahahahaha!" And Harley started brushing
 something warm, and sticky, and faintly sweet-smelling all over the soles of
 Batgirls feet. Every inch was covered, and the brushing itself tickled enough
 to start Batgirl laughing again. But she knew that this was just the
 preliminary. When she was done applying whatever-it-was to Batgirl's soles,
 Harley walked to the head of the reclined chair and snapped what looked like
 an oxygen mask over Batgirl's mouth and nose. She turned a knob on a tank
 connected to the mask, and Batgirl could see a familiar blue-gray gas coming
 through the tube. Her eyes shot wide with panic; before she could even beg
 Harley not to do it, Batgirl started to laugh uncontrollably again.

 "Y'know, the gas is bad enough by itself," Harley explained calmly. "But I'll
 bet it'll be a thousand times worse being tickled with the gas on too!" She
 stuck two fingers in her mouth and whistled shrilly. "C'mon, babies!
 Treatsies! It's your favorite snack-molasses!"

 Batgirl heard in stunned disbelief, then heard the barking-laugh of Harley's
 two pet hyenas as they raced through the warehouse to the foot of the chair.
 Instantly each took a foot and started to lap up the sweet molasses off of
 Batgirl's helpless soles. She desperately tried to wiggle her feet and toes,
 anything to get away from the hyena's hot lapping tongues, but nothing
 stopped them for an instant. And with the gas coursing through her lungs, she
 couldn't have stopped laughing if the tickling stopped completely. She felt
 like she was going to explode! Mercifully, she blacked out instead.

 "Wake up, Batgirl, everything's all right, now." The voice was deep, warm,
 comforting. She opened her eyes. The Batcave!

 She tried to sit up, but immediately thought better of the idea. Her head was
 swimming. What happened…? Then she remembered. The Joker and Harley. The gas.
 The tickle-torture. The hyenas.

 "We had just gotten back from Metropolis when we picked up your emergency
 signal. Good thing we found you when we did; from the looks of things, they
 were putting you through Hell. Did they ever tell you why they were torturing

 "They wanted to know how I found them. They didn't believe me when I told
 them I was checking each warehouse."

 "And with you laughing so hard, you couldn't have told them anything even if
 you'd wanted to," Batman said. "That was the joke."

 Batgirl lay down in the bed and slept some more. But she did promise herself
 that if she ever had the chance, she'd get the last laugh.

 The End