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City Boy Gumbo

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Gumbo Galahad stepped off the bus in Gotham City and directly onto some broken glass. It wouldn't have been such a big deal, had he not been barefoot, but as it were, he was, so it hurt.

"YEE OWW!" he hollered.

He was a healthy, thin, young man from the hills, and when he wanted to, he could really make some noise. All the other people at the bus station turned and looked at the hillbilly who was hopping around on one foot while holding the other in his hands. He did this for several seconds while continuing to make noise until, eventually, he took his attention away from his foot and saw all the eyes that were upon him. He immediately became embarrassed and blushed. Slowly he put his foot back down, even though it still smarted, and people began to go back about their business. It was quite an entrance for him to make his first time in the big city.

"Why on Earth would you be riding a bus in bare feet?" asked a nasally voice with a Brooklyn accent and Gumbo turned to see a young woman wearing, what in his mind, was an obvious disguise. She had on a short, stylish trench coat, dark sunglasses, and a red scarf covering her blonde hair; all except the bangs. To Gumbo she looked like she had just stepped right out of a film noir he had seen at the Shootin' Creek Picture House back when he was a young'un.

"Thar weren't no sign about shoes," he said, defensively.

"Lol," said the woman. She actually said L O L. Then she looked Gumbo up and down. Besides being barefoot, he was wearing tight blue jeans with the cuffs rolled up and patches on both knees, an old, yet clean, white buttoned down shirt with patches on both elbows, a black vest that seemed too small for him and finally an honest to god coon-skinned cap on top of his dark brown hair, it even had a feather stuck in it. The woman smirked.

"What's ya name, kid?" she asked.

"Gumbo," said Gumbo. "Gumbo Galahad."

"Of course it is," said the woman. "Well, my name is Harleen Quinzel. You can call me Harley, though. And if I'm not mistaken, you're new in town."

"Yessum," said Gumbo. "And it's a pleasure t' meet yo'."

Harley glanced at a new bus that had just arrived and then over near the public restrooms where a security guard was patrolling.

"Tell ya what, kid, I was supposed to get on that bus headin' outta town over there, but I've decided I can't, in good conscience, let you wander around Gotham City all by yourself."

"I'm not all by mahself," said Gumbo, with a smile. He had very straight, white teeth for such a hayseed. "Ah gots mah trusty banjo with me." He gestured behind him at the bus he had gotten off of and just as he did, the doors closed and it began to drive away.

"Hey! Mah stuff!" shouted Gumbo as he began to chase after it, but Harley caught him by the shoulder.

"Ain't no way your gonna catch it, Davy Crockett. Not in bare feet. This is Gotham, there's broken glass, nails, needles, and who knows what else littering the ground," she said.

"But mah banjo, and m-m-mah bag..." stammered Gumbo.

"We can call transit authority," said Harley. "They'll find your stuff and you can pick it up later. Meantime, come with me and we'll at least get you some shoes."

"Yo' sho' is mighty friendly, ma'am," said Gumbo. "Not like what ah heard tell city folk was like t'all."

"Please, call me Harley," said Harley. "We're friends now, Gumbo, and what are friends for if not to help each other out? Your gonna need all the help you can get in this city."

Gumbo looked around himself at all the tall buildings and fast cars. It was very different from what he was used to back in the hills.

"I s'pose yo're right," he said, finally.

"Great," said Harley, taking another quick glance over at the security guard, who was now looking in her direction. "Let's get you to a clothing store," she added, shoving Gumbo away from the bus terminal and towards a busy street.

As they walked, quickly, Gumbo asked, "Are you a spy?"

Harley laughed a musical and somewhat maniacal laugh. "No, silly, I'm just... ducking an... ex-boyfriend," she said.

Once they had gotten away from the station they came to a stop at a curb.

"Yo' gotta car?" Gumbo asked.

"You don't need a car in the city, Davy Crockett," said Harley. "We'll take a cab." She began to wave her hand frantically in the air at the oncoming traffic.

"So where ya from?" she asked while she waved.

"Shootin' Creek," Gumbo said, proudly.

"Where's that?" asked Harley.

"Th' hills," said Gumbo.

"What hills, goofball?" asked Harley, in frustration.

Gumbo thought for a minute. "Th' hills o' apalachee, ah s'pose. Ya know, it's funny yo' calls me a goofball, 'cause back home I'm known as Th' Screwball O' Th' Hills."

"That's adorable," said Harley, right as a green shuttle taxi cab finally pulled up to them and stopped.

Gumbo made a funny face at being called adorable, but then decided it was a compliment, and smiled instead. "Yo' really thinks ah look like Davee Crockhead?" he asked. In lieu of an answer, Harley all but shoved him into the back seat of the cab and then hopped in next to him.

"Shreck's Department Store," she announced to the driver.

As soon as the cab's side door slid closed there was a very loud click indicating pointedly that all the doors of the vehicle had locked. Harley looked towards the driver and noticed that the bullet proof glass partition separating them from him was tinted a dark green and made the driver nothing more than a shadowy blur.

"Welcome," said a smooth man's voice over an intercom. Inside the cab, it sounded very loud and echoey. "We're going to play a little game," it continued. Suddenly the cab lurched forward and merged into traffic. It began driving very fast.

"Oh my gawd!" shouted Harley, which startled Gumbo. "Is this Cash Cab?" she asked, excitedly.

"What? No," said the man's voice. The villainous smoothness of it gave way to slight annoyance. "This is not a game where you win money. This is a game where, if you're lucky, you win your very life."

"Aw, I want money," pouted Harley.

"Is this normal?" asked Gumbo. He was confused.

"Silence! Both of you!" shouted the menacing and mysterious driver. "You will be given two questions. Each wrong answer will get one of you shot. You may confer before answering, but you must only give one answer between you per question, understand?"

Harley and Gumbo looked at each other, totally bewildered.

"The first question," announced the driver, "Is this: What light illuminates the darkness, but also dims your senses?"

There was a silence and then Harley tore her sunglasses off and shouted, "Eddie, is that you?"

"Who? Wha- No." said the driver. The mystery was totally gone from his voice.

Harley lunged forward and knocked on the glass.

"Open this little window thingy," she demanded.

At first the driver didn't move, but then when Harley continued to bang, he finally reached back and unlocked the small sliding window in the partition. Harley slid it open hard. Once revealed, the driver appeared to be a pale man in a green bowler hat and pink domino mask.

"Eddie, what are you doing here? What is all this? What are the odds, huh?" Harley asked, quickly, and without taking a breath.

"Please!" shouted the man called Eddie, "Knock off all the questions!"

"Friend o' yers?" asked Gumbo, trying very hard to follow all that was happening.

"No," Eddie answered fast. "If I had known it was you Harleen, I wouldn't have stopped."

"Well that's a fine how do ya do," Harley shot back. "I don't want to ride in your crummy cash cab anyway. Pull over."

"It's not a cash- Fine!" shouted Eddie. He swerved and pulled over to a nearby curb. He hit a button to make the side door slide open. "Leave!" he shouted.

"Will do," said Harley, "But first..." She reached into her trench coat and pulled out a heavy duty, tricked-out revolver with LOVE and HATE written alternatingly on the cylinder. She stuck it through the small window and right up against Eddie's temple. "What size shoe ya wear?" she asked.

Five minutes later she and Gumbo walked down 12th Avenue together, Gumbo wearing a very nice pair of brown Italian leather dress shoes.

"Well, now we don't gotta go to the department store no more, so we might as well see the sights," Harley said in a very chipper way.

Gumbo didn't know how to respond. On the one hand he was grateful for the shoes. They were very nice and fit fine, but on the other hand he didn't much cotton to stealing.

"Don't be so glum," Harley said, noticing how Gumbo kept looking down. "Me and Eddie are old pals. We play this kind of game all the time. Don't you and your pals back in the hills pull guns on each other? You live in a town called Shootin' Creek for Pete's sake."

Gumbo thought about it for a minute and then realized, yeah, yeah they did in fact.

"Well, the MacHogbites are always a-shootin' at me, thet's fer sho'," he admitted.

"See, city folks ain't that different," said Harley.

Gumbo began to smile again as he let the recent events leave his memory like a bird leaves a nest.

"Th' answer is moonshine, by th' way," he said out of nowhere.

"Huh?" asked Harley.

"Th' answer t' thet man's question. What light illuminates th' darkness, but also dims yer senses? It's moonshine... Innit?" he asked, unsure of himself.

"Oh yeah, hey, you're right," said Harley, genuinely impressed. "You're smarter than you look, Davy Crockett," she said, and smiled at Gumbo.

He smiled back.

He was beginning to like the city.

"So, what do ya wanna see first: Gotham Observatory, or the old abandoned ice cream factory?" asked Harley.

"T' be honest, ah really should start doin' what ah came heah t' do," said Gumbo.

"Oh yeah, I never did ask you what brought you to our fair city," said Harley.

"I'm apposed t' find Sheriff Crawfisher. He's th' sheriff o' Shootin' Creek, yo' see. Or at least, him was. He done run off t' this heah city a while back an' we ain't heard from him in ovah a month," said Gumbo.

"Why'd he come here of all places?" asked Harley, "And why did the town send only you to come get him?"

"I was th' one thet was most up t' th' challenge. I'm th' one with th' learnin' in Shootin' Creek."

Harley just smiled.

"I's even took a detective correspondence course... by mail," Gumbo added, proudly.

"That's all this city needs is another detective," Harley said under her breath. Then to Gumbo she said, "How's about we go get some lunch, I'll pay, and then we can figure out the best way to go about finding this Sheriff of yours, k?"

"I am powerful hungry," Gumbo said, rubbing his flat stomach.

"I know a super neat little bistro on Dini Street," Harley said, hooking her arm around Gumbo's and leading him past the entrance of an alleyway.

Neither of them noticed the mysterious man in a blue suit and hat that watched them from the shadows deep within the alley. It was easy not to notice him, though, as he had no face.