"What the holy hell?!" yelled Stanley, jumping back several feet.
The terrifying man held a small card in his gloved fingers, which he read.
"Stanley Ipkiss," came his bottom-of-the-barrel voice. "...seriously? That's your name?"
The horrified look in Stanley's eyes quickly morphed into indignation. "Who wants to know?" he demanded.
The man tossed away the card, and replied, "I'm known as the Batman."
"Okaaayyyy..." said Stanley. "Commenting on the strangeness of this situation would probably make me a hypocrite, so instead I'll ask: why are you here?"
The man leaped down from his perch in a menacing whirl of black fabric and animal mystique. Stanley stumbled out of the way, and gripped the back of his chair instinctively.
The Batman was very tall; so tall that his cape did not touch the floor when he walked. He gazed out over the rooftops and beyond, to the night clouds drifting behind the skyscrapers of Edge City.
"I've received intelligence that my nemesis, the Joker, is vacationing in your city," he boomed.
Stanley relaxed a bit, and laughed sardonically. "Why would he take a vacation in Edge City, of all places?"
The Batman paused and gestured at the clouds. "It must be because the methane emissions are so nice this time of year."
Stanley laughed. "No, really. Why?"
The Batman smiled, and Stanley found the sight very unsettling. "You laughed. I'll have to remember that one," the Batman boomed. "The Joker doesn't think I have a sense of humor. I guess that's not completely accurate."
"My confidence in you is growing ev-e-ry minute..." Stanley muttered under his breath.
The Batman explained, "I believe he may be after your mask. He will only use it for nefarious purposes."
"Wait, my mask?" blurted Stanley. "How do you know about all that?"
"You're more well-known than you think, Stanley," said the Batman. "I keep up with the news. Did you really think a conga line in the city park with the entire ECPD would go unreported?"
Stanley blushed, and rubbed the back of his neck. "Well, garsh, Batman. We were only having a bit of fun..."
"Also," the Batman added. "Your dog was out today, messing with the Loki mask. Caused quite a stir with a female jack russell terrier at the Coco BowWow."
Stanley stared at him. "Coco... BowWow..."
"Yes. There's a whole part of this city frequented only by dogs. They apparently have a night club to mirror your popular watering hole."
Stanley looked at him incredulously. "And how would you know about this part of the city, if, indeed, it actually exists?"
"I have my contacts."
Stanley looked away, and said, "Wow. Not even gonna go there... Nope! But, um, are you asking me to do something about this Joker character?"
"I want you to stake out the Coco Bongo Club. From what I've observed, it's exactly the sort of retro, jiving hot spot he likes. It'll be like a moth to a flame."
"Well, he's got good taste, I'll give him that."
"Also, he will have informed himself about your antics of late and he'll presume to find you there. I want you to draw him out into the open, and I'll bag him before he does any harm."
Stanley touched a finger to his chin. "Are you sure it's such a good idea getting that close to him while wearing the mask? I thought I had to protect the thing, not tease him with it..."
"True," said the Batman. "But hiding from the Joker will only prolong the inevitable."
Stanley stared at him. Then he buried his face in his hand amid raucous snickers.
The Batman's anonymous eyes narrowed dangerously, and this chilling sight turned Stanley's laughter sheepish and pitiful.
"Why is that funny?" the statuesque man irritably inquired.
Stanley wiped his eyes, and managed, "I... really don't know."
The Batman nodded. "You know, I think I understand your problem with Tina."
"What?! You were listening the whole time?! Well, that's just flippin' fantastic..."
"Hey, focus on this job I'm giving you, and it might help you take your mind off her."
"Yeah, right, because slumming at the Coco Bongo, the club where she performs, is exactly how I'm gonna do that."
"And where would you be otherwise? Hunkering down with mint chip ice cream and Red Hot Riding Hood?"
"... Have you been in my apartment?!"
"No. Your VHS tape was sitting on the nightstand near the window, and your dog was sneaking some ice cream in the afternoon. He jumped up and yanked open the freezer with his teeth."
Stanley was silent. "That... doesn't surprise me as much as it should."
"He must have been really depressed after his date... or really tired-"
"Hey! Leave Milo out of this! Look, fine. I'll take the job." Stanley sighed. "Wow, I never expected innuendo to come of that scary black cowl..."
The Batman smiled. "You don't know who I am in the daytime."
"Yeah, I think both you and I would rather it stayed that way," agreed Stanley. Then he had a thought. "Y'know, in detective movies, when the P.I. says 'I'll take the job', you never see him getting paid. You're not paying me for this, are you?"
"Oh, right, I forgot," Stanley said sarcastically, turning around and gesturing at the dinner spread. "Because I'm just full of green and this dinner was just a drop in the bucket..."
When Stanley turned back to face his conversant, the Batman was gone. Well, that was convenient, he thought.
He sighed, and affected a Brooklyn accent. "Well, guess it's time to case the joint. But first..."
He grabbed the door handle and stalked down the stairs to his apartment, shouting, "Milo!"