Under the Red Sky

Under the Red Sky (Joker) Part 14

Unfortunately, the taxi driver had bailed with his vehicle.

I stood on the steps in front of Shrek Tower, feeling about ready to strangle the next person to cross my path. After letting out a very loud and particularly colorful strain of curses, I gathered myself and decided to simply walk instead of calling another cab.

I had never really liked cars anyway. They made me sick and I didn’t have to imagine the damage it did to the ozone. I only had to look up at the brownish haze hanging above the city if I ever forgot.

My first stop was the nearest ATM, which I had noticed on the way to Shrek Tower. It was several blocks away but I needed money and the one dollar bills that were currently jammed into my wallet didn’t quite cut it. I withdrew around $350 or so from my account. It seemed my many years of frugality had paid off.

Then it was off to the corner store for cheap necessities. I did the math on my way there and I realized with some shock that I hadn’t eaten in almost three days. It was strange though because I felt just fine. I probably couldn’t say the same for my cat. I felt a sudden wave of guilt and my pace quickened as I crossed the street for the Quickie Mart, avoiding the melting puddles of snow in the street.

The store was decorated for the holidays with tinsel and fake hollow hanging here and there. I frowned. I had forgotten that Christmas was just a week or so away. Of course, I didn’t have much room on my plate at the moment for inane festivities.

I grabbed a plastic hand basket and moved down the aisles, dumping in random food items. I made sure to get two gallons of milk. Whole milk. I needed the calcium.

The kid working the register gave me a onceover as I approached the counter but I blew him off with a roll of my eyes, reaching for the cash in my pocket. As the cashier began to scan my multitude of items, I read over the cover pages of the newspapers and magazines lining the stands near the entrance of the store.

I sneered at the celebrity drama. All drugs and alcohol and scandals and lies. I didn’t see what made them so different from anyone else. My eyes found the bold text of today’s newspaper headline which immediately caught my attention.

RECENT JOKER ROBBERY MAKES FOR THE FOURTH IN TWO WEEKS; Gotham City Police Department drawing blanks in investigation.

Below the headline was a black and white photo of the Joker himself, walking through what looked like a bank. He was smirking at the camera, unafraid to show his face.

“How much for the paper?” I asked, walking over and snatching one off the rack. There was a loud beep as my last item was scanned and a rustle of plastic as it was packed away.

“A dollar,” replied the checker. I handed over the money I owed for the groceries and the newspaper, grabbed up my many bags, and left just as quickly as I had arrived.

I read while I walked, not caring how many people ran into me or my victuals.

“Gotham City Police Department is drawing yet another blank in the investigation of the fourth bank robbery in two weeks. Without any leads, crime scene investigators have only the photo above to provide them with a vague outline of the man behind these robberies. A new criminal has surfaced in Gotham, known only as ‘The Joker’ and the GCPD are scrambling to get even an ounce of information on this unpredictable and highly dangerous man-"

The article went on to talk more about the robberies, losing my interest after moving on from the robber himself.

I lowered the paper from my face, coming to a stand still in the middle of the sidewalk.

So what had I gathered?

He was unpredictable. But I already knew that. He had given neither a warning nor a reason for taking me from my home in the middle of the night. He was dangerous. But that was only obvious. The man worked with Shrek and the mob. Not to mention any man that wore makeup and dressed like he did was not of a sound mind. I wasn’t sure if that necessarily made him dangerous. But I couldn’t say it didn’t frighten me just a little.

He was a thief. But then why was he working with Shrek and those gangsters? Wouldn’t he be satisfied with the money without having to tag a long with their schemes too?

Now I was worried. A criminal who wasn’t interested in money or the things that came with it was far more complicated, harder to understand. This meant bad news for the GCPD. And worse news for me.

I sighed, readjusting the hold on my heavy grocery bags. I was about to start off again, down the street, when someone ran into my shoulder, making me stumble back a few feet. I turned around ready to curse at them as they hurried away, but was briefly distracted by the junky television sitting in the window of the Electronics Resale shop beside me.

There was an old cartoon playing on the grimy screen. One of the ones from the mid ‘40s or so. A manly animal trainer had a fierce lioness on a chair, cracking his whip at the beast to scare her into submission. And I smiled as the lioness easily tricked the man out of his tool, and then the roles were switched. Man sat upon the chair, whimpering, as the feline roared with laughter and snapped the whip at the cowering fool.

Of course.

My mind raced as I watched the animation come to an end and I hurriedly stuffed the newspaper into one of my bags as I whirled on the spot and headed back to the Quickie Mart, realizing I needed one last thing.

By the time I got back to the apartment, the sun was setting and the sky was a brilliant golden color. It would seem that the sun liked to show up a little late.

I set my bags down on the kitchen floor and groaned in pain, cradling my sore arms as I walked into the living room.

I paced slowly, back and forward, thinking.

If I were some wires where would I be in this apartment?

The walls?

I tried there first, approaching the chipping pink paint. I didn’t know quite how I was going to do this and I knew it would probably hurt like hell. But it was worth a shot.

I took a deep breath and tried my best to ignore my achey muscles as I wound back and slammed my fist into the wall. I drew back, hissing in pain, my knuckles bleeding and covered in plaster. But there was now a large, gaping fist sized hole in the wall.

I grit my teeth against the sting as I set to work, sticking my hand through the break. I smiled in delight as I felt several electrical wires on the tips of my fingers. I gripped them tightly and pulled, ripping them from the wall. There were five of them, about four feet or so, each a different color. Red, yellow, white.

I dragged them across the living room as I moved into the kitchen. I extracted my last purchase from the bags: black spray paint. I shook it thoroughly as I laid the wires on the floor, one next to the other. I shrugged out of my white blazer, knowing I was bound to get it dirty, leaving me only in the black satin slip and the dress pants. I crouched down and after tying a nearby dishtowel over my nose and mouth, I pressed down on the nozzle of the can in my hand, sending black particles through the air.

I aimed the mist down at the wires, carefully spraying each one, turning them over and over, until they were all painted black. I removed the rag from my face, though my eyes stung from the fumes, and I slumped against the cabinets under the counter, pulling a pack of chips and one of the gallons of milk from the shopping bags.

Might as well nourish myself while I waited for them to dry.

“Here kitty, kitty,” I called, my voice ringing out in the quiet apartment. There was meow and soon Ms. Kitty was at my side, kneading my thigh with her paws. I opened one of the cabinets behind me and retrieved a bowel, which I filled with milk. She took to it almost immediately, obviously famished.

“Sorry it took so long,” I muttered, stuffing a few chips into my mouth and finishing them off with a gulp of milk. “Been a little...preoccupied.”

Ms. Kitty stopped drinking for a moment to click at me, as if to say No shit.

I smiled, surprisingly at ease that my cat had reprimanded me. “It won’t happen again. I promise,” I offered, stroking her affectionately as she went back to her bowl.

After our small feast, Ms. Kitty retired to her spot on the counter to clean her whiskers; a lady if I ever saw one. I went back to the wires, which were no longer wet with paint. I found a roll of black electrical tape in one of the kitchen drawers I had not emptied on to the floor. I cut about three pieces and bound the wires together to form one long, thick cord.

I tied a loop at the end, wide enough to stick my hand through. Then I salvaged some scissors from the mess on the floor and snipped the ends off, so the sharp metal beneath the plastic casing was exposed.

I grinned smugly, as I slipped my hand through the loop. I had just made my own weapon: a whip.

I stood, kicking aside the empty chip bag and placing the half empty carton of milk in the fridge. I strode out of the kitchen, deciding to ‘practice’. If I was going to use this thing for my protection, I had to learn how to handle it without hurting myself. I walked towards the front door and did an about face, so I was looking out at my living room.

I sighed, feeling my insides shake with anxiety. “It’s just like a jump rope, Bijou. Except with needle sharp wires at the end.” I frowned, realizing I had used that name. Bijou.

I growled, remembering him. My lip curled as his painted face filled my mind, laughing at me, jeering at me. My fury gave me the drive I needed. I straightened up and tightened my grip on the weapon.

I snapped it lightly, sending the ends flying outward before they slapped the hardwood floor with a quiet smacking sound. I smiled, proudly.

No cuts, no slashes. Pretty good for the first try.

I tried again, harder this time, producing a louder noise as the wires snapped at the air. Then I did it again, and again, and again. Until I was sure of myself, until I was confident. I attempted harder tricks, swinging the whip over my head and cracking it while simultaneously taking a step or two. I did fairly well for just beginning, sustaining only a few minor scratches on my arms and legs. Nothing that wouldn’t heal in a day or two.

Night had fallen before I finally retired to the couch, wrapping the whip around me so it dangled from my waist like a slick tail. I made sure not to sit on the sharp wires, as I collapsed onto the lumpy sofa. I pulled my hair out of the ponytail letting it go wild again. I leaned my head back on the cushions, closing my eyes, thinking.

He might come back. There was a high possibility of him returning. Tonight.

No matter. I would be ready.

I had never fought with someone physically. Simply the thought of it would have put the old Selina in a panic. But I was…someone else now.

And I felt I could fight, if I had to. I felt strong, powerful, hungry for revenge.

And I feared no man.

That was a shame though.

Because the Joker was something else entirely.