Under the Red Sky

Under the Red Sky (Joker) Part 16

“So how do I look?” I straightened up, placing my hands on my hips as I glanced over at Ms. Kitty who sat on the lid of the toilet. There was a vague hint of disapproval in her yellow eyes.

I sighed, letting my shoulders slump as I turned back to the bathroom mirror. “I know, I know. I’m severely overdressed.”

I smoothed the wrinkles of my black dress, pulling it this way and that to adjust the plunging neckline. It was one of Charlotte’s presents. I fingered the simple chain around my neck as I leaned toward the mirror to look at my reflection.

I had wiped away most of the Joker’s little message, so despite a few smudges, I could see myself clearly. I looked nice enough. The makeup was heavy around my eyes, like smoke shrouding the white blue irises. My lips were a deep shade of red, the stain borrowed form the writing that had once covered the mirror. I had done what I could with my hair, somehow managing to pull the tangles into a low ponytail. I smoothed a few loose strands away from my face, as I pulled away from the mirror.

I didn’t know why I had put so much effort into my appearance this evening. It’s not like I cared what this Bruce Wayne thought of me. I left the bathroom with Ms. Kitty on my heels and I headed for the kitchen, needing a drink.

I took the half empty gallon of milk from the fridge and brought it to my lips, chugging merrily.

I wondered what this Wayne guy would think if he saw me like this, gulping down cow juice like my life depended on it. He would probably be terribly revolted. I smiled at the thought as I lowered the carton from my mouth, licking away the white line on my upper lip.

I put the milk back in its place but not until after filling Ms. Kitty’s bowl to the brim. I checked the watch I had fastened to my wrist. It was precisely seven o’clock.

My head snapped up as I heard two brief knocks. I sighed, grabbing up my purse from the counter and moving to answer the door. I plucked my jacket from the coat rack and slid into it, shaking my head. At least he was a punctual man.

I opened the door to find him standing there, hands in his pockets, glancing around the main hallway as if waiting for the walls to begin oozing blood. I cleared my throat and he turned his face to me. His eyes got very wide all of a sudden as they took me. A smile blossomed on his handsome features almost immediately.

“Wow, Selina, you look great,” he breathed, as his eyes finally found my face.

“Thank you,” I muttered coldly, as I took the arm that he offered. We began down the hallway and were soon outside in front of the Lennon Complex.

I hated his car. It was some fancy, expensive thing, a Lamborghini or whatever. It looked out of place amidst all the decrepit buildings lining the street. I could tell Bruce was just waiting for me to complement it and when I didn’t, he sulked, but opened the passenger door for me nonetheless. I climbed in rolling my eyes and dreading the evening ahead.

We made casual conversation over the low murmur of the radio as we sped away from my apartment. But when we reached a moment of silence, I caught several words of the news story that I had been ignoring up until this point. My brow furrowed in apprehension. To my surprise, Bruce and I moved for the volume dial at the same time. I retreated, only because it was his car and as the smooth voice of the newscaster bled from the speakers, we both listened.

“This just in: three high risk patients have been reported missing from the maximum security wing in Arkum Asylum. Several guards were murdered in the course of their escape and it is suspected that the breakout had been previously planned. The Major Crimes Unit, headed by Lieutenant Jim Gordon, are currently on the case, trying to pull as much evidence from the scene as possible to discover just how these men escaped. Authorities request that civilians stay in their homes but to remain calm. This is Maria Juarez reporting from…”

I reached out and turned the dial, until the radio was only background noise once more. I looked over at Bruce to find that his carefree smile had faded only to be replaced with a concerned frown. I knew my face held the same expression.

Three crazies had escaped from this Arkum Asylum. High risk crazies. I had a sinking feeling that a certain someone was involved, but I chose not to think on it. This night would be painful enough without my mind being polluted with the Joker.

Bruce seemed to come out of his worried state and he glanced over at me. “Something wrong, Selina?”

I shook my head, wiping the vexed look off my face. I smiled bleakly. “No, I’m fine. The news just worries me sometimes.”

Bruce nodded. “I know how you feel.”

For a moment I saw someone sitting in the driver’s seat who wasn’t just a playboy. Someone who actually gave a damn about the occurrences outside of his little world. But that person quickly disappeared as we turned into the parking lot of the restaurant.

We linked arms again, much to my displeasure, as we headed for the front door. Bruce handed the keys to some kid working the valet, who just ogled at us. I scowled. What was so special about this Bruce Wayne? Did he own the city of something?

The restaurant was beautiful, with gold embellishing here and there and long rows of mirrors that acted as walls. It was lit with millions of candles, which both warmed and filled the room with a pleasant rosy glow. There was a soft violin in the background, setting the mood. The place was slightly crowded and everyone was sipping wine and smiling and laughing.

I felt completely out of my element. Never before had I been in a place where everyone was so…happy. But none of it seemed real. It was like I had walked onto a movie set and all these people were merely actors, getting paid to put on a show.

“I don’t believe it,” I heard Bruce mutter and I glanced at him, curious. He was looking out over the vast span of tables at one in particular, frowning. I followed his eyes and saw what he saw.

A couple sitting at a table. A man with golden blonde hair, his back to us, and a pretty brunette in a red dress. They were chatting contentedly. The man made a joke and the woman laughed.

I felt Bruce tense up beside me and before I could realize what was happening, he was leading me down a row of tables, headed for the couple. I watched as the woman’s eyes landed on Bruce, and the smile faded from her face. Her lips made a thin line. She wasn’t pleased. Her companion seemed to notice and looked over his shoulder just as Bruce and I reached the table.

I recognized him instantly. Harvey Dent.

The newspapers really did him no justice. He was so much more handsome in person.

“Rachel, fancy that,” exclaimed Bruce, his smile returning as he gazed down at the woman seated opposite Harvey Dent.

“Yes, Bruce,” she replied, noticeably less enthusiastic than he, “Fancy that.”

“Rachel, Selina. Selina, Rachel,” he said, taking the liberty of introducing me. As if I hadn’t a voice of my own. I resisted the urge to glare at him and nodded my hellos to Rachel.

She smiled kindly and I was slightly taken aback. I hadn’t had contact with someone of the same gender who was so genuinely nice for some time now. I was in no way used to this.

Harvey spoke now, as if to relieve Rachel of Bruce’s attention.“The famous Bruce Wayne. Rachel’s told me everything about you.”

“I certainly hope not,” laughed Bruce as he detached his arm from mine. I was supremely thankful.

“Bruce,” Rachel began, “This is Harvey Dent.”

I watched as the two men exchanged casual nods, though their eyes held something that was far from cordial. I frowned, feeling as though I had walked right into the middle of a love triangle. Splendid.

“So, why don’t we put a few tables together?” offered Bruce, that convincing smile ever present on his face.

Harvey looked around skeptically. “I don’t know if they’ll let us-"

Bruce smirked. “They should. I own the place.”

He raised his hand and snapped his fingers at the nearest waiter, who bustled off to fetch a table. He glanced at me, expecting to find me glossy eyed with admiration. But I merely smiled weakly, before looking away.

After the extra table had arrived and Bruce and I were seated, Rachel struck up conversation.

“So, Selina, what is it you do?” she inquired, placing her hands on the table.

“I’m out of work, actually,” I replied calmly, taking a sip of my wine.

Rachel frowned, sincerely concerned. “ I’m sorry. Lots of people are getting laid off lately.”

I shook my head, swallowing down the bitter drink. “Oh, I wasn’t fired. I quit. My boss was a bastard.”

Harvey made an odd choking noise, as he struggled to keep from spraying water all over the table. Bruce looked slightly shocked by my language. Rachel just laughed.

“Maybe, you know him,” I went on, running my finger around the thin rim of the glass, “Max Shrek?”

Rachel nodded. “Yes, unfortunately, I do. Harvey and I are district attorney’s and his file has landed on our desks more than once I’m afraid. He’s been under investigation recently for suspected affiliation with the mob. You wouldn’t happen to have any personal information on Shrek, would you?”

Both Harvey and Rachel leaned forward in interest. I smiled, shrugging indifferently. “Only that he takes his coffee black. If that helps.”

They chuckled, settling back into their seats, though they seemed slightly disappointed.

“That’s where we met, actually,” piped up Bruce, obviously feeling left out of the conversation, “At Shrek Tower. I had had a meeting there.”

I nodded, remembering yesterday morning. “Serendipity, I suppose.”

Harvey smiled and his hand found Rachel’s. “I know what you mean.”

I watched as they made googly eyes at one another, and I couldn’t help but feel an overwhelming amount of sentiment for the couple. They looked so happy together. This was hard to come by. Take it from someone who’s never experienced anything even close to love.

I jumped, startled, as Bruce mirrored Harvey’s action. I stared down in disgust at the sight of his hand on my own but before I could kindly tell him to keep his stupid manicured hands off me, our food arrived.

We were quiet for most of dinner, our mouths full of wonderful food. My meal was especially delicious. Fish. Yum. But as our plates grew steadily cleaner, the casual chit chat started up once more.

“So, Harvey,” I began, setting down my fork after swallowing the last of my food, “Rachel mentioned you two were district attorneys. You must see a lot of action in that line of work.”

Harvey nodded, his mouth full. Rachel answered for him . “You could definitely say that. Just the other day some goon who worked for Maroni pulled a gun on Harvey. In the court room, no less.”

I raised my eyebrows, impressed. “Wow, Harvey, I’m glad you made it out of that ordeal.”

Harvey smiled grimly. “Yeah, I am too. But I guess it comes with the job. Someone’s got to get those men off the streets. Though Batman’s doing a pretty good job of it himself.”

Ah, Batman. I had read about him in the paper. A vigilante. Some nut who thought he was Superman just cause he put on a cape and a latex suit. A clown. A bat. And I was the crazy cat lady to complete the collection. If you were a freak, Gotham welcomed you with open arms.

“Oh, him again,” Bruce groaned, obviously annoyed. “Who exactly appointed the Batman?” Harvey frowned. “We did. All of us who stood by and let scum take control of our city.”

“You have an undeniable point,” I agreed, thinking of Shrek, “So is he a hero? Or a pest?”

That set them off. Harvey glorified the man, talking about him as if he was the hope for Gotham city, while Bruce stubbornly argued the other side, going on to say that the city needed elected officials with morals and rules, not someone who thought they were above the law.

Rachel and I could hardly get a word in and we exchanged exasperated looks several times throughout the discussion. Along with a few smiles here and there.

The plates were taken away. Bruce picked up the tab, ignoring Harvey’s objections and choosing instead to show off to me. And Rachel. Neither of us were very impressed.

Bruce and I bade goodbye to Harvey and Rachel, though I would have honestly liked to stay longer and talk with them. But it was just the two of us again, driving through the darkened city streets back to my apartment.

I smiled politely and nodded at the appropriate times as Bruce chatted through most of the ride home. When we finally turned onto Luna Street, after peering suspiciously through the tinted windshield, he insisted on walking me up to my flat. Like little ol’ me needed protection.

The Lennon Complex was especially quiet and we tried to make as little noise as possible as we climbed the staircase to the second floor.

“I had a great time,” Bruce announced as we reached my door. The air was thick and the fluorescent lights flickered overhead. Things were awkward between us and I desperately wanted to just leave him standing here in the hallway.

“I did too,” I replied, my fingers burning for the doorknob.

Bruce brought his face close to mine, but I turned away just in time. I felt his lips on my cheek, and he sighed drawing away.

“Sorry,” I muttered bluntly, “I don’t kiss on the first date.”

I supposed that was the truth. Of course, all my dates were first dates and the guy never liked me enough to even try and plant one on me.

All except one of course. But we hadn’t been on a date. I had been interrogating him in my living room. I shook my head irritably, pushing the Joker from my mind.
Bruce nodded, and took a step back stiffly. I could tell he wasn’t used to rejection and he seemed a bit shocked. “Right, well. Maybe on the second one, then?”

He flashed me that million dollar smile and I faked one of my own, though I felt the urge to gag. “Perhaps.”

“I’ll see you around then, Selina,” he said and he nodded curtly, before turning and strutting back down the hall. I stood there for a moment, before wiping my cheek furiously and letting myself into my apartment.

Before even switching on the lights, I turned to lock the door behind me. I smiled, hearing that comforting click. No one was getting in here tonight but me.


The balloon of hope in my chest was instantly punctured as I heard a loud voice cry outfrom behind me, in the gloom of my apartment.

I spun around while reaching behind me, my fingers fumbling for the light switch. As the darkness waned, my eyes searched the front room until they found him.

The Joker. In the kitchen, leaning nonchalantly on the counter. A glass of milk in his hand. He took a large sip, leaving a milk moustache above his red lips. He smiled smugly at me, neglecting to wipe it away.

“I thought he’d never leave.”