Under the Red Sky

Under the Red Sky (Joker) Part 22

Ten, twenty minutes later, we pulled upto the mouth of some shadowy alley that evaded even the bleakest rays of midday sunshine. I watched the Joker pull a lever beside the steering and there was a low hiss as the bus opened up.

The Joker stood and rushed past me, jumping off the low platform, his scuffed shoes smacking the pavement. He didn’t bother waiting for me, strolling into the break between the two abandoned buildings without a backwards glance. I followed after him.

“What about the money?” I asked, tugging nervously at the whip that hung at my waist once more.

“Don’t you worry your pretty little head, Bijou,” he replied, peering through the darkness as if he were looking for something, “That’s what henchmen are for.”

He stopped suddenly and approached the wall to our right, feeling it here and there with his gloved hands. I looked around, peering through the gloom. There wasn’t much to see. Several Dumpsters, a metal trash bin or two. They were empty but the odor of rubbish lingered and mixed with the smell of wet concrete and grime to produce a stench pungent enough to make my empty stomach churn.

It hadn’t snowed in a day or two, the weather having warmed up a little, but the cement was still slick with ice. I scraped my heel against the chilled ground, giving off a harsh sound like that of nails on a chalk board.

“Aha!” the Joker exclaimed suddenly, and I watched, slightly shocked, as a door swung open from one of the walls. He walked on in, never looking back to make sure I was behind him and I went in after him, pulling the metal door shut, the hinges screaming noisily.

He led me down a dim hallway, lit up with an occasional bulb hanging by a string from a ceiling. Light was spilling out from a room on the left side of the foyer and I could hear voices and the unmistakable babble of a television. We paused in front of the doorway and I peered inside to find it filled with men.

They were everywhere. Lounging on the EZ chairs, on the couches, spread out on the floor in front of the T.V, sitting at a small table chatting quietly. All of them in clown masks, black eyeholes staring in the direction of the Joker and me.

“Boys, this is Bijou. Bijou, boys,” he muttered before walking on. I gave them a subtle nod, which a few of them returned, and hurried after the Joker. I didn’t want to get lost. This place was like a maze.

I suddenly recalled my date night with Bruce and the alarming news report I had heard on the radio in his car. It said three men had broken out. There must’ve been over a dozen goons in there.

“Why are there so many?” I inquired, trailing behind the Joker like a small child.

The Joker peered over his shoulder at me. “Most of them are vagabonds, nomads who just wandered into the city looking for something to occupy them or to pass the time. There’s only three I won’t kill off. The others die on the job or something.”

I frowned. “And those three were the ones that escaped from Arkham a few days ago?”

The Joker nodded his dirty head of hair. “Very good, Bijou. But only two of them survived. The third got shot down trying to get away. Idiot.”

We had come to a door at the end of the hall, which swung open with a gentle push. The Joker shuffled in, switching on the lights, and I found myself in what looked like a small office. There was desk on the far end of the room, covered with papers. A cork board hung on the wall, decorated with bits and pieces of multicolored scratch paper and clips from the newspaper. All of them were covered with the same untidy red scrawl.

I peered closer, trying to make out some of the writing. Only a few words here and there, but most was illegible. I was about to turn away when something caught my eye: a name. Max Shrek.

I whirled around to find the Joker sitting at his desk, his feet propped up on its cluttered surface. He was staring off into space, thinking about God knows what.

“You were working for Shrek,” I murmured, nearing the desk, my heels clacking quietly.

He blinked rapidly, clearing his mind. “I’m sorry, what?”
“You were working for Shrek,” I repeated, “Why? I mean what was someone like you working for an imbecile like him?”

He chuckled. “Well, mommy, for your information, he came to me. He wanted me to hunt someone down. And kill them.”

I nodded. “Harvey Dent, yes I know.”

He gave me a puzzled look, turning his face away ever so slightly. “How…how would you know that?”
“It’s a long story for another day,” I sighed, running my hands through my hair. I felt a small pang of misery in my chest remembering that horrible night. It made me want to vomit just thinking about it. I composed myself and went on. “Why did you stop working for him?”

The Joker’s eyes danced with that wild darkness, and there was ghost of a real smile on his ruby lips. “I got distracted.”

A smile threatened to bloom across my face but I fought it back. Along with the want, the need to rush over and tear him to pieces, my hands gripping him, holding him close so I could really look into those wild eyes.

“Back at the apartment,” I began again, forcing those enthralling thoughts from my head, “You said ‘finders keepers’. What did you mean?”

The Joker’s grin widened. “Now that’s a long story for another day.”

I sighed inwardly and placed a hand over my stomach, which roared menacingly. He shot me a strange look and I blushed.

“You got a kitchen around here?”

He nodded. “Down the hall, on the left side just across from the T.V. room. And take your time.”

It seemed he wanted to be alone with his thoughts. And I let him.

I moved silently down the hall until I came to the “kitchen” if you could call it that. It was so disgustingly filthy I could just barely make out the stove or even the sink under all the mess. They were dirty plates everywhere and trash everywhere else. I picked my way through the disarray and ambled over to the fridge. Only to find it was completely empty.

I hung my head in defeat but looked up again at the sound of voices coming from the room across the hall.

“What do you think the boss is up to this time?”

“I don’t know, but it’s probably nothing good.”

“You got that right. So who’s the girl?”

“Yeah she’s kinda hot.”

“Ay, shutup man! You know the boss would be all over yo ass if he heard you talkin like that.”

“Hey you uh, think they’ve done it?”
I slammed the fridge door shut, feeling rage and embarrassment fill my cheeks with hot blood. I stomped into the living room, fits clenched.

“That,” I hissed, as the clowns turned to look at me, “Is none of your damn business.”

One of the goons sitting on the couch stood up and pushed his leering mask up onto his forehead to reveal a dark, handsome face. He was young probably my age or even younger.

“Sorry, miss. The guys get outta line sometimes.”

I eyed him suspiciously. He was awfully nice to be working for the Joker. But I couldn’t bring myself to care enough.

“It’s alright,” I murmured, crossing my arms tightly over my chest, “Just tell me where I can get some food and we’re square. I’m starving to death.”

He nodded and led the way out into the hall. I shot the rest of the goons a piercing glare and snapped my jaw at them before turning on my heel and heading into the kitchen/
“I’m Sam, by the way,” the man muttered, passing by the fridge and going straight for one of the peeling cupboards.

“I’m Bijou,” I replied, feeling an odd sensation roll over me. It was the first time I had introduced myself with that name. It seemed only natural and I hadn’t even given it a second thought.

“So you’re Bijou? The Bijou?” he asked, glancing away from the cabinets to give me an up and down.

I made a face. “Yes. Why do you ask?”

He shrugged. “It’s nothing. I hear the boss talk about you sometimes, muttering to himself. You’re the girl he brought to the warehouse one night, right?”

I nodded as he brought down a box of Cheez-Itz from the shelf. He set them on the messy countertop and I dug into them gladly.

“Thanks,” I mumbled, my mouth full of cheese crackers.

He smiled and laughed as I shoveled handful after handful of them into my mouth. “Of course.”

The grin slid from his face suddenly and he cocked his head listening. I did the same, catching wind of some far off scream.

“I think the boss wants his lady,” one of the goons called from the other room.

Sam frowned but nodded toward the hallway. I rolled my eyes and reluctantly trudged out of the kitchen, leaving the crackers on the counter.

“What the hell are you screaming for?” I cried, reaching the door at the end of the hall in little to no time. After slamming the door behind me and searching the room for a familiar painted face, I found I was yelling at no one.

I squinted through the dim light half expecting him to jump out at me. But the place was quiet and still.

“I’m back here!” came a harsh voice from somewhere unseen. My eyes fell on an open door behind the Joker’s desk that I had not noticed before.

I approached the doorway and opened my mouth to say something about his yelling and found that I couldn’t.

It was his bedroom, messy and disheveled as he was. He sat on the edge of his bed, which was covered with thin, rumpled sheets, not facing me. I glanced around the room for a moment. It was nearly bare except for a cracked, full length mirror in the corner and a dresser shoved up against the wall. The floor was littered with dirty clothes and I stared at the chaos with a bemused smile.

Looks like my place. I’ll feel right at home.

“What do you know about the mob?” the Joker inquired, turning to face me, his painted face fixed in a contemplative frown.

“Not much,” I sighed, “Just that they pretty much run this town.” I paused and added with venom, “And they work with Shrek.”

“Well all that money we stole,” he began, staring off into nothing, “It’s theirs. I’d give it a day, maybe less, until they know it’s gone.”

I felt my mouth go dry and my heart drop into my stomach. I was arrogantly calm about the GCPD investigating me but the mob…They were powerful men.

But then again, I had a valuable ally on my side. Or someone who I thought was on my side. How did I know that once the mob came after us the Joker wouldn’t just dump all the blame on me and leave me for the dogs?
I don’t need you.

Even if the mob couldn’t kill me, I would be caught. Game over. The end. And the Joker wouldn’t care. He could do all this with or without me. Which only lead me to wonder why I was still standing here.

“Something wrong, Bijou? You look a little pale,” the Joker laughed, standing and shrugging off his jacket.

“I could say the same for you,” I mumbled, watching him with heavy eyes. That savage need filled me again and I blinked back the red that was blurring my vision. I moved farther into the room until I almost couldn’t stand it.

“We should pay those boys a visit. Don’t you think?” he looked to me and made a face, probably wondering why I was just standing there like a fool. “What’s gotten into you?”

“I don’t know,” I murmured, reaching the edge of the bed, “I have no idea.”

And then I pounced, throwing him off guard by taking the initiative. I smashed my lips down onto his, my teeth rattling in my skull after they collided with his. I pulled him closer, hooking my nails into the back of his collared shirt like an excited animal, but soon I felt only skin.

We didn’t waste any time and it was then, in getting what I wanted, what I needed, that I found we fit together like two crooked pieces of some disturbing puzzle. That we were near inseparable.

I could not, would not stay away because he was all I had. All I needed.

And if Death came for me in the arms of this mad man, I did not waste time worrying. I had seen her pretty ashen face more than once. We were old friends.

But for now, there was him and his chaos. It was my relief and I took it gladly. I took him gladly.

And that was that.