Under the Red Sky

Under the Red Sky (Joker) Part 23

The mid-morning sky was bleak and white above the city at midday and the harsh, biting wind blew at the thin cracked windows of the Joker’s van. I could almost feel it swaying in the blustery weather, the chill like a forceful hand rocking a cradle.

The cool glass of the windowpane felt nice on my warm, throbbing temples and I closed my eyes, listening, breathing.

The howl of the merciless squall outside, the far off sirens, the static on the radio. I heard the rustle of paper napkins as the Joker finished off his breakfast: an egg McMuffin. I didn’t know how we had pulled it off but we had. And he had gotten his heart attack. I was much too nervous to eat.

And I shouldn’t have been. I was sitting next to a psychopath for Christ’s sake and I was worried about confronting a bunch of small minded simpletons in silk suits. But that writhing ball of panic in the pit of my stomach remained. It might’ve had something to do with the fact that each of these men knew my face from the meeting at Shrek’s. They could easily rat me out to Shrek and tell him the murderous company I kept…

I wanted my prey completely unaware and unprepared. Then the fear in his eyes would be all the more genuine...

“Are you ready for your debut?” I heard the Joker ask, his mouth full of egg and biscuit. My eyes snapped open and I glanced at him just in time to his trash fly into the back seat.

I scoffed. “What kind of question is that?”

He frowned. “I’ll take that as no.”

I rolled my eyes and turned away from him, gazing out of the passenger window at the alley wall outside. Red brick, brown brick, black brick.

“Bijooouuuu,” he crooned, and I shut my eyes in frustration pretending not hear him. “Bijouuuuu. Bijouuu-"

“What?” I barked, whipping around to find he had gotten closer. Much closer. I gave him a look and he just smiled wildly, before crashing his lips onto mine. I was too surprised to do much of anything except let him have what he wanted. That was until I heard a low mechanical clink and felt the cool of metal on my wrist.

I knocked him off me, pushing him to the far side of the car. He laughed maniacally as we both stared down at my left hand that was now handcuffed to the gear shift.

“What the fuck is this?” I exclaimed, yanking my arm pathetically.

“You said you weren’t ready and a girl’s only as good as her word,” he muttered, straightening his tie and running a gloved hand through his disheveled hair, “Besides I couldn’t have you cramping my style.”

He grinned proudly at me and I growled, jumping for his throat with my free hand. He fell away from me, opening the driver’s side door behind him. He slammed it in my face and locked it, shaking a scolding finger at me and making a big show of pocketing the key to the car.

I watched him through the windshield as he ambled in front of the car towards the building to the right of us. The restaurant, Casablanca’s. He waved at me before ducking into the back door to the basement where the meeting was being held and I pressed myself up against the window teeth bared in mad fury.

“Bastard!” I screamed, but with a whirl of his purple coat he was gone.


You are too smooth, Joker, ol’chap.

Why thank you!

I smiled and hummed giddily to myself as I made my way through the long series of hallways leading toward the restaurant basement. I could smell Italian food cooking someplace above me and I felt myself salivate.

How long had it been since I had decent food?

Too long.

She used to cook me meals. Decent meals. When she wasn’t puffing away like a chimney…

I thought back to Bijou, locked away in the van. Would she cook for me? She didn’t seem like the domesticated housewife type. No she didn’t quite fit the mold.

When will you just admit it? You’re falling for her…

I twitched hearing her voice in my head, dripping with venom and the bitter envy that only the dead possess.

SHUTUP, Jeannie. SHUTUP about things you don’t know about! It’s none of your damn business. Now SHUTUP!!!

I paused when I came to a pair of swinging double doors which I presumed was the back entrance to the basment. The perturbed thoughts in my head scattered like roaches under a beam of light and I held my breath, listening.

I could hear the low murmur of voices, the mobsters of course. And a voice that sounded like it was coming out a set of speakers. He sounded foreign. They were talking about a popular topic: their money. They were moving it somewhere. The half of it that wasn’t stolen. I caught a few words hear and there. ‘That freak in the cheap purple suit’ and ‘that cat babe with the legs and the whip’. Weren’t we the hot topic?

“Rest assured you’re money is safe,” I heard the foreign man explain and I pressed lightly on one of the double doors and moved slowly but confidently from the back of the room.

“"Ha ha ha ha, hahaha, ha, ha, ha, oh, a-hee-hee, ha ha, oh, hee hee, hee ha, ahaha," I laughed monotonously, shuffling toward where the mobsters were seated.

The looked at me with mixed expressions of astonishment and anger from their long rectangular table. A television sat near the end of the fake wooden slab and playing across the dusty screen was the foreigner, an Asian man, a look of confusion on his face. “And I thought my jokes were bad,” I muttered, raising my painted eyebrows at the group before me.

“You!” exclaimed one of the gangsters, who I recognized as a man named Gambol, “Give me one reason why I shouldn’t have my boy here pull ya’ head off!”

“How about a magic trick?” I offered, fighting the smile that was threatening to split my face.

They all stared and I took that opportunity to slip the freshly sharpened number two pencil from my jacket pocket. I slammed it down into the table, erecting it like some grand testament to madness.

“I’m gunna make this pencil…disappear,” I murmured, waving my hands around like a Houdini wannabe. I heard the scrape of a chair against the floor as Gambol’s ‘boy’ got up and rushed towards me. He went to shove me away but I was faster. I grabbed his head and slammed it down onto the table, relishing the noise I heard as the pencil slid neatly into his eye.

“TADA!” I cried out, pulling up a chair behind me and sitting down, “It’s…gone.”

I eyed them for their reactions through a wild curtain of my greasy hair, and smiled wickedly. Some looked worried. Other’s repulsed. Even a little bit impressed.

They had all met me before at one of Shrek’s meetings, but I knew they had underestimated me. Everyone did.

“By the way, the suit-it wasn’t cheap,” I corrected them, smoothing my lapels, “But I do need a new one. I think the pile of cash back in my warehouse should cover it, don’t you think?”

Gambol stood up, fuming, his beady eyes glaring at me. I looked at him expectantly but another mobster to my left protested. It was the Chechen.

“I want to hear proposition,” he said, his voice heavy with some accent I couldn’t place. I nodded to him and then glanced back at Gambol. He slowly sat back down, his cold stare never faltering.

I cleared my throat. “Let’s wind the clocks back a year-"

Suddenly there came a loud bang from the back of the basement from where I had entered and I fell silent. I turned, wondering who had the nerve to interrupt me interrupting the mobsters.

“How about no,” I heard a familiar dark voice call and then she was standing there, in those ridiculous high heels, her hair standing on end, a pair of silver handcuffs in her right hand which rested on her hip. Her ice blue eyes burned my flesh.

Bijou, come to crash the party.



I felt the itch of eyes on my skin but I paid it no mind, moving for the Joker, my demeanor cool and confident. I paused before stepping over the body of some unfortunate goon with a pencil stuck in his eye, gazing up at me blankly.

“Did you get a little overexcited?” I cooed, raising an eyebrow at the Joker. He said nothing and I smiled viciously. I dangled the hand cuffs in front of his face for a moment before dropping them onto the table top. “I believe these belong to you.”

His dark eyes were brewing with fury and wounded pride but he did not respond.

I batted my eyelashes. “Proceed.”

There was a protest from someone seated at the table, “Wait a minute, wait a minute! Who the hell is this?”

Another mobster, who I recognized as Maroni, replied. “She’s the gal who helped this clown steal our cash. Isn’t that right…dollface?”

I was thankful he did not remember my face as well as I thought he would, but the relief passed and was quickly replaced with disgust at the pet name he called me

“You’re dead on,” I sneered, rapping my nails on the table top. The Joker shot me a reproachful look and I returned with a glared.

“Get on with it.”

And he did.

“Let’s wind the clocks back a year,” he repeated, letting out a frustrated sigh, “These…cops and lawyers wouldn’t dare touch any of you. And now…I mean what happened? Did your balls drop off? Hmm?”
I stifled a laugh as I glanced around the table, recognizing a face here and there. Most of their eyes were still fixed on me. I sharpened my gaze and they looked away, stricken by my glare.

“Now you see, a guy like me-” the Joker continued but was cut short.

“A freak,” one of the mobsters, who I knew as Gambol, interjected. He seemed awfully pissed about something. I wondered idly if it had anything to do with the dead man on the floor.

Some of the other thugs voiced their agreement and I felt myself burn with hatred. I clenched my fists furiously, feeling the jagged edge of the nail on my pointer finger puncture the roughened flesh of my palms; the nail I had used to break the lock on the handcuffs. The Joker seemed to sense my resentment and he patted my leg reassuringly.

It’s alright. They’ll get theirs. Wait and see.
“A guy…like me…well, listen” he began again, smacking his lips lightly and flicking his tongue across his bottom lips lazily, “I know why you choose to have you’re,” he fought back a laugh, “group therapy sessions in broad daylight. I know why you’re afraid to go out at night…”

He paused for affect, letting out a long breathe as he glanced at each of the faces before him, “The Batman.”

Ah yes, the bat, I thought bitterly, and ran a delicate hand over my left arm, feeling the ugly ripple of burnt flesh beneath the soft fabric of my dress, Bastard.

“Ya see, Batman has shown Gotham you’re true colors unfortunately,” the Joker went on, “And this Dent guy…he’s just the beginning.”

My mind raced, a flurry of color and words, until I saw him: the golden hair, that All-American boy, whose photos were plastered across television screens and alley walls. And I heard him in my head, the words he had shared with me and Bruce just before we had parted ways.

You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain…dear God, he was so right it frightened me.

“What are you proposing?” inquired Maroni, and I was jostled from my thoughts.

“Ban the bat,” I called, crossing one leg over the other.

Some anonymous goon spoke up from the back. “Y’mean kill him?”

I rolled my eyes and shook my head, irritably. Idiot. “No, no, Batman would have much more power as a martyr. To destroy the Batman we must turn him into what he hates most. Namely….us.”
“Simple,” the Joker sighed, gazing at me obsequiously.
The entire table shared a low chuckle. The Joker and I exchanged annoyed glances.

“If it’s so simple, why haven’t you two done it yet?” Maroni smirked, toying with the ring on his finger.

Because he’s been busy with other things. Other people…

“If you’re good at something never do it for free.”

The Chechen eyed him skeptically. “How much you want?”
The Joker looked to me and we shared a subtle smile. “Uh, half.”

More laughter from the mobsters.

“Oh that’s right,” exclaimed Maroni, pointing to me, “Your little whore must get pretty expensive.”

I was out of my seat in the blink of an eye, arms outstretched, and my nails clawing for Maroni’s face. I was close enough to smell his gaudy cologne and I caught a flash of my reflection in the blue of his eyes. Hair standing on end, red lips pulled over sharp, white teeth, claws reaching to tear flesh.

I felt a pair of strong arms around my waist and distantly heard the mechanical click of guns and cries of anger, as I was pulled back into my chair.

“What the hell was that?” the Joker growled into my neck before drawing back and settling into his seat.

“He called me a whore,” I murmured bitterly, “You want me to sit there and take it?”

He did respond and I looked hotly around the table, at the mobsters who stood weapons drawn, ready to blow me away. One at a time they put them away and were seated, but they watched me warily, in case I decided to lash out again.

“As long as you get the job done, Joker, we’ll talk money,” muttered Maroni, straightening his tie and glancing at me irritably, added, “and as long as you can keep your…pet on a shorter leash.”

I seethed and had the urge to lunge at him again, to rip that pretty boy face to bloody shreds. But I remained seated, digging my nails into the metal underside of the chair.

The Joker cleared his throat and the room grew silent once more. “Look at it this way boys: if we don’t deal with his now….” he shrugged, smacking his hands down onto the table. “Soon little, uh…Gambol here,” he pointed to the mobster mockingly, “won’t be able to get a nickel for his grandma.”

I jumped, startled as Gambol slammed his massive fists on the tabletop, his thick lips pulled back in a furious leer exposing a mouthful of white teeth. “Enough from the clown!”

He rose from his chair so violently it toppled onto its side but he ignored the clatter and came for us. But the Joker and I were faster. The whip was off my waist in an instant and I snapped it wildly at the approaching mobster, scaring him off.

“Ah-ta-ta-ta-ta,” the Joker called, holding open his coat to show the room the gallery of grenades stitched to the orange, satin interior and tugging at the purple twine that was tied to each one, “Let’s not blow this outta proportion.”

The men seated around the table drew back in panic and fear, several of them getting up and stumbling further away from us. I smiled wickedly at them, startling them with another flick of my wrist.

“You two freaks think you can just steal from us, and walk away?” Gambol growled, his chest heaving up and down.

The Joker and I glanced at each and answered in unison. “Yeah.”

“Well I’m putting the word out,” he thundered, “Five hundred grand for this clown and his cat bitch dead. A million alive, so I can teach them so manners first.”

I cocked my head at him, puzzled. Now why did he call me that…?

The Joker opened his mouth as if to say something but instead turned to address the rest of the party.

“Look, why don’t you guys give us a call when you want to start taking things…a little more…seriously,” he muttered, absently searching for something in his jacket pocket, “Here’s my card.”

He pulled a playing card, a joker, from his pocket, held it up for all of them to see like a magician, and placed it on the table.

The pair of us slowly backed out of the room, the Joker tugging lightly at the string that manipulated the grenades, humming idly.

And then we were gone, down another hallway, through another door, out into the cold, leaving the men in the basement to fester with shock and hate.

Thought they could scare us off…they haven’t seen the last of us, I thought wildly, as my partner and I pounded the pavement toward our getaway ride. We’ll be back. Soon.