Under the Red Sky

Under the Red Sky (Joker) Part 26

I awoke all at once, my eyes snapping open with a slight gasp.

There was a moment of disorientation, of the instantaneous panic one feels when the hazy stupidity of sleep lingers like early morning fog in your mind. But it passed just as quickly as it came.

My eyelids hung heavy like drapery and I smacked my lips dryly, savoring what little warmth the thin mattress beneath me had to offer. Maybe just a few more hours of sleep….

I jumped, feeling a sharp nudge as the Joker’s knee collided with my lower back.

“You awake?” he croaked.

I frowned, my hopes dashed. “I am now.”
He sniffed loudly and cleared his throat. “Good. We have a lot to do, today. You and me. Me and you. Ussssss.”

I squirmed in his arms and twisted around to face him.

There was a grayness in his eyes, a clouded look. The end of his nose was red and dripping. He sniffed again.

I grimaced sourly. “You don’t look too good.”

“I don’t feel too good. Some crazy woman made me stand in the rain last night until kingdom come.”

“Hardy, har-har,” I mumbled, and yelped as he pinched my side.

He inhaled sharply, rolling onto his back and reaching for the speckled plaster ceiling. He shot me a sideways glance. “You smell like cigarettes.”

There was a flat kind of disgust in his voice and a small part of me flared with hurt and anger.

“Where did you go last night?”

I shrugged one shoulder, tugging absentmindedly at the loose tufts of stuffing coming out of several rips in the mattress. I thought they looked a lot like stab wounds. “I don’t. Some bar.”

He smiled mischievously. “You didn’t happen to see my video, did you?”

“You know I did,” I murmured placidly, amused by his self-satisfaction, “That’s part of the reason I came back.”

He turned his head slightly to look at me, his eyes swimming with something I couldn’t quite place. It wasn’t that wild, hungry look I had seen so many times before. But rather, an odd unfamiliar light filled his gaze as if he were somewhat…happy. In his own way at least.

But then, suddenly, maddeningly, it was gone, that hint of something vanishing just as quickly as it had appeared, and that sheer nothingness settled in his eyes once more.

If you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.

“Good,” he muttered, an almost appreciative tone in his voice, and stole me from my thoughts with a kiss. I kissed him back, savoring this instance of peace between us.

I knew it was only a matter of time. We had our seasons, each fading with time and then starting anew. And so was the life of a sociopath. Or rather the life of man and woman, crazed and deranged and changing.

I was falling for him. Or maybe had fallen for him. I was almost too aware of that. For weeks it had worn on my mind like a blister on the back of my heel. But as of now, I could care less. A part of me had let go, and I was free falling. Into whose arms, I didn’t know. Into safety or death, I couldn’t bring myself to care. Jack Napier’s kisses were wolfish and brash. They enthralled me even more. Like catnip.

I laughed into the kiss, my thoughts zipping by in mere seconds. I pulled away from him, still giggling and swung my legs off the bed and onto the floor. I got up too fast and swayed slightly, the room spinning for a brief instant. I heard the scream of the mattress, as he got out of bed too.

“So what’s on the agenda for today, Jack?”

I saw him tense at the use of his real name, but he said nothing. I wasn’t naïve thought; I knew if I pushed him too far, he would snap like a dog on a weak leash.

He cracked his back, yawning loudly. “We’re going to visit a friend of ours. If you remember, he wants us dead.”


“Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner,” he exclaimed, smiling as he plucked his coat from the end of his bed. He shrugged it on as he ambled into the small, dingy bathroom, adjoined to his bedroom. I followed after him, wringing the last droplets of moisture from my fur-lined dress, and I leaned up against the doorframe as he began to reapply his makeup.

“Do you think you could play dead?” he asked simply, smearing a large dollop of white paint on his forehead. “Or is that more a dog thing?”

I laughed moving to stand beside him in front of the mirror. “I suppose. But I think I can manage. How hard could it be?”

I dug around in the Joker’s makeup bag, pulling out the black paint. He eyed me curiously but said nothing as I unscrewed the cap. Taking a bit on my fingertips, I leaned toward the mirror and smeared it all along my lower lash line and across my eyelids.

I pulled back satisfied, smiling at the Joker, batting my smoky eyes. He smirked, snatching the paint away.

“Mine,” he grumbled, dipping his chalky fingers into the small pot. I rolled my eyes, leaving him to get ready, a smug grin on his scarred lips.

When he was through, and after I had retrieved my whip which I had found coiled up in the corner like a snake, we moved back down the hallway into the kitchen.

Some of the men were gathered around the cluttered island, drinking coffee from little paper cups and grabbing donuts out of a Shipley box on the counter. Their chatter died down as we entered and they looked at us warily, no doubt on edge from the fight we had had last night.

“Morning,” called Sam, his mouth full of sweet, fried, bread. I smiled at him and returned the greeting. The Joker merely grunted, snatching a donut out of the box.

“Sam, get some trash bags,” he barked from around the donut in his mouth, “You and you,” he pointed to two goons, “Come with us.”

They snapped into action and followed us out to the van, parked in the alley. I frowned, puzzled, but I didn’t dwell on how the van wound up here, since we had left it at the bank. One of the goons must’ve gone back to get it.

After a very nauseating, terrifyingly insane twenty minutes, we pulled up in front of a sketchy looking pool bar. Sam announced that the coast was clear after sticking his head out of the window and glancing around. The Joker ripped the keys from the ignition and grunting, climbed awkwardly into the back seat, plopping down next to me. Sam handed him two black trash bags. He thrust one at me.

“Here, put this on, darling. You’ll look splendid,” he laughed, crawling into his own bag. I shot him a look as I slipped into the black plastic. The two goons the Joker had ordered along carried us in, and Sam walked ahead of us. As we moved through the bar, I could hear him barking at people to clear the way. This was soon replaced with the clack of billiard balls.

“Yo, Gambol,” called an unfamiliar voice, probably one of the mobster’s little men, “Someone here for you. They say they’ve killed the Joker and his woman. They’ve brought the bodies.”

I felt the smooth felt of the pool table beneath me and dared not move a muscle, as the plastic around my face was torn away by the henchmen so Gambol could inspect my face. I heard him spit at the Joker’s face and fought the urge to lash out.

“So…dead,”” he called, the smirk evident in his voice, “That’s five hundred-"

I heard a rustle and my eyes snapped open just in time to see the Joker rise, skewering the two henchmen that were standing beside the pool table as he did so.

“How about alive?” he laughed as Gambol whirled around only to have a knife fit squarely between his lips.

I leapt up, ripping off the trash bag and unwinding the whip from around my waist. I cracked it menacingly at one of Gambol’s men. I kicked him squarely in the jaw as he fumbled for his gun and he fell to the floor with a thud. I crouched and curled my whip around his throat, sneering down at his reddening face as the Joker told Gambol some fake story about his scars.

“I’m not just his woman,” I hissed, tightening the cord around his neck. “I am Catwoman. Here me roar.”

I looked up just as the Joker was finishing up his tale of drunken fathers and kitchen knives.

“-he turns to me and he says, ‘Why so serious?’” he growled, a black passion in his voice, “He comes at me with the knife… ‘Why so serious?”. His blade tugged at the corner of Gambol’s mouth tauntingly. “He sticks the blade in my mouth… ‘let’s put a smile on that face’ and….”

He paused, looking over Gambol’s shoulder at one of his henchmen, who Sam held at gun point. He smiled, his eyes suddenly bright. “Why so serious?”

In one fluid motion he brought the knife across Gambol’s face, slicing his cheeks open, as if he had been doing it all his life. I felt my stomach turn over as the Joker let his body drop to the floor. He stepped over it, moving for the rack of pool sticks on the wall. I straightened up, kicking the henchmen in the head and knocking him unconscious before uncoiling my whip from around his neck.

I wove it around my waist and twirled the end of it like a cane, as I moseyed back toward the Joker.

“Now,” he began addressing Gambol’s boys as he tore off the plastic still hanging on him, “Our operation is small but we’ve got a lot of room for…aggressive expansion. So, which one of you gentleman would like to join our team?”

The men just stared, cold fear in their eyes. I smirked, drumming my nails on the pool table. The Joker plucked a pool cue from the rack before going on.

“Oh and there’s only one spot open right now so we’re going to have,” he paused and broke the wooden stick on his knee. It split in half with a nice, loud crack. “Tryouts.”

Some time later, we made our way through the bar, toward the exit, the new goon following behind us, shaking and covered in sweat. And blood.

Watching him kill his comrades to save his own life had been quite a show. I had seen murder before; hell, I had committed it, unintentionally that is. It had been a frightening, savage thing to watch nonetheless and yet, I had laughed even thrown out a couple of jokes here and there. This probably had something to do with the company I kept. Or maybe I had really lost it.

The men seated around the bar shot us apprehensive looks as we passed but said nothing. I supposed they had heard the commotion and didn’t want to be next.

I walked slightly ahead of the group, a thought suddenly coming to mind. I had wanted to go back to flat nine for some time now, for clothes and other necessities. And for my animal companion of course. What better time than now?

I strutted out in the icy street, walking around to the driver’s side of the van. The Joker was muttering about something to Sam and he didn’t notice I had hopped behind the wheel until he heard the door slam.

“Hey, hey!” he yelled and wrenched the passenger door open to look at me, as the others climbed into the back. “What do you think you’re doing, huh? That’s my seat.”

“That may be,” I replied coolly, resting an arm on the door casually, “But we’re going back to flat nine. I need some things.”

The Joker laughed. “Good one, Bijou. I mean, what are you gunna do? I have the-"

"Sam?" I called and the keys were promptly tossed into my lap from the backseat. I smiled meanly at the Joker as he padded his pockets, glancing about in confusion.

"You see, I like Sam," I purred, plugging the key into the ignition and starting up the van. I glanced back at him. "And I bet you didn't know he was such an excellent pick-pocket."

Sam beamed and the Joker shot him a glare that could melt the skin off his bones. "It's a good thing you're useful or your brains would find themselves scattered across the back seat..."

"Hop in, psycho boy," I replied dully, smiling wickedly. And grudgingly, he climbed into the van, slamming the door violently behind him.

I sped down the street, humming cheerfully, half listening to the talk in the back seat. The Joker was still pouting though he had started tapping his foot to the tune playing on the radio. Things were almost blissful, despite the chaos that hung about us like a disease and the snow fell in fat flakes from the gray sky as we left the more pleasant side of town for Luna Street.