Under the Red Sky

Under the Red Sky (Joker) Part 28

But over the course of the next few days my worries worsened, Charlotte the focus of each.

What if something happened to her before she headed back to Braidal? What if she got into trouble? Charlotte had always had the habit of falling in with the wrong crowd, even if she did so unknowingly. And she had always been a little too trusting. Her reaction to finding me with the Joker was troubling to say the least.

I tried not to think about her, tried to reason that she was a grown woman and could take of herself. But the countless what-ifs nagged at me like a cut on the roof of my mouth that would go away if I could just stop tonguing it.

To make matters worse, the Joker had fallen ill to something like cold. He spent most of the days following our trip to Luna Street in bed on my insistence, coughing and hacking and sneezing. I refused to sleep beside him as long as he was sick, which regrettably filled him with piss and vinegar. But though he hated me for it, he and I both knew some down time would do him good. Even if it let my mind wander where I did not want, like a stray cat in a big, ugly city.

On those nights, when the warehouse was cleared save for a few goons, Sam included, lolled out in front of the television, and the Joker snoring in his sick bed, I’d sit in his office, feet set up on the desk, and think about death. After my brush with the ghosts of flat nine, I seemed to think about it quite a bit.

I thought about my own death. If I could even call it that. What had happened that night?

Why didn’t you die, Bijou?
I didn’t think I would ever know for sure. But I had my notions, my guesses.

What was it they said about cats?

Nine lives. They were supposed to have nine lives.

I thought of my skull cracking on the icy pavement, once, twice. The slow, thick pain of poison pumping through my veins, the needle that tore a hole in my hoary flesh.

Three lives. Blip, blip, blip. Gone. Six left.

My mind turned over such thoughts now, as I lay across the couch the television blaring away. Several goons sat around the room, lounging in the EZ boys and playing cards at the table in the corner. They were getting as restless as I was; it was obvious.

The news rolled again and again the only clips they had of me. I was only half listening to the man seated beside Engel, analyzing my every move.

Feline, they called me. Dangerous, sensual, commanding. A horrible collision of beauty and beast.

The Catwoman.

I smirked at their apparent fear, as they played and replayed the scene at the bank. The threatening crack of my whip, the red that flashed across the manager’s face, the clatter as his gun fell to the floor.

The henchmen ooed and awed, some of them applauded rowdily.

“You don’t mess with the cat lady,” Sam chuckled, folding his hand of poker with a smile. The men at the table nodded in agreement and my grin widened, but faded quickly as the far off voice I knew so well, emanating from down the hall, reached my ears.


I considered just letting him yell, but decided against it. I stood, stretching and cracking my neck.

“I know, baby. I know,” I murmured and the goons guffawed as I left the room, wandering into the kitchen.

Sam, I had soon discovered, was a decent cook. Since I refused to assume the role of domestic slave, he’d taken to fixing most of the meals; when there was food to prepare, that is. Before he had settled down to play his game, he’d fixed his boss a bowl of soup which now sat cooling on the counter, waiting for me to deliver it.

After retrieving a semi-clean spoon from the sink, I moved down the hall toward the office, bowl in hand, sipping the broth from time to time. Ms. Kitty followed on my heels, naturally assuming that the food was for her.

Since I had had little to do, I had tidied the office considerably, shoveling papers into random piles and then into drawers. The desk had been a chore but I had managed to set it upright again, and I glanced at it passively as I swept past into the bedroom.

I could hardly see the Joker, buried beneath a mountain of snotty tissues. But they were briskly brushed off the bed and onto the floor upon my arrival, and I could see him once more. His health was not yet fully restored, but that spark had returned to his eye, his lively, eccentricity back with a bite.

“At last,” he announced, throwing his hands up in frustration. “You’ve graced us with your presence. And you’ve brought the vermin.” He sneered at the cat as if she were something gross he had found on the bottom of his shoe.

I smiled meanly. “Just had to make sure there was enough arsenic in your soup. Eat up, Jack.”

He gave me a look, snatching the bowl and spoon away from me, sloshing most of it onto the floor in the process. He smiled suddenly, a mocking smile. “Thanks, dear. You’re the tops.”

I shrugged, reclining gracefully in the wooden chair by the door. “Thank Sam. He’s too good to you.”

He slurped the soup noisily. “He owes me. Saved him from the mob, I did.”

I raised my eyebrows. “Oh?”

He nodded. “Gambol was his uncle, if I do recall. Wanted him to join up with the rest. And he almost did. But he slipped up on a job, I guess. Family got knocked off. And he never went back. He came to me looking for revenge, like most of them do.”

I frowned, remembering now how Sam had seemed a little off the other day as we sped away from that pool bar, the hard, stony look that had settled over his strong featured face.

There was quiet for a moment as the Joker enjoyed his soup, and I absentmindedly stroked Ms. Kitty, who had curled up in my lap. Watching him bring the bowl to his lips, ignoring the spoon completely, I smiled and thought absurdly of the Beast attempting table manners under the kind, warm eyes of Belle seated opposite one another at an illustrious dinner table.

“Now,” he called finally, wiping his mouth on his sleeve and setting the empty dish aside. “Down to business.”

I blinked the strange image from m mind and he cleared his throat before going on.

“Since I am in no condition to be stepping out on the town, I’m going to need you to run a few errands. Preparations you could call them, for tomorrow night.”

The party. Of course.

I had happened upon the letter once more while cleaning up, and couldn’t help but laugh bitterly at the date.

Christmas Eve. Ha! That Bruce Wayne sure was a card.

I looked on as he produced a small, folded piece of paper out of seemingly nowhere, flicking it at me with his index finger. It bounced off my chest and into my lap, frightening Ms. Kitty. She made a mad sound but regained composure as I unfolded the note. What I found was a carelessly written to-do list, composed of the following:

Lead on the boys in blue.

Get ready to blow them away.

Poison the poison

Dress the part.

I gave him a doubtful look. “Well, this makes a load of sense.”

He smirked, winking at me as he blew his nose grossly. “Knew it would. Sam’ll help. And take some of the boys too. I’m tired of them moping around here like idiots.”

I stood, snapping him a salute as Ms. Kitty scampered off into the office. “Anything else, oh Great and Powerful Oz?”

He cracked a grim smile, tossing a dirty tissue at me. It fell short and I watched it flutter to the floor like a monstrous snow flake. “Yeah. Don’t you, uh…run off again. Okay?”

I blinked, perplexed at the way he struggled with his words, and for a moment I saw another man sitting amidst the tousled bed sheets. A fragile creature asking for promise, his face smudged with red and white and black, his mournful eyes fixed on my own.

I nodded slowly, assuredly, watching him from the doorway. “Okay.”

After a moment, he shook his head dismissively, that softness vanishing like smoke. He waved me away with impatient hands, turning into his covers for more sleep. And I went, without really wanting to, note in hand.


Downtown Gotham was humming with life. Cars chugged along the streets, honking, braking, moving through the ice-slick streets; pedestrians and last minute shoppers crowded the sidewalk, shuffling through the snow left behind by the previous night.

The sun was glaring off the powder with such fierce white light that I found it near impossible to see where the hell I was going even with the thick sunglasses pushed up on my nose. As we came to a red light, I glanced down near the gear shift where the list sat, smiling up at me. The first two items had been scratched off.

Our first task had brought us to an official looking building: the courthouse. Sam hadn’t mentioned much of what any of us were to do when we arrived, and without even a glance at me, he slipped out of the car, appearing a thin white package from his jacket pocket.

I had watched through the hazy, cracked windows of the van as he strolled right on into the building and putting on his best smile, walked up to the front desk and asked something of the receptionist working there. She had smiled shyly and nodded obediently, murmuring something in return and taking the package from Sam. I shuddered, turning away.
That used to be me.

Our next venture took us to a pleasant neighbor just outside of downtown. With Sam’s direction, we had found ourselves in front of a nice, two-story house sandwiched between two others that looked almost identical to the first. Without question, the men seated in the back seat had hopped out, one of them carrying a large leather bag, only after Sam had given them the thumbs up. I looked on with vague interest as they knelt behind the silver Mercedes parked out front, unzipped the bag, and produced what could only be a bomb.

It had been five minutes, ten minutes, twenty, before they had strapped it to the underside of the car.

“Whose is it?” I had asked Sam as I watched the men shuffle back to the van.

“The judge,” he replied shortly, glancing up at the house nervously.

I did not press him on the matter; He probably knew as much as I did, which was very little.

A loud, blaring horn ripped me from my thoughts. I glanced up at the light to find it had changed, now glaring at me with green, pointed malevolence.

I rolled through the intersection, scowling into my rearview mirror. Uppity jerk.

It wasn’t long before we pulled up to our next destination: a liquor store. I hadn’t any idea what the Joker would want with liquor. But he had instructed Sam, who had instructed me, to get a very expensive brand of whisky.

I killed the engine, yanking the keys out of the ignition before getting out of the van, Sam following behind. The rest of the goons stayed put.

I pushed my sunglasses farther up my nose, pulling my coat closer to myself as we hurried up to the store.

The place was fairly empty and smelled strongly of tobacco. The man sitting at the counter didn’t even look up from his newspaper at the chime of the bell above the door. I peered up at the security camera, the little red light blinking merrily in the corner, before moving on. I patted my hair lightly; that, if nothing else, was sure to give me away.

Sam and I moved down the first aisle to the left, acknowledging the sign hanging from the low ceiling that read WHISKY.

“What do you think he’s up to?” he asked suddenly, his brown eyes scanning the shelves.

I shrugged lightly. “Nothing good. He didn’t tell me much, but…He gave the city his word. He said people will die. And so they will.”

He nodded, pausing to examine a bottle. “Judge Surrillo.”


“City judge. We just paid her a visit,” he murmured, “She handled Harvey Dent’s case. She put away all those mobsters. Serves them right, the dirty bastards.”

I frowned, my memory running back over the past few days, remembering a news special I had found myself watching.

Harvey Dent and a Lieutenant Jim Gordon, head of the MCU, had paired up so as to strike the rising issue of the mob with as much force as possible. And they had. They had managed to round up every major mob boss in the city, plus most of their little men. Judge Surrillo had agreed to oversee the case when it came to court.

“So the judge and who else?” I asked.

“Dent maybe. And Loeb.”

I blinked.

“Police Commissioner Loeb,” he explained, chuckling.

I nodded slowly, comprehending. “The Joker wants chaos. Wipe out all of the people who think they run the city. And let the rest scatter like roaches.”

Sam looked at me. “And is that what you want?”

I stared at him, thinking of his question.

The Joker and I shared the same contempt for this city. It had brought us down to our lowest, ran our faces in the mud, made us into monsters. And had let the people who had led us there slip under the radar.

I didn’t oppose the chaos. It was unbiased; fair. I was living it, breathing it. Hell, I had slept with it. I had fallen in love with it.

So let the city burn. As long as I could spill blood on my own terms. Split a few rats down the middle, watch them squirm in my trap with a savage smile.

“Yes, I suppose so,” I said finally, grinning coldly, the murderous lust evident on my face.

Sam gave me a wary look, shuddering slightly as he turned away.

“Aha,” he called quietly after scanning the shelves once more. He stepped forward, plucking up an attractive bottle. The label read Clyburn.

“Loeb does love his whisky,” he muttered, a grimace playing across his face as he checked the price.

We moved back toward the front of the store to make our purchase. The man behind the counter gave us a drowsy look but said nothing as he rang up our one item.

I smiled, fighting back laughter as my eyes scanned over the tabloids each sporting bold titles about the Joker and I. Below most were scratchy photos of the Joker’s sloppily painted face smiling pleasantly into the camera and pictures of myself, whip in hand, my lips turned up in a sensuous smirk.

“Thirty five,” the cashier muttered, looking back down at this paper. Sam threw down a crumpled fifty.

“Keep the change,” he muttered and grabbed the paper bag off the counter, the whisky sloshing noisily inside the bottle.

As we stepped out onto the snow caked sidewalk, there came a loud, obnoxious ringing noise from Sam’s pocket. He handed the liquor to me for a moment as he searched his jacket for his phone. When he retrieved it finally, he glanced at the screen and recognizing the number, flipped it open.

“Yeah boss,” he murmured, holding the receiver to his ear. “Uh-huh….Yeah….Alright….Bye.”

He clicked the phone shut and looked to me, nodding at the car. I moved to the driver’s side, wrenching the door open and leaping into the cab, ready for the warmth of the musty old van. I turned to Sam as he slammed shut his door.

“That was the boss,” he muttered, setting the whisky on the floor between his legs.

“And what did Jackie boy have to say?” I mused, wringing the keys out of my pocket and slipping them into the ignition. The engine coughed to life.

Sam shot me a puzzled look but went on. “He says to come back to the warehouse. Now.”

“What about,” I glanced down at the list for reference, “‘Dress the part’?”
“Said he had it handled.”

“Oh,” I murmured stupidly and thought wildly of the Joker standing before me, a dress clutched in his gloved hands, that fanatical, beautiful red smile playing across his face. The dress was purple, polka dotted green. With ruffles. A plethora of lace and ruffles. A debutant nightmare.

I erupted with mad laughter, gripping the steering wheel and shaking my wild hair with wild mirth as we peeled away from the curb.

He had it handled. Ha, ha!

This should be good.