Under the Red Sky

Under the Red Sky (Joker) Part 35


“You’ve done a lot of disgusting things but this…is definitely bordering on artistic.”

I turned to smile at Sam who stood in the doorway, leaning on the jamb, an expression of distaste and slight pride settling on his face.

“I know,” I whispered, my excitement making my voice hitch up an octave. “It’s a monsterpiece.”

I stood back from my work, taking a couple steps away from the table in the center of the room where my most recent victims were posed and propped like mannequins.

Patrick Harvey and Richard Dent. Two goons who used to work a nine to five at the Gotham DMV. They had just settled down to their usual evening round of poker when Sam and I arrived; they hadn’t put up much of a fight. They had been so drunk they hadn’t realized what was happening until they had my knife in between their teeth, tearing away at the wet flesh of their cheeks. I smiled at their faces, each carved and painted like mine. Patrick was frowning; Richard was grinning.

I had to applaud myself; this was art. The aimless mess that bordered the main attraction in the middle of the room, the playing cards (each bearing my trademark) arranged in the deceased’s cold fingers, the pre-printed farce of the Gotham Times featuring a piece from yours truly. Reaching over one purple shoulder, I gave myself a deserved pat on the back. Sam laughed and shook his head.

“If my old folks could see me now…” I sighed, throwing back the tails of my coat and setting my hands on my hips, puffing out my chest, “An artist, an agent of chaos...”

“An egomaniac,” Sam chimed, his shit-eating grin illuminated in the white light of his cell phone screen.

I matched his smile with my own. “Make the call smartass.”

He chuckled, turning into the hall, his thumb moving over the day-glow blue keys. I pivoted to face the wall and shook the gun from my pocket, wrapping a finger around the trigger.

“A little clue for the bat,” I murmured, licking my lip and closing one eye as I aimed for the dry wall. And as bits of plaster rained down on the dusty hardwood floor, as the finger-printed bullet burrowed deeper into the wall, I wondered where Bijou was and what kind of mess she was making.


The sour-sweet stench of sex was rising from between the cracks in the floor. I could feel the heat of it settling on my skin and soon, I knew, there would be blood. Lots of it. And that iron would rattle the air like thunder and fill my lungs up to their fullest. Then the smell of sex would dull. And Peter Lavelle would be dead.

When Maude and I had crept into his room, he was slumped over his desk with a belly full of gin, a fat, noxious cigar burning away in the ashtray. The moon was on the wall and the chill at his windows. They waited for the show. And they didn’t wait for long.

Now he knelt before me, a bleeding believer. He could hardly see me for all the swollen flesh around his eyes, but I knew he could hear me. Even for all the red running from his ears.

“Tell me, Mr. Lavelle. And speak up now,” I exclaimed, circling him like the animal I was, “Do you like to take advantage of little girls? Girls like Maude here? Hmm?”

There was a mumbled cry of agony.

“I said speak up!”

A small bead of ivory broke free from his mouth; that made three teeth, glittering on the floor.

“Yesssss,” he whimpered, a spray of blood and saliva rolling off his thick bottom lip. “Pleassseee, pleasssse. Have mercccyyyy!”

“How many times has he asked for mercy, Maude?” I called to her, examining my nails out of boredom. She was perched in the corner and had been watching excitedly for the last hour or so as I beat her step-father’s face to a gory pulp.

“That would be thirteen times,” she chirped, swinging her legs like a child in elementary school, eager to learn. “But I might’ve lost count.”

“Pleassssseeee,” he hissed again and I sneered with distaste.

“Say it, don’t spray it Petey,” I snapped, stepping back from him, “You’ll ruin my shoes…”

I moved away from the middle of the room for a moment where he knelt, whimpering still, and ambled over to the window. The moonlight slapped me full in the face and I could feel my flesh opening up, readily drinking it in. I took the end of my whip in my hands and slowly began to wipe it clean. The red wore off on my hands; they looked purple beneath the white of the moon. I savored the few moments of conscious silence before I spoke once more.

“You know,” I murmured wistfully, staring down at the street below Lavelle’s bedroom window, glowing red with lust and big business, “I killed my father; shot him dead.”

Maude’s legs stopped their kicking. I watched her in the window as her mouth popped into a little “O” and even Lavelle fell silent; the blood was melting off his lip and gave him the appearance of a mental patient turned vegetable, needing a bib.

“It was only an accident-he was a good man,” I continued, sighing inwardly. I swiveled to look at Maude and I shot her a wink. “He just drank too much.”

I pivoted from the window, my feet scraping across the floor like sandpaper. “Now,” I cried, snapping all to attention, “My father, believe it or not, was a God fearing man. A real holy-roller. And he used to tell me…”

I knelt before Lavelle and took his chin in my hand, making sure he could see me with those bloated little eyes. “My father used to tell me, ‘I am an old sinner….and if God had designed mercy for me, he would have called me home to himself before now’”.

He resumed his whimpering and his tears pooled in my palm and trickled down past my fingers to land beside his teeth on the floor. “Pleasssssseee! Pleassseeee-suh-suh.”

He was shouting now. And spraying blood onto the front of my dress. I gave his face an angry squeeze and a slap and I stood.

I glared down at him and thought how Maude must have cried, her eyes running, all those colors screaming on her face. All the unwanted, dirty love and all of Lavelle’s paydays. And I felt that old vengeful fury rise up inside me like a huge, steaming mountain; as though it might burst through the top of my skull and shower the room with hot red brains and little purple studs of hate.

“Take me in to the cops!” Lavelle was haggling now and my patience was wearing thinner with each word he spit from his broken mouth. “Turn me innnn, lock me uppp, pleeeease! Anything, anything! Just, pleeeeeeease.”

I swallowed the bile rising in my throat; nothing like watching some big man beg for his life to shake up your innards. I tightened the grip on my weapon and licked my lips. “Men get turned in, Lavelle,” I spat, winding back for the final blow like I had just nights before, “Dogs get put down.”

There was flurry of cord, a crisp shower of gore, and then Peter Lavelle fell; simply planted his face onto the hardwood with a marvelous, audible squish. He sputtered into the dirt and the dust until there was silence.

The Joker had been right; the first kill was weird. This felt nearly…normal. I chuckled to think such a thing. It was then I remember Maude was watching.

I turned to face her seat in the corner and found her standing. She inched toward the center of the room, where an enormous red blossom was opening its eyes and enfolding for the milky moonlight. She watched the body of her step-father as though he might spring to life once more.

“He’s dead, Maude” I smiled, rather proud of my work. I had been quite the little hero tonight. In my own way, to Maude, at least. “And you can help with the message.”

“The message?” she inquired, her voice dancing on the empty walls which were about to be filled. I nodded, approaching the north wall and sizing it up, my fingers forming a square across my eyes.

“We have to let Gotham’s trusty boys and gals in blue know who committed this horrible felony,” I said simply, “We don’t want some bum taking all the credit. Especially if the bum is a man.”

Maude nodded in comprehension and looked around. “If we’re writing on the walls…where’s the paint?”

I giggled and grinned sweetly. “Oh, Maude. We got a whole bag of red paint sitting in the middle of the room." I looked back at my canvas, sizing up at that white space, just waiting to dirtied... “That’ll really knock their socks off.”


I was getting anxious to take out the trash. The dirty woman in black wasn’t cooperating. And my patience, which had always been in short supply, was running its course.

I readjusted the grasp on the gun in my hand, trying to ignore all the sweat pooling in my palms. Furiously rubbing my free hand on the side of my leg, I shot Sylvia a glare. She stood in the doorway, half in, half out of the room. She returned with a look of quiet panic, as though her prim little world was cracking beneath the porcelain shell of her skin. Her blue eyes quickly darted from mine. I looked back to the hostage.

This one sat tied to a chair in the middle of the back office. The one where I’d met with that clown bastard, before he ran away with that undead bitch. But this woman was a cigarette on legs; her everything smelt like smoke. Wore too much black and her hair, long and stringy and dark as her attire, was quaffed around her face. Occasionally I would get a creepy glimpse of the whites of her eyes in all that black. And even more frequent, the red of the blood streaming down her forehead.

It felt good; hitting her with the gun. As though I were getting that release, as if I were finally letting go of all the anger toiling in my bones. And even though I couldn’t hurt Selina Kyle, this was as close as I could get.

“I’ll ask again,” I barked, tapping my foot to show the smoky woman just how impatient I was, “Where is she?” The butt of my gun nuzzled her chin. “Hmm?”

She tossed her head away and I caught another flash of white skin, white eyes. “I told you I don’t know.”

My nose wrinkled at her breath and I shuddered to think of her lungs. Black, black, black. Inside and out.

“But you do know,” I countered angrily, “That’s why you’re in town. You came for a little Christmas visit.”

“That was weeks ago, asshole,” she spat, “I haven’t seen her since. She left with that clown guy…what his name…Jo-"

“Yes, the Joker. We’re all well aware they’re together,” I barked, my patience now hanging by a thread. I needed answers. Either she wasn’t willing to talk or she really didn’t know, in which case, all that prying I’d done was for nothing. Weeks of work wasted on some nicotine degenerate.

“Then you know more than me, buddy,” she surprised me by laughing and she peered up at me through all that hair, the whites of her eyes like milk splats on asphalt. “I don’t know anything.”

I stared at her as the mirth rattled into a wheeze. And I felt that rage cooking in the pit of my stomach once more. But if I couldn’t find Ms. Kyle, then she would come to me. Women were foolish like that; they made friends, they fell in love. And they paid dearly for it. Yes, she would come. Animals always came sniffing for dead meat. Always.

“That’s too bad,” I murmured, licking my lips and straightening my posture, “For a moment there, I thought you might be worth something. But I’ve been wrong before.”

And as I raised my gun, holding it level with her black cobweb skull, I imagined Selina Kyle at the end of the barrel. The cigarette hardly had time to scream as Sylvia gasped, and as the metal fire fought for the sound. The fury was there at the back of my throat and my finger, relaxed, at the trigger. And it felt so good.