Under the Red Sky

Under the Red Sky (Joker) Part 38.b.

The wind was screaming in my ears, tearing through my unkempt nest of hair, and whistling across my flesh as we sped through the darkened streets of Gotham. I clutched at the walls for support, the wild swerving of the semi-truck threatening to knock me on my ass. But I was sure to keep a steady hand on Maude’s shoulder, though she seemed far from frightened, a big fool’s grin threatening to split her face.

I didn’t want to know where the Joker got the truck. Or all these extra men. But he’d been good on his promise and returned to the warehouse an hour or so after he’d left. He’d been as jovial and lunatic as ever, stomping about and yowling senseless things. He’d clapped his hands, told me to get ready quickly and I had; soon I was furred, with a whip round my waist, ready to raise heel. Maude had done the same, dressing simply but popping into my room to borrow my makeup.

I had watched her paint her face like a little princess, so cheerful, so unafraid all big lashes and pink cheeks. At first, I’d been reluctant to let her go with us; but the Joker hadn’t had the same misgivings. He never did.

I was pulled from my musings by the sudden shriek metal. One of the anonymous goons had wretched open the side of the truck, letting the wind howl through the belly of the rig. My eyes narrowed against the fierce chill and from the plastic orange light pouring across the shadows of those inside the semi, I could tell we had rolled into some kind of underpass. Lower 5th it looked like.

Maude let out a rebel yell, relishing the energy of the night and I watched the Joker hang haphazardly from a loop hanging from the ceiling. Once or twice, he swung dangerously from the edge of the truck. I wanted him to fall, to get caught under the wheels, laughing maniacally. I wanted him to stop, keep from the wind and the blurred grey of the road…

“Maudie,” he called, with a melodic ring in his voice and a giggle ringing through his teeth. He caught my eye and smiled maliciously though he still addressed the girl. “Ever shoot a gun?”

I felt my face curve into a look of ice and my hand tightened on Maude’s shoulder. She threw me a pleading, eager grin to which I responded with a stern look of disease, but still I let my hand fall away from her shoulder. It wasn’t my place to keep her from the thrill.

“Only in my dreams,” replied Maude cheerfully, stepping cautiously over the side of the van. The Joker surrendered his grip to Maude and placed a moderately sized pistol in her hand. Her little hands struggled with the weight of it and she stared at it with those wide, rabbit eyes. I couldn’t help but smile.

As the Joker played teacher, trilling off directions and tips for technique and aim, I ambled awkwardly over to Sam who stood in the corner with some more familiar goons loading an array of miscellaneous guns. In the pit of my stomach, tossed in the acid and the day old coffee, was the tang of curiosity, of keen urgent wanting to know.

“Sam?” I called, over the maddening click/clack of metal and the scream of the road. He looked up, brown eyes watering from the light and the squall and his own concentration all at once. I took his silence as consent to ask lethal questions, answers to which would do me no good. “Where did you go this afternoon?”

Sam’s hands moved gracefully over gun after gun. Click/clack. “Fetched the semi from some vacant lot. Rallied up a few extra crazies.” He chuckled before adding. “Expendable crazies.”

I nodded, placing a hand on my hip, tracing the rubber of the whip there with poison nails. “And I suppose this little outing has something to do with Dent’s…” I searched for the word and it came out on a laugh, “Revelation?”
Sam shared my chuckled and nodded. “Bingo. We knew Dent’d be moved to County; a few tip offs from some dirty cops. Fucking up his route will be the easy part.”

My teeth opened to cry another question but a violent jolt of the truck clapped them shut around my tongue. I was suddenly very aware of everything: the sound of fire splitting the night, a million bullets biting against the wind, screeching tires (stop, please! NO MORE), the hum-du-lum cough of motors and hot machine.

“We’ve got him!” the Joker cackled, careening dangerously over the side of the truck. He motioned to one of the goons who handed him a small automatic. He and Maude pulled their triggers with newborn glee, the henchmen waiting in the wings for instruction, ready to hand them more guns. Which would be soon, with all the metal now flying through the tangerine light of underpass.

Under the growl of the road and the manic hiccup of countless bullets, I could hear the muted plink of those bullets actually hitting something. The truck swerved and I caught a glimpse of our target: a SWAT truck. With the action underway and the Joker fully distracted, I began once more with my questions.

“Dirty cops?” I raised my voice above the racket. “Under Gordon at the MCU?”

Sam looked up from his reputation, nodding. “Yeah, the same ones helping us move the Dawes woman.”

My hands fell away from my hips. The curiosity festering between my ribs quickly turning to dread.

“Rachel?” I breathed, a puff of white air exploding from my lips.

“Yeah,” he nodded, handing off a gun to a nearby goon who promptly delivered it to the Joker. “That the one. Guess the boss wasn’t happy with one target tonight. If you ask me, he’s got too many plates spinning at one-″

But I could no longer hear him, my blood screaming with the wind in my head, my heart beating like a hammer against my bones. With newfound certainty, I strode to the edge of the truck, my eyes stinging with ice and my teeth grating across the raw pink of my tongue. I could feel the heat of rage building inside of me, threatening to boil over and blister.

“Nice of you to join us,” the Joker cackled, gripping the lip of the door with one hand and shooting wildly with the other.

I ignored him, eyeing Maude; she was giggling madly, twirling her gun on her finger, aiming and shooting. I would later regret what I was about to do, only because it would mean putting her in danger. But I was rash and hasty then. All I saw was red.

I took aim, fixing my gaze on the SWAT car a couple lanes away, wheels spinning like mad, black suns; the semi kept up the pace. We were neck and neck, racing into oblivion. I stepped away from the opening.

One, two, three. I ran. And I leapt.

Everything was light and shrieking air. I felt the wind bite at my bare legs, raking across my scalp. My feet hit the roof of the SWAT car and I stuck it, my heels digging into the metal. And then came the pain. Hot and instantaneous and inexplicable, burrowing through my chest and searing my flesh. Manic spirals of purple and red and silver burst before my eyes and turning, the orange light shivered and the night flickered like bad film.

The noise came all at once.


His voice broke through the red haze. He was panicked, his mirth withering quickly. His painted face was wracked with an ugly expression of hate and surprise; there was a bazooka perched on his shoulder, aimed for the SWAT carried.

Laughter, mad and horrible, rose in my throat and spilled into the wind.

“Take care of her, asshole” I hollered, scuttling down to the back door with quick feet and shaky hands. There was a click from the unlocked door, swinging open wildly against the squall. Looks of surprise from Dent and his guard. More laughter. I broke the guard’s jaw with the heel of my shoe and he hit the floor with sickening thud, blood splattering wonderfully against the walls. The doors were slammed, the howl of the road quickly silenced, and I collapsed into the seat opposite Dent, a mess of blood, hair and matted fur.

“Hello Harvey,” I purred, crossing my legs and trying to make the world stop spinning.

He stared at me, bewildered and slightly terrified. My face broke into a salty grin. “Don’t worry, Dent. I’m not going to hurt you. And while I’m here, neither will the Joker. He won’t make one fucking shot.”

He was silent for a moment watching me. I glanced around casually, noting the welts on the walls, jagged, looping lines where the bullets had made contact.

“You’ve been shot.”

The clarity of his voice, ringing loud and true in the silence, startled me- his statement did not. I gazed down at myself; sitting in a puddle of red. I was gushing.

“Well look at that,” I murmured, giggling madly, my fingers messing in the blood. I blinked several times, at the red on my fingers, on the walls; and I felt something break inside of me.


I promptly lost consciousness.


“Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck.”

The wind threw the curses back into my teeth, stinging and white hot. I shot wildly, my head spinning, my breath seething through my scars.

I’d shot her. I was sure of it.

Payback. Mad woman. Show her, show her. KILL HER, KILL HER.

My hands scuttled madly over the bazooka, waiting for the affirmative click. There it was.

In the back of my shriveled mind, I could hear the roar of an angry, eager engine, barreling black and bulking toward us. I ignored it, took aim and fired.

Missed. The back of an escort cop car bust into spark and flame. I reloaded. The drone of machine grew louder. I took aim once ore.

The whining as so loud now.


My finger slipped on the trigger. Fire.

A sudden pause in the sound and a mass of black metal flew through the air, intercepting the black and igniting like a Roman candle. The sparks hit me full in the face; I laughed as loose bits of shrapnel filled my mouth, embers of hot plastic rebounding against my throat. The truck swerved madly, my skull thwacking violently against metal and tin. Cupid birds, blossoms of blood, daisies, cats, and spacemen dancing and hysterical on the walls of the semi. I heard the girl scream, the shriek of her nails on the floor, holding on for dear life.

The rig shuddered like a bulimic and rolled to a slow stop. My men groaned around me, bleeding, burnt. The girl got to her feet, shaking her head; she was bleeding but seemingly well.

Take care of her, asshole.

The sound of far off machines growled in the distance. I stood, shakily, blood boiling in my head. Leapt from the rig, spit a tooth and a splatter of red. Disposed of who was now useless including the bespeckled driver.

“Excuse me,” I muttered, spitting the words from charred teeth and tongue. “I wanna drive.”

I vaguely recalled Maude leaping up into the carriage, settling into the seat beside me; Sam followed, shutting the passenger door, startled and looking green.

All I could see was her. Sneering, laughing, pursing her bloody lips, smiling like a lunatic, hair whipping wildly around her face, more beautiful and more horrifying than I ever imagined.

Time to mow her over. I could get Dent and the bat without her. With her in the way.

Giggling, my fingers fiddled with the keys in the ignition.

Cough, cough, roar.

There was noise. And I saw that it was good.


It was the blast that woke me. Such stupendous noise; I though the sky had fallen.

My heart began to beat again, slow but steady. A reddish fog hung in my eyes, cluttered my throat with the taste of iron. I felt strength, stirring in my alabaster limbs, speckled with red and bruising blue. Smacking my lips, my eyes lolling lazily, I fixed my gaze on Dent. His handsome was wracked with worry. I thought fleetingly of Rachel. My stomach heaved.

“What the hell was that?” he murmured, glancing around panicked, though neither of us could see a damn thing save for the bumps on the walls and the blood that seemed to everywhere.

Didn’t know I had so much…

“He had a bazooka,” I noted and Dent gave a start. He must’ve thought I died. (I had). I continued, smiling at his shock. “He could’ve shot down the moon for all we know.”

Dent’s lips twitched at the notion and it was then we both noticed that the car was picking up speed, the tires spinning under us with silent ferocity. What I would’ve done for a window…

“I know you.”

My musings fell short, Dent once more breaking the quiet. I stared at him, unblinking, the pulse behind my eye beating wildly.

“I’ve seen your face.”

I smirked, ignoring the flutter of panic in my chest that now accompanied the blistering pain of the bullet lodged in between muscle and bone. “I’m sure you have. GCN loves me-″

“No,” he shook his head, his eyes boring into my face. “I know you.”

I fiddled uncomfortably, watching as his mouth moved over a word, foreign, meaningless, but undeniably true: a name.


My heart did a little back flip, swelled in my chest, burned and shuttered. I felt myself nod, staring back at him with dull hate; not for him but for that name and all of its pathetic connotations.

“Why?” he breathed, something like pity in his gaze.

Anger stirred inside me once more. I sneered. “Why not?”

He fell short, picking up on my hostility. Watching his face fall, I softened my own. My mouth struggled with the words. “When you have nothing to lose, Harvey, you’ll know why. When you’ve got nothing left to lose but you mind…you’ll know.”

He stared. I glared at the blood on the floor. The silence was enough to make me scream. I’d had enough of this small talk.

My legs were sure and steady as I approached the small, barred window that allowed conversation with the driver. I slammed the slot opened and put my mouth to the screen, feeling like a sinner about to confess. The guard in the passenger seat cocked his head to glace at the opening and seeing my face smiling back at him, teeth glaring white and fierce, his own face broke into a look of terror.

“Hello there,” I purred, slipping my fingers around the bars. “I got one gun, one very pretty D.A., and an extremely short temper back here, boys. I suggest we pull this party wagon over if you don’t want his blood on your hands. And your walls.”

I laughed horribly and the car began to slow. I settled back into my seat after fishing the keys to the door from the belt on the unconscious guard. I peered at Dent who was staring at his hands.

Why so serious?

“If anything should happen,” I began, the carrier rolling to a stop. I stood; Dent didn’t move. He watched me rise and go to the door, the keys ringing in the quiet. I looked at him, the doors swinging open, the sound of the night spilling into the car. “I’m sorry.”

I glanced back at the open slot on the opposite wall. “Nobody moves. Not until I saw,” I spat. A rustle of compliance. Satisfaction.

Dent was silent still, watching me, even as I leapt from the carriage, my heels clacking on the cement. I shut on his face, so handsome and so serious. Nobody looked right now; not without a scar or two or leering crimson lips and sooty eyes.

Sighing, white smoke pluming from my mouth, I turned to the street. I spotted what caused the deafening crash, fixing my gaze on the smoldering remains of a small helicopter a little ways off. My eyes flitted down the street to see the semi barreling down the concrete, the metal of its graffiti-smeared shuttering horribly. And tearing toward it was undoubtedly the Batman, riding a hulking mass of black metal and wheel. From where I stood it looked like a motorbike.

Look who’s come to save the day.

I watched as they sped toward each other, playing some horrible game of chicken. I waited for the bat to ease up; he did not. Something shot from the front of his bike, something like cables. He swerved under the semi, further twisting the wires beneath the rig before zipping away, cape billowing.

There was shriek of grating metal followed swiftly by the sound of concrete, splitting, tearing. The front of the semi caught on one of the cables, the back end rising almost gracefully as if to salute the night sky. There was a sickening moment of silence. Faces flew through my mind. The people in the truck, the people I loved. And the semi collapsed, shuddering, screaming, in a heap of dust and metal. My heart tugged loose and dropped swiftly into my stomach.

I screamed, the desperate, broken noise echoing back at me a million times, playing on the store windows and ringing through the rain gutters clogged with snow and ash.

They were dead. They were surely, all of them, dead. Impaled on the gear shirt, slammed through the windows, skewered with glass. I was blind with fury and mania, frozen tears fogging my eyes. My knees shook; they met the ground. I would certainly be sick. Bile rose in my throat, but wouldn’t slip through my teeth. I was sobbing, though I couldn’t feel it; I couldn’t feel anything but the mad grief festering in the back of my mind.

And then…the drone of an engine. I raised my face, wiped my swampy glaring eyes. The bat. Knees shaking I got to my feet, the frost on the pavement stuck in my flesh. I could feel blood trickling down my legs, pooling in the street, leaving trails of red on the tar. The avenue was so empty, void of cars, people, and breathable air.

Silence. Broken only by the hum of the motorbike, burning fast and black and the sudden, rowdy roar of bullets. From…the man standing in the middle of the street. The man in purple.

A ghost! A mirage of heat, all this mechanical heat!

More furious bullets, shells smacking the pavement. I stumbled on, faster now, towards the purple phantom and his broken, smoking truck.

The bat was getting closer, speeding towards him, tires spinning madly. The bullets stopped; the yelling began.

“Hit me!” growled the ghost. So loud for a boogeyman…

“HIT ME!” Why should he? You’re already dead.

The Batpod swerved madly, the wheels screeching in protest before finally giving up the bike tumbling to an anti-climactic stop before the crumpled grill of the semi. The ghost fell silent, turned and caught my eye.

He stared, I stared.

Both of us felt very much alive, the wind hissing at our ankles. I strode slowly forward until I was close enough to hear him breathe. Until I was sure he was, in fact, not an illusion, not another figment of my frenzied imagination.

“I thought you died,” I murmured, grinding a piece of shattered glass into the ground with the ball of my foot.

He grinned, scars stretching like sick elastic. “I knew you died. I, uh…shot you…” His eyes flitted away from mine.

My lips twitched. “Yeah…thanks.”

He chuckled greasily, glad to be off the hook. He gave me a once over, waggling his eyebrows. “You look like hell.”

“I love you.”

I was breathless, watching him with hazy eyes. It’s not until you come close to losing something quite dear to you that you realize how much it really means. Or however the hell that fucking phrase goes. None of it mattered.

He blinked his sooty eyes, let the gun in his hand fall with a clack to the cement. He hadn’t expected that. I’d beaten him at his own game and I had meant it. His tongue darted swiftly across his lip and he shrugged, the beginnings of a smile coming across his face. “I guess so, huh?”

I felt a hand slip into my own and I tore my eyes from his. Maude. She smiled weakly at me through a swollen eye, a drop of blood rolling down her chin, her makeup as smudged and sweaty as the clown’s. Otherwise, perfectly fine. I could have cried for joy.

All three of us, joined slowly by several surviving goons, turned to stare at the black mass of muscle lying before us. It did not move; it did not seem to even breathe.

“What is it?” Maude piped up, shifting her weight nervously.

“This, Maude dearest,” the Joker crooned, striding toward our prey and fishing a knife from his pocket, “Is a freak of nature. Observe.”

A masked henchman stepped forward to unmask the bat and was immediately sent flying, a spark of electricity working its way across his flesh. The congregation burst into a fit of laughter. Maude clapped her hands. The Joker spit at the idiot goon before crouching over the bat, blade ready in hand.

That’s when I felt the gun poised in the crook of my neck.

I didn’t even have time to react. Suddenly, I was belly on the concrete, face in the ash, being handled by some little boy with a gun. I felt the metal at my wrists, heard Maude squeak with protest and fright. Heard the Joker chat amiably with his captor, his knife chattering on the ground.

“Could you just give me a minute?”

I caught a flash of Gordon, his bespeckled mug and his ruffled hair. He was wearing a SWAT team uniform. “Back from the dead,” I crowed, laughing as I was forced to my feet, “This city is full of ghosts!”

He spat some ugly name at the Joker, cuffed him, threw him into the arms of another officer. My partner took it all with a crimson smile and a giggle, chiding the other guards not to leave his favorite knife just lying there.

The three of us were led, along with a handful of goons, to a fleet of vacant SWAT cars, much like Dent’s but with fewer bullet holes and less blood. Climbing into the carriage, I caught a glimpse of said White Knight flustered by a horde of media rats.

How did they get here so fast?

He dismissed their badgering and was led from the crowd by a small Hispanic woman, one of Gordon’s subordinates no doubt, to a car idling a little ways off; another officer was scowling behind the wheel.

I thought of dirty cops. I thought of Rachel. I thought of heat and flame. The doors of the car were slammed shut, locked, and Harvey disappeared. I sighed, wincing at the pain in my chest. Maude played with her handcuffs, a sullen look on her pretty face. The Joker started to hum, completely unfazed by our apprehension. I heard the growl of an engine.

And the roar of the road began again.