Under the Red Sky

Under the Red Sky (Joker) Part 39


I felt like a rabbit. Or a very small bird. A finch maybe, in this cage. In my cell. And the sickish green hue of the air did nothing for the dreary atmosphere.

All of them stared. Little piggish eyes, their hate and disgust a faulty guise for their fear. They circled the cell, banging on the bars with their sticks, with their bare fists, spitting ugly things.

The Joker and Bijou were unfazed, settled close to one another beside me on the wooden bench. I ignored the cops, turning and smiling at their exchange. Bijou was chattering feverishly, chiding the Joker for his stupidity one minute and kissing his scars with gladness the next. She kept looking him over, checking for any mortal wounds that might’ve missed her attention. It was she that needed the attention. I noted the large puddle of red that had began to collect beneath the bench.

But the cops didn’t care. Didn’t care for insufferable headache or cuts and scratches. Didn’t care for her wounds or even the Joker’s if he had any. We were scum. And we deserved to suffer.

The Joker didn’t say much, letting out a giggle every now and then. He had a hand on her leg, something to pacify her, to calm her down. He himself was oddly composed, despite our current situation. Eventually, Bijou turned away from him to examine me, her hair bristling wildly, as matted and horrid as mine.

“Anything broken?” she chirped, swinging her legs.

I mimicked the action. “Nope. I got strong bones. Lots of milk.”

She and I began to cackle and the Joker joined in for the hell of it, without catching one word of our conversation. The rest of his goons and the other random crazies in the cell with us howled and rattled the bars. The cops continued to beat away against the metal; the room was full of noise. I loved it.

“Stand away! All of you!”

The voice broke through the din, authoritative and clear. The rumpus slowly died down and the cops retreated from the cell as an older gentleman strode in. His hair was ruffled, his glasses slightly askew, his lean frame bulky with Kevlar.

“Gordon,” Bijou whispered to me, a cool grin creeping over her face. I nodded.

“I don’t want anything for their mob lawyer to use, understand?” he addressed the guards, pointing at the two beside me.

Another fellow joined Gordon at his side. The mayor; I knew his face. Bijou tilted slightly to murmur something in the Joker’s ear. Something about eyeliner. Red lips spread over yellow teeth and the pair shared a chuckle.

I jumped up from the bench and patted over to the bars, gripping them with grimy hands. I kept my eyes on Gordon and the mayor, determined to ignore the hateful murmurs of the cops nearby.

“Back from the dead?” the darker of the two men murmured, taking Gordon’s hand. Behind me, Bijou let out a screech of laughter.

“Couldn’t risk my family’s safety,” Gordon returned, glancing at the cackling woman and pushing his square frames farther up his nose.

Dropping hands, together they turned to look at the cage in the middle of the room, eyeing those locked inside.

“So what do we got?”

Gordon sighed, weary. “The girl is Maude Lavelle. Booked a couple times for prostitution. But…nothing on the other two. No prints, no matches on DNA. The clown’s clothing is custom, no labels. Nothing in his pockets but knives and lint. The woman’s dress is ruined beyond recognition,” he ran a hand through his already tousled hair, “No names, no other aliases…nothing.”

He sounded so tired, so utterly exhausted. I frowned, drifting from the bars to reclaim my seat beside Bijou, dodging a rather flustered goon as he paced wildly, clutching his heaving stomach and whining in pain.

The Joker watched him, grinning malevolently, black eyes darting back and forward like billiard balls. Bijou fluffed her hair and crossed her legs elegantly, throwing a glance at her nails, indifferent and calmer then before. I started swinging my legs.

“Go home Gordon. The clown, the cat, and the girl will keep till morning,” the mayor spoke finally after eyeing us for a good long moment. “Get some rest. You’ll need it. Tomorrow you take the big job.” He smiled at Gordon’s confusion, putting a hand at his back. “You don’t have any say in the matter- Commissioner Gordon.”

The pitter patter of applause filled the room and the new commissioner blushed at the attention, his expression one of perplexity and fatigue. The cheers slowly diminished but everyone turned to stare at the three of us sitting in our cell, clapping politely. They all quickly turned away, afraid, disgusted, what have you.

The guards began their chorus of insults and empty threats and the loony goons began to howl once more. Bijou folded me into her arms, smearing my face with her blood. The Joker began to hum.

And I couldn’t keep the smile from splitting my face.


The room was doing nothing for my mood. Not the black mirror walls. Or the concrete floor. Or the stupid little table to which I was chained. I tugged halfheartedly at the handcuffs and made a sour face. I gripped the cup on the tabletop with my free hand and took another swig of the coffee I’d been screaming about for the past half hour or so.

Sludge. Brown sludge.

Not even worth all that bitching.

I glanced around glumly, wondering when the hell someone would come in to drill me. I missed Maude already. The cops had insisted she stay in the cell while the Joker and I were interrogated. But I didn’t trust them alone with her. After many bitter threats, I’d convinced them to let her go with the Joker. I knew then the cops wouldn’t touch her. Not with him around. It’d be the last thing they ever did.

But still…I was lonely. And I hated waiting.

A loud, buzzing noise filled the room and I straightened with a start, setting the coffee down after taking another quick sip. I shuddered at the taste as Gordon stepped into the room, the fluorescent light glaring off his glasses.

“Congratulations on the big promotion, Gordy-boy” I purred, perching one elbow on the table and leaning forward. “Simply splendid. Can’t say the same for your coffee though. If I had to drink that everyday, I might kill myself.”

Gordon’s face remained void of emotion as he settled into the chair opposite me. Pushing his glasses up on his nose, he gave me a once over. “Looks like someone beat you to the punch.”

A throaty laugh crept up from the back of my mouth. “You’re on fire tonight, Commissioner.

“I try,” Gordon sighed, cracking a bitter smile. He eyed the dark red hole in my chest once more. “We made good on your coffee request. Are you sure you don’t want…medical assistance?”

“Oh, no. Don’t worry about me. I’ll clot soon enough. But…” I folded my arms, leaning back in my chair, “Enough of this playful banter. Let’s get down to it, shall we?”

“Right,” Gordon sighed, finally cracking a bitter smile, “And for the sake of your time and my own, I’ll skip the questions I know you won’t answer. But you might be interested to know…Harvey Dent never made it home.”

I felt my lips thin to a line. “How do you mean?”

“His transport car never made it to its destination. Neither did Ms. Dawes’. They were both apprehended.”

I made quick work of masking my panic. “If you think I have any information-″

“No, I don’t think,” Gordon began, raising his voice slightly, “I know you know something.”

“Well, murders and executions aren’t exactly up my alley,” I spat, laying my hands flat on the table so they’d stop shaking, “You might wanna try next door.”

Gordon narrowed his eyes and spoke only after a tense moment of silence. “What about Peter Lavelle?”

I scowled. “What about him? Are you going to reprimand me for slaughtering some disgusting pimp and throwing a little blood on the walls? Please, Commissioner, spare me.”

Another lengthy few minutes of quiet. We glared. The clock on the wall chattered. Somewhere in the building there was a shout of pain. A myriad of lies rolled through my mind. Lies spat from red lips. I felt hurt in my chest, not from the bullet.

I finally broke the silence. “Look…I’m not interested in killing Dent. Or Rachel Dawes. Or even you.”

“Then why run with the Joker?”

“Why not?” I countered, growing tired of all this back and forward, the dread growing in my chest. I wanted to see the Joker. I wanted to interrogate him.

“I can think of a few reasons,” he chuckled darkly and I shook my head with fatigue.

“Again, spare me,” I lowered my eyes from his face, my thoughts racing, faces and words zipping through my mind, “I’ve had enough of your questions. And it’s not me you want to talk to. Not really.”

“I’ll end this interrogation when I see fit-″ he began, raising his voice once more, but I silenced him with a glare that could melt the paint on the walls.

“Leave me be.”

And he did.


The air was heavy with awkward silence, broken only by the sound of scuffing shoes. The girl was kicking her feet in the chair beside me.

I eyed her with some curiosity, straining my eyes in the dark. She didn’t seem at all bothered by me anymore. It seemed she’d gotten used to me. Just like Bijou.

A few weeks living with him and nothing will bother you.

I jostled by wrists and the metal around them rattled happily. The coppers hadn’t bothered to slap any cuffs on the girl; she didn’t pose much of a threat. I glanced at the small cut above her eyebrow, which had finally clotted.

“How do you feel, kid?” I cleared my throat and began swinging my legs as well.

She turned her head to me, smiling. “Just peachy, thank you.”

“And your head?” The handcuffs clanked as I set my hands on the table, the metal smiling in the light from the small desk lamp.

“Spinning,” she laughed but quieted suddenly as a horrible drone filled the room. Gordon had arrived. The large, iron door on the far side of the room opened and closed with a bang and the sound of Maude’s shoes quieted as she stilled in her seat.

“Evening…Commissioner,” I hissed, as he took a seat across from Maude and I.

He was quiet as he settled into his chair, brushing his arm across the table before clasping his hands in front of him. He stared. I smiled. Maude began swinging her legs again.

“Harvey Dent never made it home,” he said simply, watching me for a reaction.

I smacked my lips. “Of course not.”

There was a hint of steel in his voice. “What have you done with him? I’ve already asked your little accomplice next door and she said you’d have answers. Now, what have you done with him?”

I grinned at the desperation at his voice. “Me? I was right here.” I shook my handcuffs. “Who did you leave him with? Your people?” I made a face. “Assuming of course they are still your people and not Maroni’s...”

I waited for him to object and when he did not I continued.

“Does it depress you…to know how alone you really are?” He did not squirm; I kept on. “Does it make you feel…responsible for Harvey Dent’s current predicament?”

Gordon blinked. “Where is he?”

I rolled my eyes, sighing, shifting in my seat. Nothing. “What’s the time?”

“What difference does that make?” Gordon sneered.

“Well, depending on the time, he could be in one spot or several.”

Maude laughed and Gordon shot her a look. I smiled, smug.

He stood suddenly, glaring down at the two of us. “If we’re going to play games,” he moved to unlock my handcuffs and I hummed as they left my wrists. He twirled them on his finger and pushed his spectacles up on his nose. “I’m going to need a cup of coffee.”

I was the one to laugh this time as Gordon stalked off to the door. “The good cop, bad cop routine, hmm?”

He threw one last glance at the table as that buzzing filled the room. I could hardly see him for the shadows. “Not exactly,” he replied and promptly left the room.

“Humph,” Maude sighed and I nodded. “Tough crowd.”

The lights flickered on and I barely had time to register the rustle of fabric I heard above the hum of the fluorescents. Maude squealed. My face met the table. And I began to laugh.

“Never start with the head,” I managed though the world was blurry and bright. All I could see was bulking black form and glinting eyes. “The victim gets all fuzzy. He can’t feel the next…” A fist at my hand; I felt something crack. Maude yelped again.

I blinked. “See?”

“You wanted me,” growled the bat, claiming Gordon’s chair, “Here I am.”

I smiled. “I wanted to see what you’d do. And you didn’t disappoint-you let five people die. And then…,” my grin widened “You let Dent take your place. Now, even to a guy like me that’s cold.”

“Where’s Dent?” he garbled, as if it’d be that easy.

“Those mob fools want you gone so they can get back to way things were. But I know the truth- there’s no going back. You’ve changed things. We all have. Bijou, me, you. Forever.” Maude gave an affirmative nod. The Batman glanced from me to her and back again.

“Then why do you want to kill me?”

The laughter came all at once, hard and unruly. “I don’t want to kill you! What would I do without you? Go back to ripping off mob dealers? No, no, you,” I murmured, bobbing my head emphatically, “You. Complete. Me.”

Batman shook his cowl. “You’re garbage that kills for money.”

“Don’t talk like one of them-you’re not,” I barked, shooting him a look, “Even if you’d like to be. To them you’re just a freak like me. They need you right now. But when they don’t….they’ll cast you out. Like a leper.” Maude and I shared a chuckle.

I leaned forward, staring deep into the holes of his mask, reaching for a reaction. “Their morals, their code…it’s a bad joke. Dropped at the first sign of trouble. They’re only as good as the world allows them to be. You’ll see – I’ll show you…when the chips are down,” I licked my lips, “These civilized people…they’ll eat each other.”

I grinned, settling back in my chair and snapping my suspenders. I shot Maude a wink and she threw the bat a smug smile. I looked back to him. “See, I’m not a monster…I’m just ahead of the curve.”

And then everything happened very quickly.


The game was over. I could read it very clearly on the Batman’s face. But the Joker was never willing to give up so easily. Not even now, with the hero’s black hands around his neck, holding close.

I had leapt from the table, away from the action, cramming myself against the opposite wall where I knew the cameras weren’t lurking. I huddled into the corner and watched, waiting for game point.

“Where’s Dent?” the Batman growled again, tightening his hold on the Joker.

The clown just shrugged. “You have all these rules and you think they’ll save you.”

Slam. Against the wall now. The Joker’s head cracked horribly and I whimpered, wishing he’d fight back, wishing I could do something.

The Batman snarled. “I have one rule.”

“Then that’s the one you’ll have to break to know the truth,” the Joker wheezed almost melodically, his smile glued to his face.

“Which is?”

He was more than happy to illuminate. “The only sensible way to live in this world is without rules. And tonight you’re going to break your one rule…”

A menacing glare; the Batman held the Joker close. “I’m considering it.”

“There are just minutes left so you’ll have to play my little game if you want to save one of them,” the Joker grinned, relishing the sound his voice made on the walls, on the plastic of the bat’s cowl.

Batman wavered. “Them?”

“You know,” the Joker struggled under his grasp, the veins in his neck glaring through his skin, “For a while there-I thought you really were Dent.” His face broke into a greasy smile, “The way you threw yourself after her-″

He was dropped and the screech of metal filled the room. I thought it was Gordon come to play referee, but I was wrong. A chair ripped from the floor, shoved under the doorknob. No chance of Gordon. No chance of escape.

The Joker began to laugh through the blood in his mouth. “Look at you go!” He propped himself on the table, cracking his back as the bat turned on his heel and reeled. “Does Harvey know about you and his little bunny?”

His cackle was cut short as his face made contact with the two-way mirror, the glass shattering spectacularly. The diamond pieces chattered on the floor and the Joker quickly joined them. The Batman towered over him, his back to me, possessed.

“Where are they?” he bellowed, grabbing the Joker by the collar.

The clown shook his head, calm as ever, lecturing. “Killing is making a choice.”

He was silenced with a horrible punch. Again with the roaring. “Where are they?”

The Joker seemed to feed off his anger, relishing it. It gave him power. The Batman was doing exactly what he wanted. In his own sick way, the Joker monopolized the situation.

“…you choose between one life over the other,” he rasped, laughing still, “Your friend the district attorney. Or his blushing bride to-be.”

Another punch. Another awful crack and another fit of laughter, horrible and violent and absolutely mad. He wheezed. “You have nothing. Nothing to threaten me with. Nothing to do with all your strength.”

I caught the Joker’s eye as he spit a tooth my way. And in his glance, I found something like an apology, as though he was sorry that I had to witness all this bloody brawling. He smiled at me and my face broke its horror-stricken expression, knowing the promise in his grin; he would make quick work of this.

“But don’t worry,” he chided the bat, who was clenching his fists for another punch, “I’m going to tell you where they are.” He grinned at the hero’s pause and was still as he was hoisted up once more. “Both of them and that’s the point-you’ll have to choose.” He threw me a knowing glance and I nodded. “He’s at 250 52nd street. And she’s on Avenue X at Cicero.”

His skull made a funny noise as it hit the floor. The Batman was gone in a billow of black cape, devastation in his wake. I looked to the crackled mirror, caught my panicked reflection a million times over. The metal roots coming up from the floor, jagged and broken, where a chair once sat.

The Joker was giggling still, filling the room with quiet noise. He clutched a sliver of glass, flashing it at me before shoving it into one of his kaleidoscope sock. He huddled against the wall with me and we slid down together, until our bottoms hit the floor.

“Sorry you had to see that, kid,” he heaved, patting my leg with a chalky hand.

I shrugged, the distress rattling in my sigh. I was nowhere as good as Bijou at being blasé. “One does what they must.”

The Joker began to cackle again and I managed a smile. Our mottled reflections did the same.