Under the Red Sky

Under the Red Sky (Joker) Part 40


I wanted the Asian fellow to stop slavering; he was getting damn annoying. And I needed to be alone with my thoughts.

I shot him a glare, pinning an eye on him from across the holding cell. He shrunk against the bars, lowering his eyes from my face, muttering at a whisper. I glanced away, watching the green shadows play against the tacky glass of the windows, wondering who was dying where.

You know who…

Dawes. Dent.

You hadn’t a fucking clue…and you couldn’t stop him.

I felt the anger and the unmistakable sour clench of hate roil deep in my gut. For him. That same impulsive odium I’d felt in the semi; the murderous kind. I couldn’t count on one hand how many instances I’d wanted to hurt him. But this…this was something else, something visceral.

I couldn’t place the reason why I cared so much for the two. I simply did.

I didn’t want decent people to burn. I didn’t want to be held responsible for their blood.

The sudden sound of a bomb blast shook me from my thoughts and sent me hurtling towards the other side of the cell. The bars rattled against my spine painfully and I heard my cell-mate groan in distress, face down on the concrete. A thin layer of smoke filled the room and the horrid stench of burning flesh came with it. I felt my stomach turn with more than just fury.

How the Joker had managed to smuggle in a bomb was beyond me. I struggled to my feet and thought idly of the goon who had made such a show of clutching his stomach in agony. Would he have…? I was tempted to vomit just entertaining the thought.

Somewhere in the haze, a happy rattling began and got louder as a slim, hunched form emerged from the gloom coupled with a smaller, delicate figure.

“Here, kitty kitty,” I heard him giggle and he shook the keys roughly. They sang brightly as Maude skipped up to the bars, smiling. Sparks flew in the murky shadows beyond and the smell of ash flooded my nostrils.

“Well hello there,” the Joker nodded to the Asian man, who had stopped his murmuring, as he fiddled with the lock and key. The door swung open with a shriek and Maude rushed in, taking my hand and tugging me from the cell. She skipped through the destruction, smiling and yanking me along; the Joker followed behind, dragging my cell-mate by the collar.

The morning chill was brisk and biting and dawn was closing in on the city, a smear of red on the horizon. The Joker threw the Asian fellow to Sam, who was leading the parade of goons who had managed to survive the blast, before leading us to a vacant police car; the henchmen quickly found their own.

I climbed into the passenger seat as Maude hopped into the back; the Joker took the wheel and the engine roared to life. The city flew by, one big blur of grey as the car swerved along the streets. The Joker stuck his head out the window and shook it like a dog, the wind slapping his face.

I glared at him, wanting to throttle him, but swallowed my anger as he settled back into his seat, giggling madly. He wanted me to be angry; he yearned for my hatred. And I wouldn’t give him what he wanted.

“Where are we going?” Maude piped up suddenly, nestling between the front seats, propped on her elbows.

“It’s a surprise!” the Joker cheered, the car veering wildly to dodge an onslaught of cars coming in the opposite direction. We were tunneling down an alley now, the sides of the car shrieking against the brick.

Maude frowned. “We aren’t going back to warehouse?”

“Problem?” the Joker snapped, his mood souring in a moment’s time. I shot him a scowl which he returned. Maude shrugged, wiping away the smudges of mascara ringing her eyes with paint smeared fingers.

“No…it’s just that-″

Her explanation bled into a scream as the car broke from the alley and met head-on with a brick wall. I gasped, the air bag exploding in my face. White and silver stars danced in my eyes as I hit the bag away from me; I twisted in my seat and through tearing eyes, saw Maude lolled in the backseat, clutching her head. The Joker was cackling now, beating away at his own airbag like a maniac.

“You fucking imbecile,” I screeched, stumbling from the car and helping Maude do the same. “Are you trying to kill us?”

“That wall came out of nowhere, I swear!” he yowled, clamoring from the driver’s seat and slamming the door behind him.

I shook my head in annoyance and tried to steady my breathing, feeling Maude wind her arms around my waist. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. I opened my eyes, knowing instantly where we were.

The harbor. I looked out over the black water, breathing in the smell of salt and rust. The sun was higher now in the sky, bleeding red across the waterfront and illuminating the hulk of the old tanker ship anchored in the bay.

“You’ve got to be kidding me…”I murmured, taking Maude’s hand. The Joker shrugged and shambled up the ramp before disappearing into the hull of the vessel. There was the screech of brakes as the rest of the goons arrived and casting one last look over my shoulder at the smoldering cop car, I tramped up to the ship with Maude in tow.

We were met with a surprising sight. Money. A huge pile of money, tickling the rafters of the hull. We stared, slack-jawed for a moment as the henchmen shuffled past, dragging the Asian fellow with them.

Maude left my side to catch up with Sam and I wandered around the room, circling the money as I watched the Joker drag Lau, bound and gagged, to the top of the heap.

“Squealer, squealer!” he laughed, slapping the man in the face, “Wasn’t I right, Mr. Lau? Wasn’t I right about youuuu?”

“What are we doing here anyway?” I called up to him, kicking a small stack of cash.

“Tying up a few loose ends,” he giggled, smacking Lau one last time before taking a pistol from his pocket and checking the clip inside. From near the entrance, came the sound of barking dogs, garbled talk, and footsteps. “Ah,” he sighed, looking toward the other side of the hull expectantly. I followed his gaze.

A mobster and his men made their appearance; he was familiar, the Chechen I think his name was. I couldn’t be sure. He was forgettable. Like all the rest.

He was slick and oily with pomade, a cigar held between his lips. He eyed me curiously but his attention was soon captured by the cash; he gazed at it almost lovingly.

“Like I say-not as crazy as you look,” he addressed the Joker with a heavy accent, the smoke pluming sensuously from his cigar.

“I told you I’m a man of my word,” the Joker countered, taking a small leap before sliding down the myriad of green and landing with a flare beside me. “Now,” he muttered, dusting his lapels and glancing about, “Where’s the Italian?”

“More for us,” the Chechen shrugged, gazing at the money again. The Joker began to pick up wads of cash, throwing them at Lau like snow balls. “Hey, Joker man,” the Chechen started, “What you do with all your money?”

The Joker turned back to the thug, shrugging. “You see, I’m a guy of simple tastes. I like gunpowder….dynamite,” he threw me a look, “Cats. And gasoline.” At his words, the goons came forward with cans of gasoline, sloshing the money with it generously.

The Chechen stepped forward to stop them, obviously furious but the Joker stopped him with the barrel of his gun. He wasn’t finished.

“And you know the thing they have in common?” he drawled, jabbing the greasy fellow in the chest and smiling. “They’re cheap.”

“You said you were a man of your word,” the Chechen murmured dumbly.

The Joker plucked the cigar from his mouth. “I am.” He turned briefly and chucked it into the heap; it caught flame brilliantly, the heat rushing into my lungs and rippling through my hair. “I’m only burning my half.”

The mobster watched the money burn glumly, as though watching a lover die. The Joker trilled on. “All you care about is money. This city deserves a better class of criminal,” he pulled me to his side, smiling proudly, “And we’re going to give it to them. This is our town now.” He threw a look to the thug’s entourage and his dogs. “Tell your men they work for me now.”

The Chechen sneered. “They won’t work for a couple freaks.”

“Freaks,” the Joker mimicked, hissing. He produced a knife from seemingly thin air and held it to the Chechen’s cheek. “How about we cut you up into little pieces and feed you to your pooches? Then we’ll see how loyal a hungry dog really is.” The goons standing near by proceeded to drag the Chechen away as the Joker shouted over the raucous chorus of the hounds.

I coughed, the smoke from the fire seeping into my lungs. The Joker glanced at me, poking me in the side and muttering to himself. I gave him a look; all the noise of Lau’s screams and the yelping of the dogs and the smoke was too much.

“I need some air,” I muttered, prying myself from the Joker and sauntering off toward the exit.

The morning had fully settled in the sky; a bright, blue day. Perfect for sailing, I mused, smirking as I shuffled down the gangplank to the dock, where I found a caravan of SUVs parked every which way. I ambled down the wharf, listening to the cry of the gulls and inhaling the brine; the tips of my shoes hung over the end of the pier and I tottered back and forward, half-tempted to just jump in.

I watched my reflection waver, dancing across the glassy coils, and tried to think of nothing. I had nearly done it too when I saw the face, swelling beneath the water.

It was not my own, pale and insipid, a mass of black hair swirling around it, dripping with seaweed and muck. The eyes were wide and equally black. There was a small, scarlet hole standing out against the white of its forehead; a bullet hole.

The rest of the body appeared, as pale as the face and dressed in black, making foul, squelching sounds against the water. A woman. And I recognized her immediately.


I was suddenly and violently sick, the vomit splattering into the bay. I staggered away from the edge of dock, wiping my mouth. There was shock. Too much to scream, too much to even cry. So I stood there, knees weak, watching her body bob in the greasy water.

Who would have….who could have…

My mind raced, faces and names flashing and bright as the sun filling my head. Anyone who’d I known, anyone who’d want to hurt me, anyone who’d want to make me mad…

I thought of the Joker, but immediately dismissed the thought. He hadn’t cared for Charlotte; not enough to kill her, anyway. I shuddered at the thought and felt the tears sting my eyes at last. I let them fall freely, no longer dwelling on my suspicious. Only thinking of Charlotte. Poor Charlotte…


I straightened up suddenly, startled by the voice. I turned my face slightly. Maude eyed me curiously, some feet away.

“Is something wrong?” she murmured. She moved to come closer but I stopped her, flinging out a hand to keep her away.

“No,” I insisted and quickly wiped my face, turning away from Charlotte’s body and forcing a smile, “All that smoke just got to me, I suppose.”

Maude nodded slowly, unconvinced but willing to drop the subject. I was thankful. “Well,” she sighed, “The Joker’s going to blow up a hospital so I thought you should-″

“What?!” I cried, my face breaking.

Maude shrugged, a little exasperated. “I don’t know. He called GCN, said something about a Coleman Reese.”

I sighed heavily, running a shaking hand through my hair. “We don’t get even a little down time....?” I went to Maude’s side and we began back towards the ship; I did not look back, knowing I’d vomit or cry if I did.

“You’ll stay here,” I murmured, placing a hand on her shoulder as we watched the Joker and a hoard of his goons shuffled down the gangplank, emerging from the vessel.

“What?” Maude snapped. It was her turn to be bothered. “That’s no fair. I-″

“If the Joker is going to blowing up large buildings, I don’t need to be worrying about you getting caught in the crossfire,” I explained, petting her head and smiling lovingly. All that black hair. Like Charlotte…

“But I’ll be careful,” she protested, “You brought me along last time.”

I shook my head, curling my whip around my fingers. “This is different. Stay here.” I raised my voice slightly as Sam passed nearby. “Sam will keep you company.”

He looked up and we met each others gaze. He did not object, nodding and going to stand beside Maude. She shot me a resentful look before stomping back toward the ship.

“Keep her safe,” I murmured to Sam and he nodded once more before rushing off to join Maude.

Sighing, I meandered over to one of the luxurious SUVs that the Joker had claimed as our mode of transportation. He was balanced on the doorframe, bouncing the car roughly on its tires. He watched with wild eyes as I ambled around to the passenger side.

“You look awfully rattled,” he giggled, when we were both settled in, “What did you see when you were…’getting some air’?”

How did he know? How did he always know?

I waved a dismissive hand. “Nothing.”

A malicious grin crept over his face and he puts his lips near my ear. “I don’t like it when you lie…” His whispered tickled my flesh and I shivered.

“And I don’t like it when you decide to erratically blow up a hospital,” I countered, lessening the space between us.

He kissed me roughly and broke away cackling, bringing the engine to life and turning up the radio to an ear-shattering volume. And the city sped by once more, the blue of the sky smiling in between the cracks of our grey kingdom.