Under the Red Sky

Under the Red Sky (Joker) Part 41

I hated hospitals. They reminded me of mother. And the halls were hung with ghosts. Ghosts and tacky, silver tinsel.

“Happy holidays,” I muttered, carefully tucking a few stray hairs under the brim of my hat and examining my reflection in a nearby window. Where the Joker had gotten the uniforms, I would never know. And why he had chosen to dress as the nurse would remain a mystery as well.

The hospital was nearly empty. Only a few nurses bustling about, ushering people from the ICU; but, peering through a small window, I glimpsed the masses of the hospice’s occupants and the fleet of transport vehicles ready to whisk them away from the imminent destruction; to whisk them away from the freaks inside.

I sighed, moving away from the window, keeping my face down. I joined the Joker who was standing a little ways off in the corner dressing a bomb.

He itched the back of his leg with the toe of his shoe, rumpling his colorful socks, murmuring and humming to himself. A few civilians hurried past, throwing him weird looks but they didn’t recognize him; not for his scarlet wig or surgical mask.

“Okay, we’ve planted the bomb,” I murmured, pulling down the brim of my hat as a couple officers rushed past, “Can we leave now?”

“Leave?” he returned, “We can’t leave. Not yet.” His eyes danced maliciously and the tips of his scars appeared from behind the mask. He turned back to the bomb once more before grabbing my wrist and tugging me into one of the hospital rooms; it had not been vacated.

And there, strapped to the bed, was Harvey Dent. And yet, it wasn’t. It couldn’t be. Half of his face was just…gone. The flesh was burnt away, ash caking the pink muscle and ligaments beneath. I watched his left eye roll in its socket until it focused on the Joker and me; he recognized us immediately, even for our disguises.

“Hiya Harvey, how are things?” the Joker trilled, plucking Dent’s medical chart from the end of the bed and flipping through it.

There was a minute interruption from a police officer who had come to escort Dent from the building, but he was dead in an instant. I shut the door, propping the officer against it, and closed the blinds; we didn’t need any other disruptions.

I turned back to the room just as the Joker was removing his disguise; Dent was glaring at the two of us with hatred I’d never known. Not the maniacal detestation I knew from the Joker, but pure and utter disgust. Deserved hatred.

Wasn’t it just last night that I was with him? Apologizing for whatever should happen? As if it would help…

“Hiii,” the Joker sighed in his awkward way, settling into a chair beside the bed. Harvey struggled in his bonds, burning to strangle the man beside him; I knew the feeling.

The Joker removed the wig, pulling at his greasy hair. “Look, I don’t want there to be any hard feelings between us, Harvey. When you and…and…”

“RACHEL!” Dent screamed, beating me to the punch.

The Joker held up his hands in defense. “-Rachel were being abducted…I-We,” he gestured between us and I rolled my eyes, “Were sitting in Gordon’s cage. Neither of us rigged those charges.”

“Your men. Your plan,” Dent sneered, his bare gums glistening in the morning light.

“Do I really look like a guy with a plan?” the Joker made a face, cracking his knuckles obnoxiously, “You know what I am? I’m a dog chasing cars.” He was squirming in his seat now. “I wouldn’t know what to do with one if I caught it! But, cats on the other hand…” he threw me a salty look and I turned away, peering through the blinds to keep distracted.

“Harvey, I just do things” the Joker continued and I heard the bed rattled as Dent writhed in his bonds, “The mob has plans. The cops have plans-Gordon’s got plans. They’re schemers. Schemers trying to control their little worlds. I’m not a schemer.”

At this, I let out a bark of laughter and in the window, I saw the two men throw me a glance; I turned meeting their eyes and the Joker returned to his silly monologue.

“I try to show the schemers how…pathetic they’re attempts to control things really are. So,” he grabbed Dent’s hand with chalky fingers, much to the burnt man’s disgust, “When I say that you and your girlfriend was nothing personal you know I’m telling the truth…”

“That’d be a first,” I spat, tapping the heel of my shoe impatiently.

“No need to be so unpleasant, kitten,” the Joker drawled. He shot me a dark look as he fiddled with the cuff around Harvey’s wrist. “Now give me hand with these straps, huh?”

I did as he asked, being careful with Dent as the Joker fluttered over to the left side of the bed.

“It’s the schemers that put you where you are,” he explained, as I freed Harvey’s right hand. “You were a schemer, you had plans, and…” he undid the other restraint, smiling meanly as he did so, “Look where that got you.”

Harvey’s hands were at his neck in the blink of an eye; but the Joker was quicker and fought with him for only a moment.

“I just did what I do best: I took your little plan and I turned it on itself,” he toyed with Dent’s arms, twisting them around each other. “Look what I’ve done to this city with a few drums of gasoline, a couple of bullets, and an angry woman. Hmm? You know what I noticed…nobody panics when things go ‘according to plan’-even if the plan is horrifying.”

He adjusted his hold on Harvey and licked his lips. “If tomorrow I tell the press that like, a gangbanger will get shot or a truckload of shoulders will be blowing up…nobody panics. Because it’s all ‘part of the plan’,” he wiggled his fingers for emphasis, “But when I say that one, little ol’ mayor will die…well, everyone loses their minds!”

I noticed he had let go of Harvey’s hands; and Dent stayed perfectly still. He was listening. Intently.

The Joker produced a pistol from the apron of his dress and put it into Dent’s hand, turning the pistol on himself; he readied the bullet in its chamber. “Introduce a little anarchy. Upset the established order and everything becomes chaos.” The word rolled out on a warm sigh. “I’m an agent of chaos. And you know the thing about chaos, Harvey?” The Joker guided the gun in Harvey’s hand until the barrel was nuzzling his temple. “It’s fair.”

Harvey slipped something from the sweaty palm of his hand: a coin. One side was burnt and blistered, the other silver and glinting. The irony was fantastic.

He showed the Joker the clean side. “You live.” He turned it in his hand, the scalded face smiling up at them. “You die.”

The Joker chuckled. “Now we’re talking.”

And Harvey flipped the coin.

I knew I was the only one in the room concerned with the outcome so I stifled my sigh of relief when the coin landed sunny side up - no pun intended. The Joker giggled and stowed the gun, running a hand through his hair as he moved for the door.

“Untie him,” he muttered as he passed me and paused in the doorway as I went to the bed. “You have exactly five minutes to escort yourself from the hospital, Mr. Dent. Bijou, we leave in three.” He held up three chalky fingers and sauntered from the room.

I set to work with Harvey’s restraints, though the air was heavy and uncomfortable without the Joker’s madness filling the quiet.

“You know,” Dent murmured suddenly, fingering the coin in his hand, “I thought nothing of your apology. In the SWAT car…”

My hands fell away from him. “Harvey, I-″ But he held up a hand and I fell silent.

“I thought…what could she mean?” he went on, “I mean, I knew I was in danger but I never expected this. Never thought this would…”

“I never meant for any of this to happen,” I murmured, my voice cracking horribly and I hated myself for letting it do so, “I never thought he’d take it this far…”

“I don’t blame you,” Dent lifted himself from the bed, his eyes bearing into mine, “Not even a little. But…” he swung his legs over the side of the bed and I gave him a little room, never breaking his gaze. “There will be justice.”

I managed a weak smile, which he returned. “I believe in Harvey Dent,” I offered and he laughed. Bitterly.

“It’s Harvey Two-Face now,” he clenched the coin in his hand, “Or maybe it always was…”

“Beep! Beep!” the Joker screeched swinging into the room, “You’ve got two minutes Mr. Dent.” He shot me a look. “Bijou, let’s go!” And he stomped off without another word.

“I should go,” I muttered and moved to the door. I hesitated to pay my last adieus. “See you ‘round.”

He smiled with the good side of his face; he was still so handsome. “Sure.”

And I hurried off down the hall, finally finding the Joker in some other hallway nearer to the exit; he was pumping sanitizer into his palm.

“What’s new pussycat?” he giggled as we fell into stride.

“Could ask you the same,” I countered, setting my hands on my hips and raising an eyebrow. “What’s with all this running about?”

The Joker smiled. “Had to move the bomb. Give Harvey a little more time to get moving.”

“Well, that was awfully sweet,” I laughed, knowing full well that this maneuver would benefit someone other than Harvey.

“You know me, babe,” he crooned, pulling a detonator from the pocket of his dress, “All milk and honey.”

He made a funny noise as his fingers moved over the detonator and the blast was deafening. The devastation howled after us, the glass shattering as we passed and the flames licking at our heels. It was exhilarating, the heat rushing against my skin, all of the noise rattling in my head.

We made our way out into the daylight. I sauntered; he skipped. And below the scream of shattering brick and twisting iron, I could hear the cries of terror from the patients and the hospital staff, watching as the building collapsed. They hardly noticed us.

Stone and smoldering pieces of structure fell around us like rain, but the Joker turned halfway down the lane, glancing back at his work; he was visibly upset.

“That wasn’t exactly fantastic,” I smirked, goading him on.

He gave me a sour look and looked down at his detonator. He whacked it a couple times in frustration until he got the appropriate effect. There was a second blast, more riotous than the first and the Joker cackled, grabbing my wrist and yanking me over to a nearby school bus.

We leapt up into the bus through the back door and slid into a seat. The Joker gave a thumbs up to the driver and the carriage shook as the engine came to life. None of the passengers seemed to notice who had joined them on their journey to safer ground but they would soon enough.

I shrugged out of my jacket and removed my hat. My hair bristled wildly and I threw the hat over my shoulder before glancing around the bus.

No patients. Just doctors. Doctors and a news team. And Mike Engel. He was seated up front, having worried words with his crew. I recognized a few of the Joker’s goons, peppered amongst the passengers, faking worried looks.

All part of the plan.

And I was sick of wondering.

I peered over at the Joker; humming and muttering and as mad as usual. I eyed the bulge in his pocket: the gun. I was quick, my hand darting swiftly and wrapping my fingers around the handle. But he was quicker.

He held my wrist tightly; I held the gun and the trigger. He hadn’t a chance but he smiled.

“You’re getting to be a real bitch, you know that?” he giggled and a grin broke my face.

“You know what I want,” I murmured, feeling his fingernails dig into my skin, “So just give it to me.”

“It’s no fun knowing everything, Bijou,” he sighed, cocking his head at me.

I raised an eyebrow. “You’re probably right…but this escapade was a bit eccentric for my taste. You can’t blame me for wanting a little foresight.”

He shrugged. “But I can blame your for running off.”

I made a face. “So this is just…payback? For last night?”

He smiled. “Have to keep you on your toes.”

“Don’t be so stupid,” I huffed, slamming against the seat and twirling the gun on my finger. “You needn’t endanger innocent lives just to prove a point.”

“It’s worked for me so far,” he chuckled, waggling his eyebrows at me.

“I can’t guarantee I won’t lose my nerve again,” I muttered, setting the gun between us, “And I know you can’t assure your honesty.”

“It seems we’ve reached a dilemma,” he sighed, scratching his chin thoughtfully. He smiled, reaching for the gun between us. “I can’t be bothered - guess I’ll just have to kill you.”

He cocked the pistol and I raised an eyebrow. “I’d like to see you try.”

He stood, licking his lip. “Don’t tempt me, kitten.” He raised the gun above his head and blew a hole in the ceiling.

The passengers screamed and I cackled, staring up at the mad man. He was a vicious, unhinged, murderous psychopath.

I loved him.

But if he was going to play, then so would I.

And as he taunted the commuters, as the bus picked up speed, hurtling for God knows where, I began to ponder. I began to scheme.