I was able to find some time to get an update in fairly quick. Please continue to let me know what you all think with reviews, favs and follows. Again, I'm humbled by all of the support shown and hope you continue to enjoy the story. A little more history is revealed in this chapter, and a little farther down the rabbit hole we go. May seem slow, but its all for set up. There is dialogue from the movie, so typical disclaimer: I own nothing but my OC.
The bastard had branded her, as if she was nothing more than a fucking cow in a cattle show. She had showered in her room, scrubbing away the dried blood and semen from her skin. She hadn't noticed the precision of the blade while he screwed her, but now, in front of the mirror, it was blurring into focus. A sloping J, jagged and crude, graced her shoulder, and she fumed at the sight of it. The next time the prick begged her to cut him, she'd carve an E into his forehead.
She dressed in a pair of jeans and a long sleeved black shirt, her wet hair coiling down her back in clumped strands. Every inch of her ached, the hot water having stung her multitude of slices and scrapes. At the very least, her stitches had held. She sat on the edge of her bed and slipped on her boots, hearing voices emerge from outside. She recognized them as belonging to Vinny and Axel, and she found them across the balcony near the stairs, whispering something about Dent.
"What's Harvey up to?"
Vinny frowned at her, but Axel he piped up immediately, holding his injured arm away from her.
"He's holdin' a press conference tomorrow afternoon about all the dead cops. And Batman."
"You don't gotta answer to her, Ax," Vinny growled. "Just cause she's fuckin' the boss doesn't mean we gotta roll over like damned dogs whenever she's around."
Edith leaned in close. Her pink, bruised lips curled upward. "If I didn't know any better, I'd think you're jealous. Wanna know how many times I've had him?"
"You best watch your mouth. If he hears you talkin' like that, he'll make you regret it.. Y'know, on second thought," Vinny sneered, "keep talkin'. Let him hear you and he'll knock you down a peg or two."
Her laughter was eerily similar to the clown's, and the sound of it made the goons' faces fall. When she quieted, she smiled and moved past them, gracefully descending the stairs. Pissing them off was becoming a little too much fun.
She ambled down the cracked asphalt of the Mile, shoulders hunched against the breeze as she headed towards the maze and thought of her opportunity. She knew why it he had offered it to her. He wanted to see just how depraved she had become and how motivated she was to help the cause, but his cause was not her own; at least, that's what she kept telling herself.
She pushed past the familiar branches of the maze, and settled into her favorite corner, walled off from the morning wind by the dead hedge. Tucking her legs into her chest, she rested her arms on her knees, and the familiar position sent a cold shiver down her spine. Memories of her childhood clung to her like poison. These are beautiful. Her hand instinctively went to her low abdomen, rubbing her old scars through her clothes. She could remember the feel of the knife, the look on his face as he cut her, and the powerlessness she felt as the back alley doctor stitched her up. Edith thought she had died the night her mother was taken, but she had been wrong; she died the night Ricky found her.
After that cop put her in his police cruiser, young Edith had fled. She had always been taught to run from police, and the flashing red and blue lights had snapped her out of her shock. She couldn't remember for long or how far, but she ran as fast as her tiny legs could take her, and Ricky found her two nights later. Any innocence she had wilted the moment he forced the heroine into her veins. Your mom had debts, girl. She ain't here to repay them, but you are.
She thought herself broken and in need of fixing; heroine had become her only escape.
These are beautiful.
Those words should have disgusted her, but it filled her with a warmth she hadn't anticipated. Despite their constant battle for control, he accepted her; he saw her scars as something to be celebrated and adored. Don't pretend to be like them. You'll never be one them. Yet, that's all she had been trying to do for the past year, live a normal life for once. But the Joker was winning. The more she pushed, the more he pulled, and little by little, her half of the money was being pushed into the back of her mind. While a part of her struggled against the involuntary spiral, another part welcomed the fall, her new escape. If she played the part of the harlequin, and played it well, she could be out of Gotham for good, but she was beginning to doubt whether she wanted that anymore.
Her thoughts continued for a long while, fading in and out between her past life and what she wanted for her future. She eventually nodded off, her head resting in the crook of her arm, and she only woke when she heard the deep rumble of a semi truck. It was loud, quickly approaching, and Edith hurried to stand and reach the edge of the maze. She caught sight of the side of the trailer as it thundered down the road.
Laughter is the best medicine.
And what do you know, it was. She laughed and called out to the goon in the driver's seat.
"Hey! Wait up!"
The truck screeched to a slow halt, brakes screaming in resistance, and Edith jogged over to the cab. Hulling herself up to the passenger side door, she was greeted by Spade and the lackey she barely knew. Carl was quiet, kept to himself, and did what he was told. In other words, he was smart. Edith slipped past him and settled herself in between the two seats.
"You both have been busy, it looks like," she quipped.
"You look like you just woke up," replied Spade, his foot back on the accelerator.
"That's because I did. Fell asleep in the maze."
"Rough night, huh? The boss stick it to you?"
Spade nearly choked on his own spit. "Jesus, Carl, don't ya have any class?"
"Please tell me all of those questions are rhetorical," Edith interjected.
Carl laughed, taking a swig from the beer bottle he kept at his feet.
"Use whatever ya got to stay ahead of the game," he said. "Ain't nothin' wrong with it."
When they pulled into the parking lot across from the hotel, the other three lackeys had returned. The Joker emerged from his room, slipping his arms into the sleeves of his purple trench coat as he approached. The sweat that had gathered on his brow earlier that morning had dried, causing the white greasepaint to clump above his eyebrows. Streaks of tan skin grazed his temple, revealing where the droplets had run down to his chin. He stood a couple feet from the trailer, studying the writing and art with scrutinizing eyes, his scars rippling as he gnawed the inside of his cheek. All of the goons had crowded around him, including Edith, and the only sound was the clicking of the clown's tongue.
"Something isn't, right," he determined aloud to himself. "Something's, missing."
"This is the one you wanted, right? Not too many Hyams trucks left 'round here."
The Joker glared at Carl from the corner of his eye.
"Speak when spoken to, Lou."
"It's, uh, Carl, boss."
You could hear a pin drop. No one breathed, and all eyes were on the clown as he turned on his heels. Each goon seemed to shrink back from their comrade, except Edith, who remained with her back against the trailer, arms folded across her chest. Despite the look of regret on his face, Carl's feet were planted underneath him, and surprisingly, his skin wasn't paling in fear.
"What was that?"
Not rhetorical. Carl's Adam's apple bobbed as the words formed in his throat.
"Carl. My name is Carl. Lou's behin -"
A sharp slap in the face cut off his sentence, and the Joker forced his eyes back to him by gripping Carl's cheeks painfully in one hand. His other hand was in the pocket of his trench coat, which usually meant death by switchblade. At this realization, the color began to drain from Carl's face.
"I don't care what your name is," the Joker growled. "And that's the whole point, Carl. I don't care if you live, if you die, and I certainly don't care what you have to say. Your, name, is whatever I say it is. Now, do you have anything else you'd like to get off your, ah, chest?
Carl shook his head furiously, exhaling when the glove-hand released his face, but his relief was short-lived. The Joker swung his blade-tipped oxford up into the lackey's abdomen, and Carl crumpled to the asphalt with a cry of shock and pain. The other goons watched the assault through squinted eyes, faces contorting in disgust as he kicked Carl repeatedly. Edith, on the other hand, was smirking. She couldn't help it; the spark in his eye right then was the same one he got before he would pounce on her, the same maniacal fire that sent heat to her belly.
Laughing and whooping with anger and joy, the Joker sunk the blade into Carl until his gurgled, bloody screaming ceased. By the end, the body was littered with stab wounds, and the face, which had taken most of the beating, was nearly unrecognizable and haloed by a pool of red. Chest heaving, the clown bent down and saturated his glove in the lackey's blood. He then turned his attention back to the truck trailer. Edith and the others followed his movements with their eyes, watching as he stood on his tiptoes and painted a messy, sticky S onto the metal.
"That's much better," he said. His smile was wide and happy: "Boys, when you're feeling down, or if you ever have the uuurge to talk out of turn, just remember: slaughter is the best medicine."
He ordered them to clean up and get rid of the body, and the men did so without question. Edith remained where she was, watching as the he moved back to the hotel. Wuertz had pulled up during the assault and was now leaning against the passenger side door of his car. He handed the Joker an envelope, and the contents, whatever they were, had his full attention. After nearly ten minutes of reading, he waved Wuertz away and looked over to the trailer where she was standing, his eyes demanding her presence. She sauntered over, one eyebrow raised as she moved through the exhaust fumes of Wuertz's retreating vehicle.
"Good ol' GCPD has the scoop on you, pumpkin," he said, unrolling the papers in his hands to look through it once more.
"Care to be more specific, boss?"
The Joker coughed into his fist, as if preparing to give a grandiose speech, before reading a section of the text in his hand.
"On April 16, 1994, I and officer McDaniels were dispatched to the Mayberry Motel at approximately 5:45 AM after receiving reports of shots fired. We arrived at the hotel... Yaddayaddayadda... greeted by the hotel manager... Learned the shots had been fired four hours earlier, and that he found the body of a woman in room 108. He stated the woman was a "frequent flyer" and "worked the streets nearby"... We found a deceased woman in room 108... observed what looked to be a gunshot would to her forehead.. Shall I continue?"
There was little expression in her face. She stared at him blankly, the muscles in her neck tight as she nodded her head. The Joker smiled and continued.
"CSU arrived on the scene at approximately 6:15 AM, and it was during this time that I broke the bathroom door down. I discovered an unarmed girl hiding in the bathtub. I immediately introduced myself, and when asked her name, the girl stated that her mother only called her 'baby girl.' I escorted her out of the hotel room... Blah blah blah... Left her alone for approximately five minutes to meet with the coroner, and when I returned, the girl was no longer in my cruiser. You see, the part I'm interested in, pumpkin, is what happened after you ran from Gordy."
Her eyes lit up and her pupils dilated at the name. "Gordon?" She had never realized. She could barely remember the young officer's face.
"Mhm, I told you he was always trying to be the hero. But now I see where you got your, ah, alias. Like mother, like daughter. Tell me, baby girl, how did it feel when you stabbed Ricky dead? I have the papers on hiiis murder too. Never found the killer. You were what, nine years old?"
Edith shrugged. "Close to it, yeah. And it felt damn good, for your information. Is that all?"
Her apathy made his stomach flutter.
"Yes and no. The team is down one man, so go with them tonight. In and out, no mess, no fuss. Got it, pumpkin?"
"Sure thing," Edith replied, and as she moved past him, her words floated over her shoulder. He could practically taste her smile. "I think I prefer it when you call me baby girl."
They all sat quietly in the van outside an abandoned storage facility in Avenue X, six of them in total. Spade was driving the semi. It was night, close to ten, and most of the lackeys had changed out of their blood-stained clothes. Streaks of dried, clotted blood still graced their skin. The street was dark and mostly deserted; a few prostitutes ambled up the road near the busier intersection. Ahead of them, the semi turned the corner and found its spot in front of the van. Headlights went off, and they went to action. No mess, no fuss. They were to move half the oil drums into this building, set up the radio, and then move to the 52nd Street location to do the same thing.
It took nearly an hour and a half to move twenty barrels inside, and they still needed to situate them around the explosives that had been wired before their arrival.
"You guys head over to 52nd," Edith said. "I can roll these into place and set up the radio. By the time we're both done, we can test and make sure the radio works."
"That's actually not a bad idea," Charlie admitted. "Guess you're more than just a pair of spread legs after all, huh?"
The men laughed, but Spade smacked him in the back of the head. "Watch your mouth, Charlie. Stop wasting time. Let's get moving."
Edith gave Charlie a sickening sweet smile and a view of her middle finger as they left. When she heard the engines roar to life, she grabbed one of the heavy drums and made sure the lid was secure before pushing it over. It clamored to the ground, the noise vibrating in her toes as she rolled it into position. By the time she finished with each barrel, she was drenched in sweat and her hair was salty and slick along her brow. An old, rickety chair was in the middle of the room, and she began to set up the two-way radio underneath it. Turning it on, she was greeted by static.
"You guys done yet?" She asked aloud. "Hello?"
A crackle and a voice. It was Spade.
"Eddie, you there?"
"Yeah. I can hear you perfectly. Looks like we're good."
"Alright, see you in thirty."
Edith went to shut off the radio, but movement in the corner of her eye caught her attention. She nearly gasped in surprise at the sight of his shadowed body standing in the doorway. With a hand to her chest, she released an adrenaline-filled breath.
"Don't bother, Spade. Boss is here."
"Did I scare you, baby girl?"
"Yes," Edith admitted, watching as the Joker stepped fully from the shadows, revealing fresh greasepaint. "We blowing this place up soon?"
His eyes scanned the oil drums around him. He licked his left scar, humming in approval at her work.
"Soooon," he repeated. He looked to her. "You think more about your opportunity, hm?"
"A little. Waiting for some inspiration, I guess you could say."
He chewed his scars, mulling over her words as he swaggered past the oil drums. He ran a gloved hand over one of the lids, caressing the metal.
"People like us, we gotta make our own inspiration in this city."
He was soon in front of her, and the weight of his hands as he set them on her shoulders made her feel like melted putty. "You can't wait for Gotham to give you what you need," he purred. "You have to just, take it."
"Why are you here?" she asked. Her voice was lower than she intended, her brain fogged by the pungent scent of gasoline that clung to his clothes. "Are you spying on me?"
Laughter, sharp and painful, erupted from his painted mouth, the sound slicing through the quiet like a knife. It startled her out of her haze.
"Whoooo do I look like, pumpkin - the Batman? If I felt the need to spy on you, you'd already be dead."
With one arm wrapped around her shoulder, he guided her away from the oil drums and out the door. The sedan sat along the curb, and there were three men squished into the back. As she Edith slipped into the passenger seat, the clown quickly introduced them as fresh meat. One of them, a portly man with messy brown hair, was crying and muttering to himself, and the other two were clearly uncomfortable because of it. The Joker settled himself into the car and started the engine before turning to face the sputtering, pitiful man behind him.
"Shushshsh, remember what I told you?"
The crying softened. "Like Christmas?"
"Exactly," the clown replied. The gentleness in his voice was almost frightening. "Those voices of yours will be replaced with bright lights, Kilson." He sat forward, hands gripping the wheel tightly as he drove them away from the storage facility.
"Just. Like. Christmas."
"You know, for a guy that doesn't plan, you sure are organized."
Edith sat on the edge of his bed, clutching a blanket around her naked body and biting into a piece of cold pizza from the box the goons had gotten the previous night. She watched him as he dressed, smiling at the nail marks she had left on his back only an hour earlier. It was almost three in the afternoon, and Dent's press conference would be starting in fifteen minutes.
"Don't insult me," the Joker scoffed in response. He buttoned the hexagon shirt up to his throat and began to fiddle with his tie. "I don't have any plans. I just have fun. Do you remember your part?"
Edith rolled her eyes, reciting his instructions. "If the cops catch you tonight, make sure Kilson is caught too. Hard to forget after what you did last night."
The clown chuckled as he buttoned his vest and sat beside her. "You didn't like my show?" he asked, flipping the TV on to the local news.
"Believe it or not, watching you play surgeon and shove a phone into a guy's gut isn't what I usually have planned for a Friday night."
"Good thing it's only, ah, Wednesday. Now, shush."
He turned the TV volume up to an obnoxious level as the local reporter greeted her viewers; the sidewalk around her was filled with spectators and anti-Batman protestors.
"Good afternoon, Gotham. I am outside Gotham City Hall, and we are all anxiously awaiting for District Attorney, Harvey Dent, to begin the press conference where he will address the terrorism that has plagued our city. Many people have put blame on the Batman, believing his unwillingness to reveal himself has been the sole motivation for the Joker's attacks." She paused, her hand on her ear piece. "Dent has approached the podium. We bring you inside to hear him firsthand."
The screen changed instantly. The blonde DA stood behind the podium above the crowd, his hands gripping the wooden edges. He cleared his throat, and the Joker rested his elbows on his knees, dark eyes fixed.
"Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for coming. I've called this press conference for two reasons. Firstly, to reassure the citizens of Gotham that everything that can be done in regards to the Joker killings is being done." Angry whispers erupted from the crowd. "Secondly, because the Batman has offered to turn himself in, but first, let's consider the situation. Should we give in to this terrorist's demands? Do we really think that -"
The Joker chuckled. Edith shushed him.
"You'd rather protect an outlaw vigilante than the lives of citizens?"
"The Batman is an outlaw," Dent replied, "but that's not why we're demanding he turn himself in. We're doing it because we're scared. We've been happy to let the Batman clean up our streets until now."
"Things are worse than ever!"
"Yes, they are. But the night is darkest just before the dawn, ladies and gentleman, and I promise, the dawn is coming. One day, the Batman will need to answer for his crimes, but to us. Not to this madman."
"NO MORE DEAD COPS!"
The crowd erupted once more in agreement, angry voices demanding that the Batman turn himself in. The camera remained on Dent, whose face fell in sadness and disappointment. He looked away and mumbled something to someone off screen. He took a stance by the podium and did something unexpected. Edith's jaw dropped to the floor as she watched the cops put him in cuffs. He outed himself as the Batman.
Where the hell is Bruce? she thought. That fucking coward.
With her eyes on the screen, she listened to the Joker as he paced the room, his phone to his ear. His voice was low and crisp, almost professional.
"Get me the information on where they are taking him. I'm assuming MCU, and I want details on the route. Do not call unless you have the information, capeesh?" Ending the call, he turned to Edith. "Get ready. Full get up tonight. I want everyone at the Hyams van in twenty minutes."
He was so excited. Despite his lack of smile, Edith could see and practically feel the glee that radiated from him. It was actually endearing, and despite their blossoming, severely dysfunctional "relationship", she couldn't bring herself to tell him the truth.
She had crossed her heart, after all.