"He's late." A man's voice, crude and gruff.
"When isn't he?" A woman's, an edge to her words, her high, lyrical voice tainted by a whiff of arrogant smugness.
"He'd better show."
"Has he ever not?
"Yeah, well, I'm tired of waiting."
"Aren't you always?"
"God, stop answering me with damn questions…"
The woman laughed at this, a lifeless laugh devoid of genuine warmth; a laugh that made the man shudder and shuffle uncomfortably in his shoes. She scared him, although he could never admit it. What was it about her? Her angular, sharp features? The full, well-rouged lips? The disconcerting smile she occasionally flashed when she caught him staring at her? Those piercing all-knowing eyes? He shook these thoughts off. He was tired of questions. He let the subject drop from his mind, leaned against one of the stacked crates in the warehouse, and lit a cigarette.
The woman glared menacingly at him. She hated the toxic smell, but the man, aware of this fact, kept inhaling the noxious fumes, ignoring her indignant stare and enjoying every second of it. He exhaled loudly from his nostrils, letting the tendrils of smoke to visibly spiral and float upwards in the hazy yellow light. He raised his eyebrows, aggravated, when the woman proceeded to loudly tap her stiletto on the cement floor. The echo bounced loudly off of the walls, filling the room with noise. It seemed that two could play this game.
And so the two of them stood in the empty warehouse, one of them exhaling as much smoke as he could humanly manage, the other creating a hypnotic swell of noise as she repeatedly clicked her shoe against the floor. Together they stood in mutual irritation, but neither one dared to say a word. It was better to wait in silence than to admit discomfort.
The woman coughed as she inhaled smoke. The man winced as a new intensified wave of taps assaulted his ears. It seemed to them as though time was on a continuous loop, each minute exactly the same as the one before. It was enough to drive a person mad.
But then a new sound broke the monotony. A crisp, clean noise noticeable even above the clacking of shoe on floor. It was clapping; slow rhythmic clapping. The woman abruptly stopped her foot mid-tap.
The man ground his cigarette out with the heel of his shoe. The woman watched in disgust. The clapping accelerated, and grew louder. There he was in all his dapper glory, approaching across the threshold. Everything was in place: the purple slacks and matching overcoat, the slicked-back hair, the perfectly aligned bow tie, and of course, the unsettling and ever present smile.
The woman approached the Joker as he neared them, wanting to complete this transaction as quickly as possible. She had work later, and as she was a headliner, the club owner expected her on time. The only reasons she helped deliver these little shipments were because she was in need of the money and driving a cargo truck was something she actually knew how to do. She left the actual unloading of the boxes to the man.
"Everything is in order, so let's just get this over—"
"I get all dressed up just for the occasion, and you want to leave already? I'm hurt!" The Joker said breathless with disappointment. "Come now, that simply won't do! We should make a celebration out of this! I simply do not see you two enough!" He ran up to the woman with arms wide open, offering a hug. She simply glared at him. The Joker frowned, but smiled even more widely when he spotted the man leaning awkwardly against the stack of crates. The Joker grasped him firmly in both arms, giving the man a hug whether he wanted one or not. He felt the man attempt to break contact. The Joker's smile grew wider on his face while the woman watched with disdain.
The Joker ruffled the man's hair and stood in front of the woman once more. "Well I see that someone is a hurry." He bowed down and tapped the woman playfully on the nose, which caused her to recoil backwards, almost tripping over herself in her haste to move away from him. She hated even the thought of being touched by him.
"Well, where are my babies?" The Joker asked with an eager clap of his hands, ignoring the woman's response. "I have been waiting for them for what seems like ages."
"It's been three days." The man said matter-of-factly, moving to light another cigarette. The Joker shrugged.
"I've never been a patient man."
"We've noticed," the woman muttered. The Joker refused to even acknowledge her. She spoke directly to him this time. "You've been testing our patience by making us wait this long. We've been here since eleven o'clock."
The Joker turned and stared directly at her, his smile beginning to look forced and tight. He then looked at the imaginary watch on his wrist. "Well frankly, I've no idea how long that means you've been waiting! And to be honest, I don't know really care!" The Joker laughed. "But no, really, I'm glad you stayed. That must mean that you really care about your Uncle Joker!" He paused and looked over them. "Or that you'd know what I'd do if you hadn't?" The man and woman eyed one another cautiously, awkwardly. The Joker laughed. He stopped abruptly and paused to think about what he actually would have done had they not been there when he'd arrived. Whatever he would have done, he assured himself, it would have been both very bloody and very unpleasant. For them at least…
It was the woman's demanding gaze that snapped him out of his thoughts. Being interrupted from his thoughts was something that he absolutely hated! It was something that Harley did almost constantly when they were in the same room together.
The Joker lapsed into another wave of silence at the thought of Harley, oblivious to the woman's scowl of impatience. Harley. She should be making fast progress. Even that bubble gum brain shouldn't be able to screw this up. I gave her addresses and everything. I hope she doesn't mix any of the numbers up; my sevens always did sort of look like nines…Ugh, if she kills one of their neighbors I am going to make her eat one of those banana cream pies we've got lying around. Maybe I'll even add something special into it. Is Harley allergic to anything? I definitely recall her being allergic to something…I should know this…What kind of "Puddin'" am I? Now what was it? Strawberries? No…Something red though…Apples? No, no, it wasn't a fruit…Tomatoes? Are tomatoes fruit? Hmm…I should ask the Riddler…Anyway…What was I thinking about? Wait, what is that? What's that noise? Kind of a click-click sorta noise…Click, click, click…
The woman had loudly resumed her tapping.
"Hello? Anyone home!?" The woman shouted loudly into the Joker's ear. The Joker jumped at the interruption, startling the woman so badly that she a shriek escaped his lips.
"Oh, my apologies! I suppose I just sort of zoned out, there! Well, where we? That's right, the children! I do trust that you've taken good care of them?"
"The best," the woman said sarcastically with a roll of her eyes. "Can we just move this along? I'm going to be late."
The Joker sidestepped the woman, rudely ignoring her once again, and stared wide-eyed at the stack of crates the man was leaning on. "Are those them?" He dramatically pointed his finger at the crates. "There must be so many of them! And to think that I was going to name them all…Well, I suppose I'll just have to name them all 'Joker Junior' to save myself time!"
The Joker approached one of the crates and pried it open. The container was filled to the brim with straw, and the Joker began throwing alternating handfuls of it over his shoulders, as he burrowed downwards to get the "prize-in-side", more ecstatic than a child on Christmas morning. It was not until straw was strewn all around him that he reached a neat row of cylindrical gas grenade canisters, each with a label that read 'Joker Approved!' that depicted a clown winking and giving a 'thumbs-up'.
The Joker greedily picked one up, turning it around in his hands before rubbing it against his face with satisfaction.
"Daddy has been waiting for you for so long," he whispered to the canister as he continued to cradle it. "I'll name you Joker Junior!" He then turned and eyed the remaining canisters in the crate. "And I'll name you Junior Joker, and you can be J.J., and you'll be…" The Joker continued down the line of gas grenades, naming each one with a point of his finger. The woman let out an exasperated sigh.
"Okay, you've got them. Now I'm leaving!" She proceeded towards the exit, the man following hesitantly after her.
"Wait! How does it work?" The Joker called after them, feigning ignorance as he thrust the canister out in front of him.
"Are you kidding?" The man called back to him from near the warehouse exit. "You just release the pin and throw it." The woman waited for the man with an impatient stomp of her heel. Sometimes she thought that she could have done better for herself in terms of a boyfriend.
"Oh! So I just release the pin," The Joker did just that. "And throw!" The Joker hurled the canister at them. The gas grenade landed short with a metallic bang on the floor, and rolled to a stop at the man and woman's feet. The two froze in panic and helplessly eyed the canister waiting for the gas to be released. Any second now, it would ensnare them in its deadly grasp. The Joker frowned and looked once again at his imaginary wristwatch, waiting for just that.
"Hmm. That one's defective," he muttered, a finger to his chin as he thought. "You know what, I take it back!" he declared loudly. "I think I'll rename that one Harley Junior…"
"Are you crazy, you bastard!? You almost got us all killed!" The man yelled, his face still flushed from the near-death experience. The woman edged slowly towards the door, wanting desperately to leave, but hesitant to go alone.
"Let's go!" She yelled at the man, tugging him by the sleeve. She saw the murderous intentions in the Joker's eyes.
"Leaving so soon? But this was just getting fun!" The Joker hollered after them. He picked up two more canisters, one in each hand, and carelessly threw them towards the warehouse exit. The man and woman did not hesitate this time, they ran. The canisters hit the ground loudly and tumbled towards the man and woman, to land neatly in front of them. A purple haze of gas quickly clouded their vision as they attempted to reach the door. They could be hear it hissing loudly out of the canisters.
The woman grew light-headed. What was she doing here? Whatever she had been doing, it must have been funny. The woman chuckled. She tried to stop. Something was wrong; this moment wasn't supposed to be humorous. She can't laugh. She's never actually laughed. She had to leave, escape this purple mist that was clogging her mind, consuming her. Her chuckles turned into full blown laughter.
She collapsed onto the floor on all fours. Tears rolled down her cheeks. It was hilarious. These were tears of joy. The whole situation was so funny. Her throat burned, it was closing up on her. She couldn't breathe from laughing. They were tears of pain, now, of involuntary asphyxiation. The laughter grew louder, overtaking her thoughts. It was overpowering. Drool spilled from her mouth onto the floor; she'd forgotten to swallow. She couldn't think of anything but this deadly laughter. Her head was splitting from pain. She felt as though this foreign smile on her face, this mouth opened wide, was so large that it was going to tear her face apart. She heard the man laughing beside her. All she could hear, think, feel, was this laughter. She attempted to crawl to the door, stopped by the intensifying nausea. She was bodiless, her mind by now very far away from this sickening sight. This wasn't happening. Not to her. How can it be? She is still so young.
Her laughter escalated into a high pitched explosion of hilarity. She wanted to scream as she felt one of her ribs break, but she could only laugh. She closed her hands around her throat. she felt it constrict, but she merely laughed it off. This is all much too funny. Bloody spittle streamed from the sides of her mouth. She just wanted it all to end. This was beyond torture, beyond suffering. The man was shaking her wildly by the shoulders now, and she could see the pleading in his eyes, the torment. His face is a contorted freak show, a disturbing amalgam of extreme happiness and inexpressible agony.
The purple haze had dissipated and been replaced by an even worse purple presence. She did not see him; she sensed him. Her heart swelled with anger. She wanted to kill him. She heard the disturbing bastard's laugh. And then she noticed her own laugh was is gone. Her mouth is open, the excruciating smile still present. The laugh should have been there. But there was nothing. She panicked; her throat was completely closed. Her vision clouded as tears swelled in her eyes. She couldn't breathe. The pain was unbearable. She fell face down on the floor, her legs writhing wildly as she convulsed. Air. It was the only thought in her mind. Her entire body was shaking frantically, desperate for oxygen, pleading with her to breathe, and save herself. But she was deaf to its pleas. She could not think. His laughter was now the only audible noise. The Joker's squeals of delight were the last thing she would ever hear as the darkness overtook her. The pain finally leaves. Her legs and fingers twitched sporadically, lending strength to the illusion that life was still in her. But she was gone.
The Joker wiped tears of laughter from his eyes at the sight of the limp corpses. He took a deep breath..
"Oh, that was great. And they were both much better company that way."
The Joker nudged the girl with his foot. Even he could only think of her as beautiful; a slender body, full breasts, smooth, delicate legs. A disturbing thought crossed his mind regarding what to do with her body. He knew that he shouldn't, but then again, who would ever know? He moved to unzip his pants when a random fragile wisp of thought sailed through his diseased mind.
"Peppers," he whispered repeatedly. That was what Harley was allergic to. That would surely make a terrible combination: banana pepper cream pie…
The Joker pondered this as he departed the warehouse, leaving the woman's body untouched. He would get some of his lackeys to pick up the mess and move the crates to their new home when the time came. He had only come this last to time to ensure that those two would be properly disposed of. He couldn't risk them spilling their guts to someone. After all, if you wanted something done right, you had to do it yourself. Besides, he had gotten a laugh out of it.