The idea of karma has been a vital part of human reasoning since we first developed the ability to think about the world. In fact, nearly every major world event can be traced back to this desire for cosmic justice. Wars large and small have been fought over the principle that evil people need to have evil things done to them. Criminals are sent to prison, partly out of a desire to keep them away from law-abiding citizens, but mostly to give the nebulous forces of universal justice a hand in making them pay for their crimes.
Universal justice often requires help, mostly because it doesn't exist. Searching for justice in the universe is similar to searching for a unicorn in the woods: both are a beautiful thought, idealized by dreamers and, regrettably, wholly imaginary. In the end, it's easier to slap together some sort of makeshift facsimile and deem it good enough for now. A mere trip to prison can never be a full balancing of the scales, just as a white horse with a traffic cone strapped to its head will never be a full unicorn, but it's a good start.
In the days following the explosion at Arkham, Sorrow had done virtually nothing but sit in her cell and think. Skipping therapy was easy enough - all it took was a boneless, limp posture on the bed as well as a total lack of response to prodding and the overworked orderlies assumed that she'd been drugged.
So instead of wasting time listening to stories told by a liar, Sorrow had been planning her exit from Arkham. Her chosen day - Friday - had finally come, a day when orderlies and guards alike were more likely to be thinking of the fun they should be having rather than the unlucky shift they'd pulled.
Sorrow waited in the middle of the room, standing perfectly still and letting the routine of the asylum happen around her. From down the hall, she could hear the faint clink, clink of some enterprising soul trying to burrow through plexiglass with his teeth. In the dimmed lights, she could see quite clearly that her neighbors on the opposite side of the hallway were asleep. She waited, tension straining her shoulders, for her cue.
A soft, rythmically clicking set of footsteps approached her cell. Now. She slammed her foot into the bed. Ancient bedsprings rattled as the bedframe shrieked against the wall. "Ouch!" she shouted, flopping to the floor and cradling her left leg.
An orderly filled her window. "Lights-out means quiet time," he reminded her.
She turned a tear-streaked face up to his. "I fell," she whimpered. "My leg hurts."
The orderly sighed. "Well, you can go see a doctor in the morning." He began to turn away.
"It hurts!" she wailed. "I think it's broken!"
The orderly sighed the put-upon sigh of those who are only there to collect a paycheck, not to deal with fussy inmates. "Fine. I'll be right back." He disappeared.
Sorrow, pretending to hug her totally uninjured leg, slipped her fingers up her sleeve. So far, so good. She rocked gently in place, letting out little fake sobs, until she heard the insistent squeak-squeak-squeak of her old wheelchair. Ooo, better and better!
The orderly unlocked her door and sauntered in, leaving the chair in the hallway. "Okay. Let's go see the nice doctor," he drawled, preparing to scoop Sorrow up.
In one fluid motion, Sorrow peeled the glove from her hand and slapped him across the face. "Hey!" he protested, dropping her back onto the linoleum. A smudged black handprint stood out on his unshaven cheek. "Whadja do that...for...oh, God..." He swayed uncertainly for a moment and knelt heavily on the floor. "I didn't mean to...Charlie, no don't -"
"Shhh," Sorrow ordered, wrestling her glove back on. The man choked out a sob and fell silent. "Good boy," she muttered. "Now..." She unbuckled the waist pack from around his bulbous gut and peeked inside. Car keys, wallet, a ring of institutional-looking keys, and...oooo...a syringe full of something that was probably naptime in liquid form. She zipped it back up and attached it around her own waist.
Her original plan had been to switch uniforms with the man, too, but that wouldn't work with Captain Tubby here. She'd look like she was wearing a tent. She had also planned to drag him into bed, but she couldn't shift the guy by herself. So, instead, she draped her blanket over him and knelt by his head.
His eyes were wide open, unseeing, as he relived whatever tragedies he'd had in his past. With her gloved fingertips, Sorrow scraped some of the tears off of her face and rubbed them into his forehead. It would probably take about five or six hours for them to kick in, and then he'd be back to normal again.
"Later," she chirped happily, skipping to her feet and scooting out of the cell. After she'd eased the door shut, she turned her attentions to the wheelchair. It let out a protesting squeal as she shoved it closed. With the chair under one arm, Sorrow trotted through the hallways, looking for her target.
This end of the building was in a rough U shape. Rogues and high-security crazies alike were stashed in the cells, scrambled up like pieces in a badly-played game of backgammon. A few soundproofed doors were locked tightly across the halls. With her newly acquired key, it took moments for Sorrow to sneak through them.
Was that - no, that was Crane, lanky legs dangling over the edge of his too-short bed. And that was the Ventriloquist, sleeping soundly while his puppet's beady little eyes stared blankly into the hallway. Whistly, wheezy snores marked Two-Face's cell. Across the hall from him slept Edward Nygma, propped upside-down on his bed in a straitjacket, feet neatly crossed on his pillow.
Sorrow giggled slightly and moved on. Ah. In the cell next to Eddie, burrowed into his blankets like a crab in a sand pile, slept the disheveled and highly medicated ex-Dr. Teng. Drool pulsed out of his mouth and puddled on his shirtsleeve.
Sorrow slowly set the wheelchair down and unlocked the door. Her fingers slipped into the waist pack and wrapped comfortingly around the syringe. "Hey," she whispered. The man didn't move. "Wake up!" No answer. Boldly, she reached out and punched him in the shoulder. He could have been made of rubber, with all his lack of reaction.
Fabulous. She tucked the syringe into the pack, making sure to keep it easily accessible, and fetched the chair. It opened with a whining skreek. "Come on," she crooned, tucking the man inside it. "We're going on a little ride, oh yes indeed." He slumped in the chair, bubbling drool, as she pushed him into the hallway.
On their way out of the building, they encountered five orderlies, two nurses, and a janitor, all of whom received a brief brush of her hand and a sprinkling of tears. She left them crying in corners and moved on, hurrying through the warren of hallways until she reached a familiar area.
A door labeled "Inmate Storage" opened with one of the keys on the ring. Sorrow ducked inside, ferreting through the boxes until she found the one containing her costume. She took a moment to slip the coat on over her jumpsuit and hurried back out, dumping the box in Teng's lap. The last door was in sight. Sorrow skipped ahead, unlocked it, and came back to her zonked-out charge. She shoved him toward the exit, letting his kneecaps open the door for both of them, and wheeled him outside.
She drew in one delicious breath of crisp fall air and headed for the staff parking lot. It shouldn't take too long to find the car that matched the key in her pocket...
One of the perks to being a rogue is that you don't have to waste your time with bureacracy. If you want something, you take it, and damn the consequences. After all, with fifty life sentences under your belt, does it really matter if you add another felony or two to the list?
The basement of the small apartment building had been "rented" in about thirty seconds. Normally, landlords are a little hesitant about acquiring tenants at four in the morning. Then again, most prospective tenants aren't the type to persuade the landlord with lethal force.
The medical supply store across town had also "donated" some supplies to the cause, thanks to half an hour of concentrated effort by her henchmen. Sorrow had seated herself in a nicely padded chair from the lobby, watching Teng with interest. He was sprawled on a gurney, much like the one he'd had in his own basement lab. His wrists, ankles, and torso were strapped tightly to the siderails, and the metal fasteners clinked gently against the bars as he twitched in his sleep.
A henchman - the only one she'd told to stay - cleared his throat uncertainly. "Uh, boss? You need anything else?"
"No. Have someone come back tomorrow," she ordered.
"Sure thing, boss." The man dipped his head in a nod of respect and scurried away, latching the door tightly behind him.
Sorrow rose to her feet, brushing her black-gloved hands down her long blue coat, and strolled over to the pinioned man. With one finger tapping thoughtfully on her lips, she looked over the restraints. Yes...they'd do.
Time to get started. She settled herself gracefully on the bed in the gap between the siderails, tucking her legs up underneath her like a nesting bird, and glared at the man. Her gloved hand snapped out like a snake and slapped him hard across his bristly cheeks.
His head bobbled to the side like a doll's as his eyes flew open. "What -" he began, stopping short as he realized who was glaring at him. "How dare you lay your hands on me!"
"It's easy," Sorrow said flatly. "Watch." She backhanded him across the face again.
"Sooner or later you'll realize what you're doing," he snarled, "and you'll try to say you're sorry, but it'll be too late, because I'll be - mph!"
Sorrow, with one hand pressed over his mouth, shook her head. "Shut up," she growled. She removed her hand.
"You'll pay for this," he promised darkly. "I'll see to thaaaaaaaaOW!" he yelped as Sorrow shoved his mouth closed. Blood from his bitten tongue sprayed between his lips.
"I said shut up," Sorrow repeated. "I see you don't understand what we're doing here. Well, that's fine...dear," she spat venemously. "Little boy, little child, little crazy man...you didn't think I forgot how to do this, did you? You did such a good job of demonstrating it, over and over and over..." She pulled a syringe out of her pocket and dangled it in her fingers.
"You don't scare me," he blustered, tugging at his straps. "You could never hurt Dr. Teng. You probably don't even have anything dangerous in that syringe! You certainly don't have any of my medicine." He rattled his restraints peevishly.
Sorrow rolled the syringe lightly between her fingertips. "You don't think so?" she asked mildly. "I can think of a lot of things that I might have...acids are so easy to get hold of, don't you agree?" She dangled the syringe over his eyes. "Particularly in large amounts. Whoops!" she said, thumbing the plunger to the bottom of the syringe. Liquid splashed in a stream all over the bound man's face. He screamed, high and shrill, like a little girl faced with a tarantula.
"But as it turns out, you're right on one count. It's just water, sadly," she shrugged, tossing the syringe away. It stuck in the rotting wood of the wall like a dart in a dartboard.
"I knew it," he said through a face full of sweat and blood. "You wouldn't dare hurt me."
"Hurt you? I wouldn't dream of it," Sorrow said, sliding off the table. "It'll be much more fun if no one hurts you. Physical pain is so...barbaric."
She slipped her gloves off, revealing her gleaming black palms. "No, this time...we'll do things my way," she drawled. One blackened fingertip traced a stripe of utter sadness down his face.
"You can't...you can't..." Teng muttered, tears forming in the corners of his eyes.
"I can," she said softly. "So long, bastard."
A long week dragged itself along.
Inside Arkham, the escape had gone largely unremarked upon. Their first suspicion had been that Teng had captured Sorrow again. They'd believed that right up to the point that they'd discovered the orderly sleeping in Sorrow's bed. He'd sheepishly told them what had really happened, at least, what he could remember, and everything he said clearly pointed to Sorrow taking Teng.
No one in the asylum had particularly cared for their ex-coworker. The orderlies and guards had resented his holier-than-thou attitude as a doctor and his high-decibel madness as a patient, the secretaries had bemoaned his excessively punctilious attitude to paperwork (resulting in countless hours lost to redoing files over and over again), and the other doctors had been appalled at the taint of corruption that he'd brought to their jobs. As far as the staff of Arkham was concerned, Sorrow could have him. Still, it was their job to report the escape to the police, and they did so - three days later, buried in a stack of progress reports and official court documents. The news of Sorrow's escape didn't reach legal ears until the fifth day of her absence.
In her basement halfway across Gotham, Sorrow was curled in her usual chair watching Teng from behind a crack in the closed door. It was better than television, she mused as she watched him fighting his restraints.
It had taken her a few days to figure out what psychiatrists had known for years. Merely keeping someone at the bottom levels of depression was easy. They just laid there and watched the world go by, uncaring about anything. But once they began to come out of it - once they got enough energy together to actually do things again - they turned into sneaky, lying souls ready to carry out their plans to kill themselves.
Watching Teng lay there was satisfying, but boring. Watching Teng fight his restraints for the knife on the cabinet just out of his reach was entertainment. She couldn't let it happen all the time, of course - it would have been exceedingly dangerous for her to keep him in that state when he inevitably had to be walked to the bathroom by one of her henchmen - but she'd managed to keep him fighting for death for almost two hours now. A new record!
She decided that now was probably a good time to send him back down for the night. When he was laying there, sobbing, hallucinating and reliving his past, he was hardly a threat at all. She swung the door open and stepped inside, greeting him with a happy smile. He was lucid enough to stop fighting when she showed herself, and growled his fury at her through his tear-roughened throat.
"You know, I never used to understand why those people in the movies always got such a kick out of having James Bond or whoever at their mercy," she said, peeling off a glove. "They'd put them in deathtraps, or tell them their plan to watch them squirm...I never understood why they didn't just shoot them right there and get them out of their way forever." Teng cringed ever so slightly as she came closer. Her happy smile widened. "And I thought, if I ever had an enemy, someone who I hated enough to want to kill them...I'd just do it." She leaned down, her smile morphing into a sharklike grin. "But now I know why they wait. It's so much more...satisfying this way. To watch the one you hate suffer like they've made you suffer."
Sorrow cocked her head as they heard a faint spray of shattering glass from upstairs. "Looks like we've got visitors," she said, tugging off her other glove. "Say goodnight, sweetheart."
The door burst open, showering splinters of wood everywhere. Robin and Batgirl tumbled into the room, taking in everything before turning their gaze onto the man tied to the gurney. Sorrow leaped onto Teng, kneeling on his stomach with her toes digging into his side. He grunted with pained anger. "Well, well. Party crashers. Say hello to our guests, dear."
Teng wheezed wordlessly. "Try it again," Sorrow commanded, nudging his ribcage with her kneecap.
"H-hello," he gasped, glaring daggers at his captor.
"Let him go," Robin ordered.
"No," Sorrow said flatly. "You want him? Come and get him." She beckoned at them with an ungloved hand.
In the next instant, Batgirl leaped in a flying tackle and shoved Sorrow to the ground, pinning her wrists in her strong hands. They rolled around on the small floor, crashing into furniture and boxes alike as Sorrow tried to reach Batgirl's exposed chin. Above them, perched on the table, Robin was frantically undoing buckles and straps.
As Robin undid the last buckle, Sorrow wrenched herself out of Batgirl's grasp and rolled to her feet, kicking her solidly in the shoulder with a heavy boot. Batgirl crashed to the ground, gasping with shock, and Sorrow kicked her again in the kidneys.
Teng and Robin scrambled off of the table as Sorrow backed into the corner. "Get away from me!" she snapped. Batgirl, rubbing her injured shoulder, rose to her feet.
The imminent three-person dogpile on Sorrow was interrupted when Teng spotted the gleaming knife on the cabinet. He snatched it up and backed away, wild-eyed. The vigilantes stood back-to-back in the middle of the room, watching their targets closely.
"Put the knife down," Robin coaxed.
"Make it easy on yourself," Batgirl said, glaring at Sorrow with a look that promised to make things as difficult as possible.
Sorrow looked around the pair of Bats. Teng was crouched in the opposite corner, holding the knife tightly in one hand. "Reggie," she called in a soft, southern accent. "Oh, Reggie, how could ya?"
"Stop it!" he shouted, eyes rolling madly from side to side. "You're not her! Stop it!"
"Reggie," Sorrow taunted. "Reggie..."
"Shut up! SHUT UP!"
"You know how ta fix it, Reggie..."
Teng stared at the knife. Then, with a howl of desperation, he jammed it deep into his midriff and sliced viciously downward. "There!" he gargled. "You...can't..." He collapsed to the floor.
Robin raced to his side. "Help me!" he shouted. Batgirl took her attention off of Sorrow and gasped at the sight of the eviscerated man.
Sorrow nipped through the broken doors and pounded up the stairs, disappearing into a nearby alley. The car she'd stolen from the asylum revved up and roared away into the night.
Sorrow ditched her stolen car quickly in a nearby parking garage. She hadn't had time to check the car thoroughly for any tracking devices, and the thought that even now the two vigilantes could be calmly following her made her extremely uneasy.
Her heavy boots made tapping echoes as she scrambled back onto the street. She darted a quick glance right, left, and (for good measure) straight up and at the walls surrounding her. There was no sign of any vigilante activity. This was either a very good thing, or a very bad thing.
She couldn't waste any more time. She started walking quickly down a nearby alley, shuddering inside as her boots clopped heavily against the damp asphalt. A paper rustling behind her sent another thrill of adrenaline coursing through her veins. Sorrow started running. Her boots hit the ground as fast as she could push them. She raced through a puddle, the droplets flying up around her like a spray of confetti.
The nearest street sign flashed green as she pounded by it. She was in the rat's nest of apartments that littered the poor section of Gotham. She knew people here. If she could only find someone who would open their doors-
Her eyebrows raised suddenly, and she grinned to herself as she kicked herself into an even higher gear. Sammy lived down here, didn't he? He hadn't picked up his phone when she'd sent out that call for henchmen last week. Well, she'd just see what he was up to...
She dodged and darted through the streets, pausing once to hide behind a dumpster as a pair of headlights flashed by. When they had gone, she rolled herself quietly back into a standing position and smiled as she saw the little apartment house that was her final destination.
She skittered closer, walking as softly as she could now, and slipped inside by stepping through the wreckage of a door that lay uselessly in its hinges. She skipped lightly over a slumbering drunk, stepping carefully around the puddle of bourbon that was oozing from the tipped bottle in his hand, and made her way up the rickety stairs to the third floor.
Apartment 306 was difficult to find, partly because the nail holding the top of the six had slipped and transformed it into apartment 309. Sorrow stood quietly outside the door, readying herself, then kicked it with a resounding thud.
She kicked it a few more times for good measure. Finally, the door cracked open just wide enough to show the barrel of a gun pointed directly at her face. "Whaddayou want?" snarled a voice from the darkness inside.
"Sammy, Sammy, Sammy," Sorrow tsked. "I thought you'd have learned some manners by now." The gun lowered itself and withdrew. The door slammed shut, accompanied by the rattling clicks of a chain being removed. The door opened back up again to reveal a short man with a potbelly tucking a handgun back inside the pocket of his pajama pants.
"S-sorry, Sorrow, I, uh, wasn't expecting callers," he said, standing firmly in the doorway. "What are you doin' here?"
"Aren't you going to ask me in, Sammy?" she asked quietly.
Sammy looked over his shoulder anxiously, then looked back at her. "I, uh, that is…"
"Sam-my," Sorrow singsonged, folding her arms. "I don't have time for this…" She tilted her head forward ever so slightly, growling out "And you owe me."
"Right, right," he muttered, opening the door wide. "But, uh, my wife, she, uh, doesn't know about us. Me. So could you, uh…if it's not too much trouble…the makeup?"
Sorrow smiled cheerfully. "As it so happens, Sam, I was planning on that anyway. A little incognito never hurts, eh?"
"Right, right, like you say," he nodded, showing her in. "Bathroom's that way, use whatever you want. You want I should get you some clothes, I guess?"
Sorrow nodded, then grimaced. "Actually, Sam-boy, there may be a little problem with picking up any of my stuff for the next few days. Bats on my tail and all."
"Bats?" he choked. One hand darted for the handgun in his pocket.
"Oh, don't worry, not the bat, just his little helpers," she dismissed. "But if you've got anything I could wear just laying around…"
"Uh…You could borrow one of my wife's dresses, I guess."
Wife? "When did you get married?" Sorrow asked, just now registering the news.
"Oh. Um, about two months ago, when you were in - um...you were busy," he finished diplomatically. "I'll get you something to wear. Bathroom's that way." He disappeared into the door at the end of the little hallway.
A woman's sleepy voice raised in an irritated query mixed with Sammy's tenor hushing her vigorously as Sorrow lazily strolled into the bathroom. Five minutes with a washcloth left her face pink and shining. She discarded the grey-streaked cloth and sauntered back out to the living room, where Sammy was piling pillows and blankets on the couch. "I told her you're a cousin from out of town," he hissed as he fluffed a pillow. "She thinks you're in Gotham for a job interview, and the plane lost your luggage."
"Fine," Sorrow nodded.
"I'll see you tomorrow," he whispered.
Sorrow spent the night dozing fitfully on the couch, still in costume, buried under an armload of blankets. If she had to run, she didn't want to do it wearing pajamas.
Sorrow slept through breakfast the next morning and woke up to find Mrs. Sammy already gone to her job, whatever it was. She slipped into the outfit she'd been left - a green dress with enough lace to cutesy up half a wardrobe - and made her way out to the kitchen.
Sammy was sitting at a tiny table, only big enough for two. He greeted her nervously and started making her breakfast as she seated herself at the table. "So, ah, what's new?" he asked after five minutes of dead silence.
Sorrow shrugged. "Not much, same old same old, Sammy. Except…" she shook her head briefly. He looked at her expectantly, holding the frying pan in one hand with a poised spatula in the other. "Except that life gets a lot more complicated once the bats catch up with you," she finished.
"Oh, tell me about it," he rolled his eyes. "Y'know how many scars I've had to explain away to the missus?"
"How many, Sammy?" she asked, deadpan serious. He opened his mouth to answer and caught her eyes twinkling.
"Oh, man." He shook his head and scraped her breakfast out onto a plate, setting it down carefully in front of her. "No, seriously though. How ya been?"
"Fine," she answered, taking a bite of toast. He turned his head to the side, looking at her through the corners of his eyes disbelievingly. She pursed her lips around the toast. "I hate when you do that, Sammy. All right, fine. I'm not fine at all. Happy?"
"What's up?" he asked.
"Well, for a start, I've spent half a year in and out of Arkham. Fun place," she added, "if you're a masochist."
"I heard," Sammy said quietly.
Sorrow shrugged. "Anyway, between the Bats and the Joker, life's pretty full, y'know?"
"I kind of…almost killed him. It's a long story," she admitted.
Sammy sat back in his chair, absolutely floored, and then brought his hands up and started applauding slowly. "Almost killed the J-man? That's so wicked cool!"
Sorrow looked at him, confused, then started laughing. "J-man? Wicked cool? What have you been up to, Sammy?"
Sammy shrugged. "Well, you were...away...and I needed some cash, right? So I picked up a job or two, and…well, you worked with the Flytrap before, right?" She nodded. Jake "the Flytrap" Venus was a comedian, through and through, with a patois of his own that tended to rub off on everyone he met.
"Whatever happened to Jake, anyway?" Sorrow asked, taking a drink of water.
"Flippy heard about his nickname and wasn't very happy."
Flippy…oh yes, Two-Face. She shrugged and took another drink. "How long 'till he's out of the hospital?"
"Coupla weeks," he said. "So, uh, about you stayin' here - "
"I've got to lay low for a few days, Sammy," she said. "Call it a week and I'll call off your debt. Free and clear."
His eyes shifted back and forth, then he nodded. "One week."
She finished eating breakfast, watching him watch her, then removed herself to the living room. Sammy stayed int he kitchen, clattering dishes in the sink as he cleaned up. It was almost like being back home in the warehouse...
Stuffed with good, non-Arkham food, comfortable, and weary from her busy night, Sorrow dropped into a doze. She was damn lucky Sammy had been around in the first place. Things would have been a lot harder without him...
The first bank robbery had almost gone horribly wrong. Sorrow sat on her hard wooden chair, a queen on her throne, and glared icily around the table at the assorted selection of men. They glared right back, angry, upset and confused about what had happened.
A daylight robbery meant no vigilantes. They'd never shown up for any of her other break-ins, but hitting the bank at night was tantamount to spitting in the Bats' faces. No, she'd continue working during the day. It was safer that way.
It was also safer if her boys focused on fetching the cash, not scaring the customers. Unfortunately, one of the men hadn't paid attention to that bit of his instructions, and he'd taken the opportunity to grab a young woman by the hair and drag her across the room as a hostage.
That wasn't part of the plan. They were only supposed to snatch and grab, not stick around long enough to need hostages. He'd actually dared to argue with her about it in the bank.
Now they were safe in the warehouse, unlikely to be interrupted by the forces of justice. She rose to her feet and began stalking slowly around the table. "I'll make this quick. My instructions were very simple. Take no prisoners. And Carl here," she delivered a quick slap to the back of Carl's head, "didn't listen. I would be inclined to simply allow Carl to work off his transgressions, but this is not the first time he's failed me." She peeled off a glove.
Carl, a mountain of a man, shoved himself up from the table and stared down at her. "Like you're actually gonna kill me. Little miss priss here couldn't even kill a goody-two-shoes clerk," sneered Carl. "What are you gonna do, girlie? I know you ain't got a gun."
"I don't need one," she said quietly. She stretched a hand out and grabbed his arm. "You're already dead." With that, she slipped her glove back on and walked away.
He laughed at her receding back. "Who do you think you're…you're…" He shuddered. His massive face turned red as bright tears stood out in his eyes. Then, like a toddler, he dropped to the floor and started wailing.
"Take that to the outer room. When it's dead, toss it in the river," she said coldly. Two of the shocked henchmen nodded agreement, picking the sobbing giant up by his armpits and dragging him across the floor. "Sammy, fix me some tea and bring it to the roof."
Ignoring her bawling henchman, she swept out of the room and stalked regally to the stairs that led to the roof. She stamped up them, letting her boots splinter just enough of the rotting wood to telegraph her bad mood to the henchmen, and slammed the door down to the rest of the warehouse as hard as she could.
When Sammy came up later, balancing a tray with a teapot and a teacup on it, he found Sorrow sitting on the farthest corner of the roof. Her boots were dangling in the empty space past the rain gutters.
"Ah…Sorrow?" he murmured. He could see her take a quick swipe at her eyes with one hand before she turned around to face him.
"Sammy." She rose to her feet slowly and picked her way across the rotting rooftop to him. She took the tea carefully, nodding her thanks, then turned away.
"You did the right thing," he offered quietly as she walked.
She turned back, startled. "What?"
"Carl's worked for a lotta bosses in his time," he continued. "Skipped out on his family, beat up on the newer guys in whatever gang he was in. No one's gonna miss him."
She pressed her lips together, ready to deny that she was in any way sorry that she killed him. He twisted his head to the left, staring at her through the corners of his eyes.
"Yeah, okay," she muttered, shoulders slumping. "It's just…"
"The first one's always hard," he soothed, patting her on the shoulder. "If you wanna…y'know…talk about it, you got Sammy." She nodded slowly and waved her hand in a dismissal. He trudged back down the steps, shutting the door carefully behind him.
From that point on, Sammy had been her confidante. She had to be careful to keep up her mask around the men, letting them think she was a cold-hearted bitch who would kill them as soon as they made a mistake. Sammy was her escape. Sometimes at night, the two would retreat to the roof and talk for hours.
Then there was the day that Sammy came to her with a problem.
She was sitting on the roof again, watching the sun go down. The door behind her opened, and she whirled around defensively only to see Sammy nervously clutching his hat in front of him. "Sammy," she greeted, idly kicking her feet back over the side of the roof.
"Hey…um…I have a, uh, problem," he muttered, shutting the door and walking over to her.
"It's, uh. Well, that night off we had last week, I went down to the bars, and I did a little gambling. I was doin' really good, too," he added, aggrieved, "but then I lost all my money and then some to some little rat in a trench coat."
Sorrow smiled. "What's the problem, Sammy? You should be able to handle one little rat."
"It's not that simple. See, one of our boys saw me with him, and then this morning he tells me the rat works for Two-Face. The rat owes Two-Face, and if the rat doesn't get his money from me by nine o'clock Two-Face is gonna come looking for me to get his money back."
Sorrow's smile faded as she thought quickly to herself. "How much do you owe this little rat, anyway?"
"A, uh, well…I've got all of it but the five hundred bucks," Sammy admitted.
"Five hundred? Twofers must be scraping the bottom of the barrel if he's coming after you for five…wait. Five?"
Sammy looked away. "Twenny-two hundred. But the five's the only bit I don't got."
"Well, it's nice to see Harv's keeping his side of things up." Sorrow tapped her fingers on the side of the roof. "I bet you've got all your money in this, eh, Sammy?"
"Mine and, well, mine and Tasha's," he stammered.
"Tasha? I haven't heard about any Tasha," she mused. "Well, I can't let one of my boys get iced by a lawyer. I'll give you the cash, Sammy."
"Thank you! I owe you for this," he burbled.
"I'll remember that," Sorrow smiled, leading him down to the giant safe in her apartment.
Luckily, she had remembered it. She stretched and uncurled herself from the sofa, then wandered out to find Sammy.
He was sitting in the kitchen on a barstool, watching the tiny television on the countertop and forking a huge piece of ham into his mouth. "C'mon, c'mon," he was muttering as the football teams on the screen raced toward the hurtling brown ovoid. They missed it and it went tumbling end over end into the sidelines. "How'm I supposed to pay off Jerry if you keep missing the friggin' ball?" he howled.
"Gambling again, Sammy?" she smirked, folding her arms. He looked up guiltily and lowered his fork.
"Uh…well, see, Tasha wants a new dress…y'know how it is…but Jerry's too friggin' lucky. I can't ever beat the guy." Sammy sighed, then brightened. "Oh! The news is comin' on, you wanna see if you're on?"
"Sure," she said, perching herself on a kitchen chair. He spun the dial and an anchorwoman began speaking. They watched the leading story of the night, another one of Joker's killing sprees in the uptown district, in total silence.
"In other news, escaped convict Reginald Teng committed suicide last night in a basement on the east side of town." Sorrow's eyes lit up like a five-alarm fire. "Teng, a former doctor at Arkham Asylum, bled to death from a severed artery in his abdomen. The Gotham police have informed us that they believe Teng was kidnapped and led to death by a fellow Arkham inmate known as Sorrow." A still-frame of her robbing a bank flashed up onto the screen and cut to a close-up of her grey makeuped face. "Police say that Sorrow is armed and extremely dangerous. She was last sighted on R Street, and may be driving a stolen black sedan." The newsreader turned to the second camera. "We'll keep you updated as we get more information. And now, with the weather-"
Sammy snapped the set off and turned to his boss. "That the same doc that..." he trailed off.
A wide, starry grin cracked her face. "Yes! And he's dead!" She leaped from her chair and twirled in a dance of joy. "Dead! Dead! Dead!"
"Wait!" Sammy said, confused. "You were there, though, right?"
"Yep!" Sorrow said cheerfully.
"Didn't you see him stab himself?"
"Yep!" she repeated.
"Why'd you think he was still alive?"
Sorrow paused her dance. "Never assume they're dead until you see the body," she said gravely. "As I believe someone once told me." Sammy, who had indeed told her this long ago, chuckled as he watched his boss bouncing around the kitchen. "He's dead, he's dead, he's deeaaaad!" she sang, scooping up the lovable puppy cookie jar and tweaking its ceramic nose. "Hey!" she gasped, setting the dog down. "We should go out tonight! Celebrate!"
"Aren't the Bats gonna be lookin' for ya, though?" Sammy asked.
"Well, yeah, but...doesn't matter. Tomorrow's the sixteenth!"
"The Bats always get me on the sixteenth. I'm safe tonight."
Sammy gave her that twisty, squinty look again. "Boss, are you sure you're okay?"
"I'm fine, Sammy," she said, exasperated. "Look. We pulled that bank job and then the Bat got me on April sixteenth, right?"
"Yeah," Sammy said cautiously.
"And then I came back here and Batman caught me again on May sixteenth," Sorrow pointed out.
"Well, okay, but..." Sammy said hesitantly.
"And the next time I was out of Arkham, I ended up going back on August sixteenth," she said, arms crossed. "Tomorrow's the sixteenth of November. I'm safe tonight."
Sammy regarded her with cautious wonder, as if he was questioning her sanity. "Whatever you say, boss," he agreed placidly.
"Good. Leave your wife a note and get ready to go."
"It's only two!" Sammy protested.
"And I've got a lot of celebrating to do. Move it!"
Sorrow woke up the next morning with a vicious headache. The previous night had been...well, she hadn't ever heard what other people did when their tormentors kicked the bucket, so she'd chosen that time-honored celebratory tradition: getting so drunk that she couldn't see straight.
She laid in bed until midafternoon, watching the room slowly spin around her. Finally, when she heard a bunch of school kids chattering as they left their bus, she dragged herself out of bed and slouched to the bathroom.
It was the sixteenth. If she had to go out, it was time to go out with a bang.
She rubbed her eyes and grabbed her costume, examining the occasional new alcohol stain with a look of surprise. When had she had bright green margaritas? She shrugged and slid into her coat. The tiny makeup kit in her pocket had just enough left in it to cover her face with grey. With careful hands, she inked a pair of teardrops on either side of her eyes.
Sammy was asleep on the couch, snoring like a bear. She scribbled a note for him on the back of a bar flyer - "We're even" - and headed out for one last night of freedom. Okay, so it had only been a couple of days instead of a week, but he'd managed to keep her in one piece and get her home safely after a night of debauchery that she didn't even remember. That had to count for something.
The sun was going down and she was still free.
It was amazing, she thought to herself as she kicked through a pile of dry leaves in the park. She'd gone to the drugstore, the mall, in fact she'd been pretty much everywhere in the city, and there were no cops on her tail. There were no Bats either, but then she supposed that it was a bit early for them to be out.
The looks on their faces! That moment when they realized it was her, and not just someone dressed like her, and that their lives just might be in danger. Oh, that look!
She saw a teenage couple kissing each other on a park bench. Target acquired, she thought with a small giggle, and strolled casually up to them. With insistent fingers, she tapped politely on the young boy's shoulder. And tapped. And tapped.
"What the hell do you want?" he snapped, pulling away from his girl. As his eyes met Sorrow's, his face paled.
"Excuse me, son, could you tell me the time? I'm not wearing my watch," she said, holding up her arms to expose her gloves.
"Uh, uh, uh, five-thirty," he stammered, checking the flashy watch on his wrist.
"Thanks, kid." She continued down the path, snickering to herself as she heard the two quietly freaking out and running away in the other direction. Leaves crunched under her boots as she walked casually along, running gloved fingers along the fences and bushes that lined the path.
The sun was down now.
She hopped the fence and plowed on through the park, making her way through the foliage and the trees and avoiding the paths. No one disturbed the rest of her walk. No one was even in the park anymore. Everyone avoided Gotham's parks at night if they could help it - not just because of muggers and drug dealers, but because there was a very real possibility that the shrubs would come alive and strangle you to death.
This particular park was surrounded by a seven-foot-tall brick wall. Sorrow, pressed against it, peered cautiously out of the gate. A veritable army of police officers were gathered there, guns aimed directly at where she would have been walking if she'd stuck to the path.
She slid herself quietly back around to the other side of the wall and took a deep breath. They hadn't seen her. Just because she was going to be caught tonight didn't mean she had to be captured that way.
She crept quietly along the wall, trying not to make a noise until she was far away from the gate. Once she determined that she was far enough away, she got to her feet and bolted like a startled deer, trailing one hand on the bricks as she ran.
A hand like an iron starfish clamped around her wrist. Thanks to inertia and the impossibility of making Batman move an inch when he didn't want to, Sorrow sped in a curve and thudded into the wall. "Hey," she protested weakly. "Thass not...heeey..." She shook her head violently, trying to snap herself back into reality as Batman ratcheted a set of cuffs around her wrists.
"You're going back to Arkham," he growled, pulling her along like a dog on a leash.
She thought of Sammy, probably still asleep in his apartment. "Toldja," she smirked into the empty air.
"What?" Batman snapped.
"Nothing," she said innocently. So what if he was forcing her to return to Arkham? She could be back out by next week. Was there really anything left at Arkham to bother her?
Joker, certainly, whenever they got around to recapturing him, she thought as they loaded her into a police van. That gritty oatmeal at breakfast...forced medications...therapy...
Therapy. With so-called Dr. Troy Grey.
Oh, yes, something would have to be done about that. Yes, indeed...
Author's Note: The whole sixteenth thing was completely unintentional. At some point, I went through the story, assigning dates to events, and yes - I managed to get her captured regularly on the sixteenth, totally by accident. It's funny, because sixteen's always been my lucky number.
Anyway! Sorrow's story will continue in "Reinventing". Thanks for reading!