The Slaughtered Lamb
It took the Joker little over a week to escape from Arkham asylum. Somehow- the newspapers had many theories- he had managed to seduce a young psychiatrist. She was found, barely days later, with her face carved into a permanent smile, but never able to laugh again.
The body count only went up from there.
Gotham was in turmoil; its white knight dead, its dark knight apparently revealed as anything but a saviour, and the man who had caused it all was now freely roaming the streets. People panicked. No matter how many times the mayor claimed he was stepping up security, putting more policemen on the streets, everybody was worried: worried that they would be attacked, or worse, by the Joker or even the Batman himself.
But some men kept hope. Some men held their faith in the Batman, whether they knew the circumstances with Harvey Dent or not. It was these men who walked the streets with little fear, heads held high in the knowledge that Gotham would always have her dark protector.
'Nothing's here, sir.'
Police Commissioner Jim Gordon scowled at the news his lieutenant had just given him, but never taking his eyes off the man whose premises they were searching. They had been tipped off, anonymously, that there were dark dealings beneath the shining veneer of the 'Iceberg Lounge', a fact which someone he trusted utterly had confirmed. But, as had just been said, there was nothing- no information of drug dealings or human trafficking as described.
The owner of the establishment wore a satisfied smirk.
'Satisfied, Commissioner?' he asked, looking down at Gordon with his beaklike nose despite the fact he was much shorter. 'As I told you earlier, I have nothing to hide, and you may search as long as you wish…'
They both looked at each other for a while longer; a silent battle of wits taking place. The Gotham Times would not be light when reporting this, they both knew that, but the choice was between searching deeper until any sort of proof was found, or pulling out now before the damage got worse. Criticism was already rising against them, especially after the Joker's escape.
'No,' the other replied sharply, drawing himself to his full height. Jim Gordon could be a menacing figure when he needed, despite his lean figure, thick glasses, and the flecks of grey that now decorated his hair thanks to his recent promotion. There was something about him, something ineffable that made him strong and the prime candidate for the job. 'We're done here. Thank you for your time Mr Cobblepot.'
The squat man gave a dramatic bow, and in his expensive suit he cut an almost comical figure, if the amount of power and wealth he had was discounted.
The Commissioner did not like this man, but without proof he could do nothing. It seemed he would have to ask for help from 'outside sources' to deal with this case- with Maroni and most of the mob gone, many others were now attempting to fill their place, and Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot seemed to be one of them. Sure, he hardly looked like a threat, with his strange waddling walk (which reminded Gordon of a duck, or perhaps another bird…) and his air of refinery he patently lacked, but there was more to him that that…
There were rumours, horrific ones to say the least, but without evidence- at least in this case- he was absolutely powerless.
Nothing more was said between them, and slowly the members of GCPD filtered out of the popular club, leaving nothing behind but fingerprints. Oswald Cobblepot's smirk still remained as he walked back to his desk, and he did not seem at all surprised when the phone suddenly rang.
'I take it you have them…' he stated, after pressing the button so he was speaking on intercom. 'Longer than expected, I must say…'
'Yes,' another voice replied, but much less self-assured than that of the business owner. 'We have- we have most of them. It-'
'Most?' Cobblepot had picked up on the danger word, and for a moment his oddly beady eyes almost seemed to flash red. 'I thought you promised me each and every shipment would be recovered after your little run-in with 'the Dark Knight'? Did you not say I would have my goods within the week? Well?!' He did not shout, but his anger was evident all the same.
There was silence for a few moments, and then the sound of the person on the other line audibly gulping.
'We'll get them,' they replied finally, much more subdued than before. 'Within the week, just like we said.' When Cobblepot did not reply they seemed to swallow again. 'And- and we'll knock a third of the price, just for your trouble…'
The smirk grew at those desperate words.
'Very well,' he replied smoothly. He sat back on his leather chair comfortably, looking very much like a greedy child surveying his large collection of toys. 'I accept your offer, and hope to see results.' There was a threatening tone in his voice, though nothing was stated explicably. 'Goodbye Mr-'
'Wait!' the other cried out. 'Just… wait… What if we get another interruption?'
'The Batman will not-'
'No, the Joker.'
Oswald just about laughed. 'That two-bit clown will not be a problem either. Since his escape he has not been sighted- not once- and besides… Why ever would the madman target me when there are so many ripe for the picking? Hmmm?' This contact was useful, but he did complain… His associate was much easier to work with, even if he did have a problem with civility.
'But last time he targeted-'
He hung up, too tired by damn Gordon's interference to bother with any more of the man's whining. He had a club to run- Gotham's very own Bruce Wayne was said to be attending tonight's social gathering, and he had to make arrangements… But first, relaxation. Oswald Cobblepot smiled to himself, and then hobbled over to feed his large collection of exotic birds.
Anthony Price (a man of little importance, which he would readily admit himself) was hurriedly making his way home, knowing he was already late and as each second went by his wife would get angrier and angrier at his absence. Things were not great there at the moment, and he really didn't want things to get worse. And for that reason he had taken a shortcut down a dark alleyway. Where was the harm in that? This was a good neighbourhood after all, no muggers or hoodlums here…
But still, the mere thought of anyone hiding in the shadows made him quicken his pace. Of course, he told himself it was merely because the air was cold and his wife was waiting, but even he could not deny the sudden presence of his heart beating in his ears. Onwards, he walked. The route never seemed this long in the daytime… Perhaps he had taken a wrong turning somewhere, took the wrong path, and was now heading in the wrong-
He heard a growl from behind.
Suddenly, all of his limbs were rendered immovable from a sudden shot of fear. The adrenaline did anything but power him up for a swift escape, instead rooting him to the spot. A bead of sweat slowly ran down his face. He heard a short rustling behind him, but then only silence. He waited, and waited, and waited. Nothing happened. Nothing. No attack, no demands, nothing.
But the thought would not leave him, and Anthony knew, just like when he was a child and imagined a monster under the bed, he would have to make sure nothing was there before becoming unafraid.
He waited a while longer, and after what seemed an age he finally decided to turn around and confront whoever it was. He turned, but he expected to see some kind of animal, not a human woman.
Slowly, he let out a sigh of relief, but then the old fear returned. She was carrying no weapon, but something about her just seemed wrong… It couldn't be the raggedness of her hair, or her ripped clothes, none of her unkempt appearance in fact, for he had seen homeless people in much worse condition. So what was it? He looked at her a while longer- she stared back silently- and then it hit him.
It was the eyes.
There was something intelligent in the darkness of them, a bright spark, and yet he could see no… no soul… Where was that strange light he saw in his daughter, in a newborn child, even in the dregs of society? The sheer essence of humanity was missing, as if he was staring into the eyes of a dog; full of life and astuteness, but- as he had just noticed- completely soulless.
'Are-are you okay?' he questioned, but he might as well have been talking to the evening air, for she made no sign that she had heard him. In a concerned gesture, he moved forwards a little, but just as suddenly she returned into the shadows, and it seemed as if she had never been there at all.
Anthony waited a few moments but, like when he had been standing stock still before, there was nothing. Even when he shouted out into the darkness nothing happened. He shrugged. Arkham was full of crazies, it had probably been an escapee. Security couldn't be too tight if they had let the Joker escape…
With that in his mind, he abruptly noticed something white, something out of place, on the floor. He picked it up, revealing a playing card: a joker, to be exact.
He barely had any time to take this in when the building next to him exploded.
To be continued…
A/N Hopefully I'll finally be able to finish a multi-chapter story- this one has a clear ending in mind, and probably won't be more than three chapters long. Probably. The psychiatrist mentioned at the start is definitely dead, as as much as I love Harley Quinn (Who might not even be that woman, who knows?) I don't want to overload on characters and the Joker will be hard enough to write as it is. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this, and as always I apologise for any OOCness.