Rachel Dawes packed her laptop into her briefcase, grabbed her jacket, and strode purposefully out of the drab municipal building and into the teeming street. She felt a little guilty for sneaking out early, but she was meeting Harvey for dinner that evening and she wanted to run home and spruce up for him. After a grueling day, she felt she needed a shower and change of clothes.

As she approached her apartment, she noticed an old black sedan parked near her building. She'd never seen it before and it looked out of place in the chic, up-scale neighborhood. Normally, she might have jotted down the license plate—just in case—but she was too preoccupied with her evening plans to worry about it. She headed up the flight of stairs to her door. Once inside, she threw her things on the couch and checked her fish—swimming about in a lively manner, ready for food—when a familiar, and distinctly unpleasant, laugh emanated from her hallway.

Her heart in her throat, Rachel whirled around to see the Joker stroll into her living room. "Fish, huh? What boring pets. I guess that's all a busy career gal like you has time for, though…well, them and Harvey…"

She almost screamed, but she knew enough about dealing with insane people to realize that she needed to appear calm and in control. "Joker--What are you doing here? What do you want? How the hell did you get in??" Her voice was low and painfully strained, but the rapid-fire questions burst out, belying her affected poise.

"Oh, my goodness, so many questions—I can't think that fast, let me take 'em one at a time" the Joker smiled. "Let's see, what am I doing here—I came to see you!! Aren't you flattered? And what do I want—oh, I'll get to that later. How did I get in—well, that wasn't hard. You really should talk to maintenance about their cheap surveillance system, I'm sure you pay for better than that piece of crap…" The Joker spoke as he sauntered around her living area, examining pictures and handling knickknacks in a familiar way that made her blood boil.

"Ok, you need to get out of here—NOW." She directed firmly. After catching her breath, she was no longer scared so much as she was furious.

" But I haven't told you what I want!! And you were so delightfully curious a minute ago!" She started to move toward the heavy sculpture decorating her coffee table, but the Joker was in front of her in an instant. "I'm not here to hurt you, sweetheart, I just want to talk. About a little proposition that I have for you…" He was too close, she felt her face burning with the stress of maintaining her cool. After staring intrusively into her eyes, he moved cat-like around her, examining her from every angle. He was almost a head taller than she, and though slender—almost skinny—she sensed a latent physical power that scared her. And, he was crazy.

"Ok, fine. Tell me what you want, then get the hell out."

"Ok, ok, I'm gonna tell you. But you have to sit down. You're making me nervous, fidgeting around like this…" She sat on the couch, and he sat disturbingly close, his leg pressed against hers. She wanted to scoot away, but knew that would just agitate him. He was looking directly into her face, waiting until she turned to look back at him. It was the last thing she wanted to do, but she forced herself.

"That's better. We're both professionals, right? You understand about business—it's nothing personal. Networking, supply and demand…acquisitions? That's what I'm here for. I simply want to discuss a little…merger."

"For god's sake, what are you talking about?"

"Well, good ol' Harvey Dent is stepping on some, uh, highly placed toes, did you know that? He's definitely made a name for himself. I think he needs a distraction. Something to take his mind off of the, um, pressures of the marketplace…"

"Harvey is the District Attorney, he isn't involved in 'the marketplace'" Rachel asserted scornfully.

"Well, there's all kinds of markets, sweetie. And you, well, you are definitely a valuable commodity!" He could no longer contain himself and began snickering in a disconcerting way.

"What the hell do you mean, just tell me!" She had lost her composure, raised her voice, and she could see the effect wasn't good…

His eyes narrowed and he grabbed her shoulders, peering hard into her eyes with a fiery intensity. "All right, here it is. I want you…for a mate. For six weeks. You come to my place, live with me—like a wife! Being a psychopathic criminal doesn't leave a lot of time for socializing, and I've decided to avoid all that time-wasting drivel and get what I want, who I want, right now—today."

She couldn't believe what she was hearing, but she had no doubt he was no longer playing with her. An icy wave of fear clouded her rational mind, and she found herself on autopilot.

"You are insane. There is no way I'm going anywhere with you, you cannot be serious…" she sputtered.

He smiled, pleased. "Oh, I'm completely serious. You see, I'm not like other people. I don't wait around for things to go my way—I make things happen. The other day, when I sat in that interrogation room, and you came in, all sensible suit and manicured nails, oh, man, I knew…I knew I had to have that. So, I've been watching you…I know you're a little wilder that you let on to dear old Harvey. So, in a way, I'm doing you a favor! Cut (at this point, he pulled a knife out of his pocket and pressed it against her face) to the chase! Oh, and you'll be doing Havey a big favor, too. I know you're interested in that…"

His words made no sense, but he released her, grabbed her briefcase and pulled out her laptop, set it on the coffee table and opened it up. "Here, access the Internet. Do it." He directed her. Hands shaking, she did as she was told, and for a terrible moment she couldn't think of her password…she was aware of his sudden impatience and the knife in his hand…finally, the Web sprang up and he pulled the computer away from her, slipped the knife back in his pocket, and began typing rapidly. In a moment, a grainy picture appeared on the screen. "See? This is of interest to you, isn't it?"

She looked closely and realized the figure tied to a chair was Harvey. The fear that had already taken root in her mind morphed into terror and she looked at the man in the clown makeup seated next to her. "What…did…you do?" "Oh, now I've got your attention. Good, glad to hear it. This is the deal—you have a choice. You come with me now, as I said, and Harvey will be released. Oh, he'll worry, but he'll have a quiet life for the next six weeks, and then his little bunny will be returned to him—slightly worse for wear, no doubt, but alive. However, if you decline my offer—well, Harvey won't have anything to worry about, because he won't have any brains left in his head to worry with…."

The meaning of his proposition suddenly crystallized for her and she mechanically formed the words "so, if I don't go with you—Harvey will die?"

"Nice summarization!" he exclaimed gleefully, and laughed. "You are correct. Now, I know this is a big step—forming new relationships can be awkward—so you take all the time you need to think it over. You have two minutes" He stood up and took a seat in the easy chair across from the couch, watching her intently. She tried to think—what could she do to get out of this? As though reading her thoughts, he added "By the way, if I don't contact my man taking care of Dent, he'll die regardless."

Something clicked in her brain—she had to decide—and clearly, Harvey had a better chance of survival if she cooperated. She didn't trust the Joker, didn't believe his proposition would end well for either of them, but she could see there was no choice if she wanted Harvey to live. "Ok, I'll go with you. Just let Harvey go."

"Oh, I will, I will…as soon as you're safely settled in my cozy home, I'll send word that Harv is to be released. Then we'll start our little adventure…we're going to become…very close" he leaned forward as he said this and tapped her hand, as though to cement the deal. "I've taken the liberty of packing a case for you…you have some very nice…things…" he pulled a pair of lacy panties out of his sleeve to show her, and then tucked it back, chuckling to himself.

She felt helpless, out of her body, as he guided her to his car. He opened the door for her, and she realized there was no handle on the inside…not that it mattered. She knew she had to do what he wanted, to save Harvey. She tried not to think about what that might be.