"Not Playing With a Full Deck" takes place about 1 year after TDK. I did not originally intend for this to be a crossover... it just sort of happened that Lois Lane entered the picture.

Rated M for extremely vulgar language, exceedingly graphic violence, some kinky sex and disturbing visuals thrown in. I'm dealing with criminals, not choirboys. They speak and act accordingly. If this type of story material offends you, don't read this story.

Reviews are ALWAYS appreciated, so don't be shy, whether you're a visitor or a site member. I genuinely enjoy reading the insights, opinions and astute observations of such enthusiastic TDK/Batman/Joker fans. There are some amazing writers on this website, and I value your contributions.

Thank you to ALL OF YOU who have read this story so far!

(Disclaimer: I don't own the DC characters that appear in this story.)


Chapter 1

. . . . . . .

His eyes darted forward again, from the gaping blackness of the empty doorway behind them to the dull, blue glow of the television. Anxiety coursed through his veins.

To Mooney's left sat a young man, snickering at the gossip rag of a show that passed for "entertainment news". Sticks, so named for his gangly limbs, sat engrossed in the spectacle before him. He slapped the top of his thigh as a donkey-like bray passing for a laugh burst forth. He shook his head, smiling with guilt. "Dude. Dude! This is so wrong!"

They were the only two in the room, a dank, vast living room on the second floor of an abandoned crack house, not far from the wharf. The others from their crew were out carousing for the night: getting wasted, trolling for whores, who knew what… all of them were biding their time, awaiting their boss to sound the call to arms.

They worked for the most notorious criminal in Gotham, a man far beyond the curative capabilities of modern pharmaceuticals and unreachable by the most vaunted of psychiatrists and behavioral therapists. He was a pure sociopath, who had single-handedly tainted the association that Gothamites once held of joyful play with that of a clown. He made his image into the most menacing of avatars.


It had been six months since the Joker had escaped from Arkham, and his thirst for chaos was still unslaked.

It was only a matter of time before his next scheme to terrorize the city came to fruition. When that moment did arrive, he would call on his crew. And they would come. It was suicide not to. They feared him as much as the general public did.

No. They feared him even more.

Sticks and Mooney had chosen not to stray too far from the Joker on this mid-autumn night, if only to curry favor with their boss (as if that were in the realm of possibility), demonstrating their loyalty to him by sheer geographical proximity. They were passing time by watching TV, while their captain turned his schemes in a back room somewhere.

Just minutes earlier, while surfing for porn, Sticks had happened across a satellite channel broadcasting out of Metropolis. The 11:00pm mark had just passed, and this station had begun its broadcast of a faux-news program, Metropolis Live, which was little more than sensationalized gossip and rumor perpetuation disguised as a pop culture critique. Lots of splashy graphics, with plenty of pretty faces and overexposed cleavage. That last ingredient was what caught Sticks' eye.

Right on! Sticks hit the remote to record the show for later viewing, glad that they had lifted the TiVo from a house they'd hit a few months ago. Mooney was indifferent to the televised slime, flipping through a tattered and used back issue of Hustler, scratching absently at his unshaven neck. He preferred his smut the old fashioned way – by publication.

Initially, Sticks' attention was caught by the hostess' low-cut shirt, which barely concealed the unnaturally buoyant breasts beneath it. He took a swig from the bottle in his lap. Before the whiskey could wash down, Sticks coughed abruptly and spit it out when the Clown Prince of Crime's face appeared, filling up the entire TV screen. His choke drew Mooney's attention out of the magazine. Both men quickly leaned forward toward the television set, eyes widening, mouths agape.

They were dumbfounded – the topic of this general shit-for-content TV program was the Joker himself. Not a factual presentation of the danger the criminal posed, but of the sensation he was becoming… as a character, not as a man.

It was exactly the flavor of popularity the Joker would have choked on and spat out.

This wasn't about the fear the Joker inspired. Metropolis Live didn't chronicle the masses in Gotham who were afraid to leave their homes at night, for fear of crossing paths with the psychopathic clown. Instead, it focused on his surge in popularity as a fun-loving clown, who just happened into trouble. Like Dennis the Menace.

Gothamites lived in the same waters where the shark swam. They knew the destruction the Joker brought. But in Metropolis, the citizens had developed a cavalier attitude toward criminals, thanks to the frequent appearances of Superman. Criminals weren't to be feared so much in Metropolis; they were just the bait for gratuitous TV footage of the Man of Steel.

Which was exactly why in Metropolis, the Joker seemed to be all the rage for them.

He was from Gotham, a city with an ominous cloud over it, cast as much by the Batman, as by the criminal underworld. There was a duality to Metropolis' fascination with the Joker; there was a fringe backlash against the squeaky clean image Superman had bestowed on the city, and it led some of them actually to cheer for the criminals who hadn't been eradicated from the streets; on the other hand, the very illusory veil of safety Metropolis now viewed their criminals through cast the Joker as… a high spirited circus character. They didn't get him. Many bought into the clown image too literally, thinking him just an eccentric who liked purple.

Those two strands of public opinion wove together to create the newest craze – JokerMania, which could be purchased at WalMart in the form of action figures, kindergarten costumes and even breakfast cereal.

He was being deified. Not in a menacing Hades, god-of-the-underworld sort of way. No, deified in the modern sense of the word – he had become a product.

Mooney was astonished. He couldn't help wonder, Do da producers of this show have a fuckin' death wish? When da Joker sees this, all hell will break loose. Then, another thought struck him. I wouldn't want to be in da same room if his sees –

He felt his dinner threaten to come back up.

"Sticks." No reaction from the young man, who sat agog. "Hey, Sticks, turn it down, will ya?" He swatted the back of his meaty hand against the knee of his lanky cohort, as he nodded in the direction of the TV. "Turn it down, or change da damn channel, ya dumb punk. Boss gets wind of dis, and he'll fuckin' blow a gasket." Or blow us away. Probably both.

Sticks made no move to change the channel. He wanted to see how far the show would go in its quest for shock value.

Mooney's stomach churned acid as he listened to the lurid narration that the hostess cooed about their boss. "I'm not shittin' ya, kid. Dis means bad news, I'm tellin' ya. Really bad."

The young man looked askance at the behemoth sitting on the ratted sofa to his right. In defiance, Sticks kept the volume - and the channel - right where it was. For such a large man, Mooney was being a pussy. "No, I ain't changin' it. I'm watchin', here."

Mooney jabbed Sticks in the arm. "I'm not kiddin', Sticks. Shut this crap off!"

Sticks shrugged his shoulders. "C'mon. Wouldn't it be kind of… you know, funny if he saw this show?" His eyebrows raised and an impish grin spread across his face. "You know, if he totally just lost his shit over this?" Both men turned their attention momentarily back to the tube. The screen was now split with the Joker's face on one side, and a Cabbage Patch Kid doll on the other, ostensibly drawing vague parallels between the villain's surge in popularity outside of Gotham with that of those ugly-ass dolls from the early 1980's.

At that ridiculous comparison, Sticks leaned his head back and pursed his lips. "Ooooeeeee!" He pointed at the screen. "Dude, can you imagine how apeshit he'd go if he saw that? Let's call him in here to see this! I'd pay serious money to see what would happen! That would be something to s—"

His sentence was cut short by the vice grip around his throat. The large man's round face filled Sticks' vision, rank breath laced with cheap beer spewing forward. As the smaller man gasped for air, his eyes bugged out, and he was vaguely aware of the TV remote control being snatched from his limp hand with a vulture's clawing.

"Are you out of your fuckin' mind?" Mooney's furrowed brow drew Sticks' gaze to meet his own. The large Irishman wasn't furious. He was terrified.

He looked over his shoulder nervously at the doorway again. Boss had removed the door itself, leaving a gaping, empty frame. Doors weren't permissible in this hovel. Doors facilitated privacy. None of the underlings were permitted the privilege of privacy. Paranoid schizophrenics don't present opportunities for others to conspire right under their noses.

Mooney's gut tightened. The doorway was still empty. Good.

He released Sticks' throat. The lithe younger man's eyes watered, then he sputtered as air filled his lungs again. Despite the pain, he didn't let the physical agony of his burning throat rift his fix on Mooney's face. The man who loomed over him was enormous, almost cartoonish in his proportions; yet something had him so rattled he was visibly shaking. That put Sticks on edge.

"Listen, kid, and you. Listen. Up. Good." He poked the young man with force in the chest to punctuate each word. Wanted to make sure he had Sticks' attention. He did.

Sweat beaded up on Mooney's forehead. "Da boss is not a guy you wanna fuck wit'. Take it from me, you don't want to see him pissed off or…" His eyes darted to the TV and back. "…humiliated, just to see what he'll do. To see how far he'll go. You got me?"

Mooney dropped his voice to a whisper and continued. "If ya hadn't already noticed, Joker's crazy. I mean, look at 'im. You think sane people look like dat?" He leaned back on the sofa, and ran a hand over his wide forehead and over the top of his head, in an effort to brush back hair that had long ago receded out of sight. "Hell, no. He is NOT one you want to see get pissed, just for the sport of it."

Mooney didn't have to reach far into his memory bank to the last time he'd seen one of the crew make that fatal mistake.

It had happened in this very room. He told the story. Sticks listened with rapt attention.

And while he listened, Sticks paused the show, freezing the blurred image on the TV screen - one of stark white, pitch black and a slash of blood red, upon lips curled back in a smile. Perhaps, upon reconsideration, it was a sneer.

. . . . . . .

Author's Notes for "Channel Surfing"

. . . . . . .

Where did the premise of this story come from?

I am fascinated with villains, and the power they wield to terrorize. One of my favorite questions to ask when I see or read about a dreadfully wicked character is this:

What would happen if this person were made angry? Really, truly angry?

Enter Heath Ledger's Joker from The Dark Knight: this is one of the most brilliant portrayals of a deviant I've ever seen on screen. The mannerisms, the speech pattern, the poise – everything fit together seamlessly to create an absolute monster. After seeing TDK a few times, the familiar question came back, and I couldn't shake it from my mind.

What consequences would there be should a man this unhinged ever experience true fury?

Originally, this story was going to be a one-shot. A dark comedy. I thought it would be entertaining to come up with a relatively short story about punishment levied by the Joker on those who had kicked the proverbial hornet's nest by mocking him.

However, as this first chapter unfolded, I found that there was much darker territory to cover. The idea for a one-shot was quickly scrapped.

Rather than come up with a silly story to explore what revenge the Joker would exact, I thought it would be much more exciting to try to present it as realistically as possible.

Given the foundation laid in The Dark Knight, it would be inconceivable that a single person in Gotham would participate in a public provocation of the Joker. That led to the idea to use Metropolis. It seemed fair to extrapolate that if Gotham existed, Metropolis would, too.

I picture Metropolis as the photographic negative of Gotham; happier citizens who can afford to live with a more cavalier attitude because they have the ultimate superhero in their midst. To me, Metropolis is something akin to Hollywood: a city out of touch with true hardships and danger, almost looking to spin something into trouble for the entertainment of it; a city becoming bloated with complacency and bored with the safety it takes for granted. This would be the wellspring from which Pandora's Box would be opened.

I chose to open the story with two of the Joker's lackeys – rather ordinary cast-offs whose perfunctory evening routine was capsized by a simple television broadcast – to provide as accurate a context as I could for the tactile fear the Joker inspired. I wanted to present the Joker as seen through the eyes of his own crew: how the naive (Sticks) saw him, versus the seasoned veteran (Mooney). As Mooney leads into his cautionary tale, we see Sticks' veil of blissful ignorance start to tatter and fray.

-4oC, 11.03.2008