This was a Harley-centric NaNoWriMo project back in 2008 that made it to about 22K words before I ran out of time and plot! It's been languishing forgotten for the best part of two years and is missing a few scenes here and there, plus it needs a bit of a polish. I'm going to work through and try to get it into a more publishable state then upload it as I go, so it may appear in fits and starts. Since it's an [almost] coherent story in it's own right and quite long by my normal standards I'm going to post it separately to the "Waifs and Strays" compilation I've recently started.
Hopefully people might get some enjoyment from it – any reviews or comments would be very welcome!
Pie In The Sky Part One
Try as she might, turning invisible was just not possible. Sure a red and black costume wasn't too bad an outfit choice when a gal was often required to hide in dark corners and poorly-lit alleyways, but at the end of the day she was still being hunted down by a Bat and they weren't known for being put-off by a little darkness.
She was standing on something that squelched unpleasantly and was giving off an odour of rancid milk mixed with cat litter. Harley was beginning to suspect that her split-second decision to dart behind an over-stuffed dumpster was not the world's most cunning choice of hiding place. It wouldn't baffle Batsy for long. In fact it probably wouldn't baffle any six year old with previous experience of playing hide-and-seek.
"Stupid Batman." She muttered under her breath as she stood on tip-toes trying to see over the mountain of garbage in front of her, watching for the swish of a dark cape. "Stupid security guard pressin' the stupid alarm…"
The evening's job hadn't gone entirely to plan.
"You know what, Harl? This dismal fiscal situation has really made me think." The Joker paced up and down in front of a table-full of half drawn blueprints and scribbled ideas. "Who can trust banks when they're collapsing faster than a poorly built house of cards? We can't just naively assume they'll be around to rob forever. It's high time we built up a more secure nest egg."
Harley had just been glad her Puddin' was in a good mood, and scheming something that didn't seem to involve any pointy-eared rodents for a change. Plus any talk from Mistah J of "nesting" gave her a warm and fuzzy feeling inside that had nothing to do with the prospect of accumulating large sums of cash.
Even after several years she resolutely clung to her daydreams of settling down in a nest of her own and raising a clutch of Joker Juniors. Sure Mistah J might have still been slightly less than enthusiastic whenever she mentioned it, but she knew he'd come around eventually.
When the Joker revealed his plan Harley was a little confused. It seemed relatively straightforward; a small number of specialist hired hands, going in after hours, grabbing the loot, getting away and not making a big scene. No jokes, no laughing gas, no random bystanders getting killed or maimed. In fact the whole thing was almost mundane, and distinctly non-Joker.
Of course she had to open her big mouth and share this observation.
If she hadn't been as quick on her feet that vial of acid might have done a real number on her brand new costume (clean on that morning). But she knew that he knew she'd be able to dodge it, and it was really only a warning shot. He'd even gone on to patiently explain at length, for what he said was the fourteenth time, the difference between a proper Joker-themed scheme of brilliance – designed to case chaos, invoke terror, generally raise a smile – and the run-of-the-mill job to raise finance for the first category.
"There's no fun in baiting the Bat over a nickel and dime bank job by waving a big sign saying 'Joker at work!' If the hired-help in this town had more than two brain cells to share between 'em I'd send them to do it themselves, and wouldn't even have to bother getting my hands dirty with such humdrum stuff." He'd sighed, a martyr for his genius. Harley had sighed as well, but in awe at his self-sacrifice as she curled up beside him on the floor to rub his feet while he finalised the plans.
A week later, entering the Central Gotham Bank through a rear door with its locks carefully drilled-out, she was only half a step behind her man. He was resplendent as ever in his trademark purple suit and a particularly vibrant acid-green shirt (the one she always thought complimented his eyes just perfectly). His bone-white skin seemed to glow in the darkness next to the black-clad, balaclavaed goons who had been hired to do the more boring parts of the heist.
Harley had ignored them up to this point, and they in turn ignored her, although for slightly different reasons. She was entirely disinterested in the latest nameless hired help; they all knew enough about the Joker to suspect that any interest they showed in the boss's girl might turn out to be hazardous to their health.
Two of the goons took care of the night security guard and disconnected the surveillance cameras, while the rest of the party made their way by torchlight to the basement vaults. While Harley bounced on her feet impatiently, the Joker's interest was focused on the runt amongst his hired helpers.
The small, slight man had begun to regret taking the job about thirty seconds after he met his employer, when all the warning stories he'd heard from former Joker henchmen suddenly seemed a hell of a lot more real. He knelt on the floor next to a dismantled control panel and bundle of wires as he worked on the electronic locks with a palmtop computer, quietly muttering a prayer to whichever patron saint looked out for small-time underworld hired hands, willing the machine to hurry up.
"I thought you were supposed to be experienced at this." The Joker loomed over the small man on the floor, scowling impatiently. "What are you doing with that thing; opening the doors or playing Tetris?"
"Sorry boss – I'm almost done. Just one more minute…"
"You've got thirty seconds. Or I give up on this new-fangled technology and have the other fellas here bash the door down using you as a battering ram."
The man's nervous twitching grew noticeably more pronounced, but a few moments an electronic beep of recognition from the lock announced its satisfaction with the code it had been offered. The two heavies moved forward and swung the goliath door around, revealing nondescript storage room within.
Harley peered around the Joker's shoulder, stretching to get a better look. The walls were lined with small, individual locked drawers, each numbered but otherwise identical. There wasn't the slightest glint of gold or jewellery, and not even one solitary stack of banknotes to be seen. She was frankly disappointed.
"Hey Mistah J, where's all the cash?"
The Joker cracked his knuckles and stepped into the room. "Oh it's here, Harleykins. You just need to know where to look…"
With a flourish he removed a torn-off sheet of notepaper from within his jacket pocket, sticking a pair of half-moon rimless spectacles on the bridge of his nose. He peered through them at the squiggly handwriting.
"Lucky Charms, Pop Tarts, flea powder…" he clapped a hand to his forehead in exaggerated surprise. "Harley, this your shopping list!" He crumpled the sheet of paper into a ball and threw it in her general direction.
"Sorry Mistah J!" Harley called, chasing the list as it skittered across the floor towards the stairs. "I thought I'd lost that! I don't know how it ended up in your jacket..." She quietly suspected he had put it there himself to set up the joke, but she knew better than to ruin the payoff.
"Silly Pooh, you'd lose your head if it wasn't attached by that flimsy neck of yours." Tutting quietly he patted down his pockets and produced another sheet of notepaper from somewhere. "Here we go! First up is number 49714, then 46517…"
With the aid of trusty crowbars several boxes were prised open, but each contained only dusty manila folders and bundled papers. As the Joker read off more numbers and the goons levered away, Harley eyed them curiously.
"Puddin', what's so valuable about dusty old folders?"
"It's what's in the folders that's valuable, my little nitwit. These," he removed another folder from the latest box to be prised open, "are bearer bonds. I've been doing some research. They're completely untraceable, and much easier to carry than suitcases of cash! It's the perfect way to finance any number of genius schemes."
Harley leafed through one of the folders, finding it hard to believe that a few sheets of paper could really be the equivalent of a suitcase of cash. They certainly lacked the shiny glint of jewellery or the intoxicating smell of a stack of freshly printed bank notes, but as the gal who usually got lumped carrying the goods she did appreciate their portability.
One of the goons suddenly paused mid-way through prising open the final box on the list. He frowned, straining to listen for a half-heard but familiar sound. "Hey, do you guys hear that?"
The smaller man who had been packing away his electronic equipment took a few steps away from the vault doors back towards the stairs, cocking his head to one side. "That sounds like sirens."
"Yeah – a whole bunch of sirens." The first man growled. "Coming this way. What's the betting there's another big job going down in this neighbourhood at exactly the same time?"
The safe-cracker threw his hands up in frustration. "Man, we're so blown."