A Piece Of Glass
By Breech Loader
Chapter Twenty: Why The Caged Bird Sings
I know what the caged bird feels, alas!
When the sun is bright on the upland slopes;
When the wind stirs soft through the springing grass,
And the river flows like a stream of glass;
When the first bird sings and the first bud opes,
And the faint perfume from its chalice steals-
I know what the caged bird feels!
I know why the caged bird beats his wing,
Till its blood is red on the cruel bars;
For he must fly back to his perch and cling
When he fain would be on the bough a-swing;
And a pain still throbs in the old, old scars
And they pulse again with a keener sting-
I know why he beats his wing!
I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,
When he beats his bars and he would be free;
It is not a carol of joy or glee,
But a prayer that he sends from his heart's deep core,
But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings-
I know why the caged bird sings!
"Strange…" Alfred murmurs.
"Breech Loader's fingerprints were all over the computer. She's all over the cameras. She just smashed her way into the Library, looked up the poem and printed off a copy," I tell him, "She even scattered Tarot cards. This sort of thing is what the Riddler would do, but he's back behind his glass. Somehow I doubt she's working for him after the chaos he and Joker caused last night…"
"It's a very old poem, Master Bruce. Called 'Sympathy'," Alfred tells me.
"I know, Alfred. I know the meaning, and it's obvious this is how Breech must be feeling," I tell him, "The question is, what does it mean?"
"Bridget Loranski is not the Riddler, Master Bruce. Most likely it's an act of impulse, like venting emotions?"
"I know what this is about now, Alfred," I tell him, "Breech Loader is a tool. She's nothing but a distraction. But she's a very dangerous tool and a very good distraction. Joker's become attached to her ability to cause chaos and think rationally at the same time. I can't ignore the things she's prepared to do but she's not the problem. Joker's the one I should have been finding."
"He's had you hunting rabbits instead of dealing with the resting tiger," Alfred summarizes.
"Hey," I look Joker up and down. His expression is unreadable but he's focused all his attention on me, "Well, at least you didn't freak out like the last time I stepped out of the building without you."
"Where did you, uh… go?" he asks calmly.
"I didn't feel good," I tell him, "And just in case you wonder why, it was because I'd just told some totally untrustworthy raving psychopath something nobody else alive knows."
"You think I'm, uh… crazy," Joker's eyes narrow in sudden anger.
"And you think I'm your pet," I reply, "I'm out of Arkham Asylum. I've made my mark. Now I need a job."
"Never happy unless you're, uh… doing something, huh Breech?" he asks me, smirking again and licking his lips slowly.
I clench my fists, "Perhaps, Joker, you have filled your ears with the same greasepaint that covers your face. I need a job." Even I know I'm a goddamn workaholic, "If you won't give me one, I'll go out that door and find one."
"And what can you, uh… do?" Joker asks, as if he doesn't already know.
"Lots of things. Kidnapping, creating hostage situations, killing people. Anybody. Anywhere. No questions asked," I state, "For a price."
"Thought you didn't care about money," Joker chuckles, "Heh… all this time I thought you were honest but you're a hypocrite just like everybody else-"
"At least I don't charge somebody for my services then burn the money," I snap, "Yeah, I heard what you did with all that money. And I liked it. But it's not my style."
"So what is your, uh… style?" he smirks.
"Overseas bank accounts," I shrug, "Those mobsters and Legitimate Businessmen… getting money for the sake of it and not even noticing. It's not about the money. It's about finding out how much people are willing to pay you for the sake of not getting their own hands dirty."
"So… what do you, uh… do with their money?" I shirk away slightly and he actually chuckles at that when his hand strokes my furry cheek. Why the hell am I more afraid of him when he's gentle than when he's rough?
"I used what I needed to do my job," he strokes my cheek again, and this time I don't pull back, "Heh. The better I got at my job, the more I earned, the less I needed."
"So why charge me at all?" he asks.
"You know, there are people who will save and save for a rainy day… even when it's pouring already? It's a job," I shrug, feeling… odd… as he runs his fingers through my hair, "You gotta charge for a job."
"You're just a jumped up whore, selling yourself to the highest bidder," Joker sneers at me.
I regret saying it as soon as the words leave my mouth. Because she doesn't deny it; she just slumps a little and looks at her feet, as if she's ashamed.
"You gotta charge for a job," she whispers again, "If you're good at what you do, never do it for free."
I hurt her by saying it. The weird thing is that I give a shit. I want to make her feel better. I walk over to some broken-up floor panels, "No, no, you're not like them," I pull out a briefcase, "Here. This is… ten million dollars cash. It's yours – if you kill the current DA."
She looks up at me, and it's not greed on her face. She's actually… happy again. Which makes me feel good. Which is weirdness again. Then her expression becomes one of apathy. It's like looking at a whole different person, "You got any specifications?" she asks, "Time limits, people caught in the crossfire, quick or slow, witnesses, body found or not?"
"Hmmm…" I think. It sure would make this city shit itself if… "Just leave this at the scene," I pass her a Joker card.
Can she do it?
"I'll be back in less than 12 hours."
It's disgustingly easy.
I've pulled jobs like this dozens of times before.
I just head to the apartment block with the DA's office, and wait on the roof until it's morning and everybody is coming to work. If Batman thinks he's the only one who can mess around on rooftops, he's wrong.
That's how I get in. I climb down a wire, smash a window with the gun, and get onto the top floor that way. DA's office is on the top floor. It's even labeled. I knock, and a man's voice calls out, "That must be him now. Come in, Mr Wayne."
I push open the door. The DA's even already in his office, with a woman I don't recognize or care about. He stares in surprise, because it's clear I wasn't who he was expecting, as does the woman. All I have to do is aim, and shoot him in the head with the silenced handgun. The woman opens her mouth to scream, and I run forward and punch her so hard she's knocked to the floor. Then I knock her out by kicking her in the back of the head.
I finish the job by tucking the Joker's calling card into the former DA's mouth.
The only tiny hitch is when I step out of the office. A man's coming out of the elevator, and I recognize him from the news as Bruce Wayne, the billionaire playboy. He stares at me – not that I'm not used to stares, but he looks at me like he's seen a ghost.
I just turn away and walk back to the window I smashed to get in and look down. It's a long way down.
"Breech?!" he shouts. There's a moment while I look back, and he breaks into a run towards me.
"You're pretty brave, for a pampered playboy," I comment impassively. But I don't bother to wait to knock him out or shoot him. I just climb back out the window and back onto the roof. He'll probably alert the cops, so I leave the area.
I was so shocked to see Breech Loader that for a moment I forgot I wasn't supposed to have ever talked to her before. I just hope she attributes that to her recent press.
She assassinated DA Vernon Parker with one shot, knocked out his Personal Assistant with two hits, and climbed onto the roof, then… got away. If I'd been Batman then I might have been able to catch her. But I was just Bruce Wayne.
One good thing about being Batman is that Batman can know everything. Bruce Wayne is just a man, but Batman could be anybody or anything. Still, I listen to Commissioner Gordon first, anyway, "Both stories fit perfectly," he tells me grimly, "The Arkham escapee Breech Loader walked into the room and shot Vernon in the head, then knocked out his Personal Assistant. Then she pushed the Joker's calling card into the DA's mouth. Bruce Wayne even saw her coming out of the office and escape via the rooftops. I figure they were both lucky not to be killed too."
"The assassination was carried out with the precision of a Career Killer," I reply, "The most highly paid killers consider killing innocent bystanders without an absolute necessity 'sloppy work'. Breech Loader is obviously very professional. And she doesn't care about being connected to the crime if she left witnesses alive because she's already a wanted killer and legally insane, and the Joker obviously wants people to know it was his idea."
"We know who did it, how she did it, and even who she did it for. We just can't catch her-" Commissioner Gordon groans.
I swing away. I remember the expression on her face as I saw her leave that office – complete apathy. Like she'd done it hundreds of times before.
Maybe she has.
"The job's done. Where's my money?" Joker turns to look at me. I think he must be surprised to see me back so soon, "It was a breeze."
Joker seems to regain his composure, "Any, uh… witnesses?" he asks, running his tongue over his lip.
"Just two. Some personal assistant and the billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne," I reply, "Your calling card was left as you requested. My fingerprints are all over the place, and my Tarot cards. If it's a problem for you, you should have been more specific."
He smiles, "Not a problem. Not a problem at all."
I take the suitcase of money and push it into a corner, hanging up my coat and disarming. I don't feel threatened – well, no more so than I usually do around Joker. The guy burned a few hundred million dollars for fun. He doesn't seem the type to kill me just for money. Just for fun, maybe, but not just for money, "And now all that's left is to put it in a bank account and forget about it," I smile, "I really feel much better now, Joker. Thanks."