Disclaimer: I do not own any rights to "The Dark Knight."
Chapter One: Happenstance
I love college. Well, I like the remoteness and anonymity of it. I like how impersonal and crude the campus can be on any given morning. I like walking down the towering gothic halls without anyone knowing my name. Don't get me wrong, absolute isolation is not what I crave. I'm just not what you would call a sociable person. I am, by classification an introvert. It's ironic really, because my mother always gabs at how I am "such a people person." That's probably because I never see her. She moved to the Hampton's with her new husband years ago. The only time I see her is at social events my extended family likes to call "get togethers." She doesn't really know me. I just know how to fake the persona very, very well. I prefer my life experiences, all twenty three years of them to be private. Only a select few of my choosing need to know about all its happenings. It's not that I have a phobia of groups or anything. I simply prefer more intimate interactions.
But being an intensely private person does hinder things a bit for my career path. I just finished my bachelors in cultural anthropology, with a minor in psychology. Cultural anthropology requires quite a bit of interaction. That of course does depend on where one decides to do their ethnographic research. Ideally I'd like to start off somewhere alien, remote, and isolated. But the truth of the matter is that my lust for adventure far outweighs my distaste for group interaction. I crave learning. I yearn to observe all things foreign.
It was my first day back on campus from Christmas break and my first official day as a grad student. I must say, it feels pretty great. It's early and so far, I haven't seen a single person on campus. I can feel cold cutting through the thick air. This is most likely the last day I can get away with a light jacket.
My advisor/mentor Kingsley Grant has been kind enough to take me under his wing. There aren't many impeccable examples of the "academic" persona that I'd like to adopt as my own. But Kingsley Grant comes pretty close to it. Professor Grant's office is at the very end of the hallway in the Anthropology building. Actually, it's not an office at all. It's an old classroom. But you'd never know by looking at it. The floor is covered with various Burmese rugs he's collected over the years. They're mismatched and dingy, yet somehow still entirely beautiful. The room is divided in half by a huge purple and gold curtain. Behind the curtain is a military issued cot and a 20 inch flat screen attached to the wall with several bungee cords. The other side (visible to those entering) is an old black desk covered in papers, a laptop, and various HBO DVD sets.
I'm also Dr. Grant's assistant. I carry out all the little odds and ends that he needs done. It's good learning experience and it helps pay the bills.
His office was surprisingly empty. I found this quite strange. Dr. Grant likes his quiet. He usually shows up to school a few hours early to drink his coffee and watch "The Wire." His coffee cup was in fact on the desk. But it was no longer warm. And it could very well be from a few days previous…or the last semester for that matter.
I sat and watched as thirty minutes passed on his clock. Dr. Grant had never been late before. I was going to call him. But upon searching my purse I realized I'd left my phone back at my apartment. Cell phones are quite a bother, but kind of a necessity nowadays.
There was no point staying if I was the only student and absent my instructor. I gathered myself up when I noticed a notepad on the desk.
He'd written out a list of books. None of which seemed to connect with one another. I took the list and slipped it in my pocket. I figured I'd run by the library and pick them up; maybe he'd arrive by the time I got back.
This is where it started getting odd. As I walked out to the mall area, I was greeted with nothing but silence. My eyes stretched as far as the commons on the west side of campus and could not see a soul. I could have sworn that it was Monday. I shook my head wearily and continued onto the library. It is without question my favorite part of the University. It had been recently renovated and refurbished by one of Gotham's extremely wealthy families. You can wander around its various floors for hours. There are thousands upon thousands of books, old and new. The carpet doesn't make for a very comfortable seat while you sit up in the stacks…but it beats no carpet at all.
The lights were all turned off. The emergency exit and emergency floor lights were all that illuminated the large building as I peered in. The main doors were the heavy, industrial kind that couldn't be kicked down by any human foot. Out of curiosity, I pushed down the lever and the door opened effortlessly. A part of me knew this was wrong, it was likely closed. Nevertheless the opportunity presented itself. I slowly walked in.
I could hear the familiar buzzing of the electronic equipment, so the power was on. There was a janitorial cart right at the entrance. It looked as if someone left in a hurry. The lights didn't come on but the floor lights illuminated things just enough. (I also know the library like the back of my hand.) To be safe, I grabbed a flashlight from the Janitor's cart and put it in my back pocket. The library becomes one's best friend whilst studying. My apartment is way across town and that's a long commute to and fro.
My random thoughts suddenly made me keenly aware that I wasn't nearly freaked out enough about this ghost town-state of the University. I seemed to be the only one there. That meant one of two things; One, I was dreaming. That was a perfectly logical explanation until I pinched myself. Two, the school was closed, or evacuated. Being the irresponsible slacker I was, I forgot my phone to check for text alerts…that and I didn't watch or read the news this morning. If I had, I would have known school was cancelled.
I waited for the panic to set in, I waited for my fight or flight response…but none came. In its place, I felt a sort of freedom as I looked around. I had free roam of the library. I had it all to myself. I grabbed one of those "green" eco sacks on the counter that the library provided. Then I went shopping.
Dr. Grant had a pretty impressive list of novels. Though, I would expect nothing less. He was a great reader. I think I gush over him a little too much. He's like the eccentric Grandfather I never had. But unlike him, I could never be a professor. I can't imagine playing nice with the other teachers and going to parties and fundraisers…yuck. I can barely stand attending them as his assistant.
Twenty minutes and about twenty pounds of books later, I'd finished the list. I sat the list down on the checkout desk and put Dr. Grant's name on it. I was about to leave when I realized I didn't get myself anything. I had a flashback of spilling green tea on my brand new copy of Pygmy by Chuck Palahniuk. I don't think the library would miss one more little book for a few days...I really wanted to finish it.
I climbed the stairs to the third floor, which was reserved for contemporary fiction. My fingers slid along the books that were categorized alphabetically. L, M, N, O, finally I reached Palahniuk. I was about to walk down the stairs when I heard a horrible sound of shattering glass on the second floor right below me.
My brain's logical reaction was to slowly back into the shadows. But I jerked myself back instead. After a few seconds of silence, I crept slowly to the ledge to peer over. Two men climbed through one of the second story windows. One of them had cut a gash into his arm pretty deep and was complaining about it. The other told him to forget about it and hurry up so they could get out of there. I leaned back on one of the bookshelves in relief. Whoever they were, they were leaving. But wouldn't you know it; curiosity got the better of me. I peered over again to watch them scurry down the stairs and out the main doors which they threw open. I was mainly distracted by their masks. They looked like vintage clowns. Those must have been the Joker's men. As far as I knew, the Joker was locked up in a padded cell in Arkham. It wasn't like they were going to let him out anytime soon, he must have escaped…that or his men were doing something for him. It took me longer than it should have, but I finally put two and two together.
The school was closed, evacuated in fact. Most likely because of a threat of some sort, I was in genuine shock. But more importantly I was in the middle of it. To think they had actually targeted the University, and I just witnessed…something. I actually wasn't sure what I'd just witnessed. Was one of them the real Joker? If I recalled correctly however, it were only the henchmen that wore masks. The Joker infamously plastered his face on television a few months back and he was just a guy who wore makeup and had scars on both his cheeks, displaying a permanent smile on his face. I quickly shook out of my train of thought. If there were henchmen breaking into the library, they were planning to do something in or around it. My heart quickly sunk as I looked around. It would be such an atrocity to burn down this library. There's a special place in hell for people who burn literature…well, if it were up to me... which it clearly isn't.
That's when I decided to take a risk. If they were going to blow up the library, I needed to grab a few more books first. I rushed down to the second floor, which was classics and stocked up on the necessities. The library had a slew of first editions. Tolstoy, Proust, Dostoevsky, and Melville…to name a few of the many books I shoved into ever bulging book bag.
I wasn't near satisfied, but the clock may or may not have been literally ticking. As much as I loved the library, I did not want to get incinerated with it.
I hurried down the stairs and made my way for the main doors. I wasn't far from them when I heard someone clear their throat, as if they were about to speak. My nerves stood on edge but I kept walking. That is until I heard…
"Hey there pretty girl…"
For some reason, some kind of survival defensive skills took over all logic and I whipped around. I took the back of my hand and threw it square on the left temple of my possible assailant's head. Whoever it was fell to the ground quicker than you could say "Call me Ishmael."
Books flew out in all different directions in the process. I couldn't believe it. I dropped the bag to the ground in shock. It seems I stood frozen for ten minutes, but it probably was just seconds. Soon after, I walked a little closer to the stiff figure lying motionless on the ground. I peered down and turned on my newly-borrowed flashlight to his face.
I couldn't believe my eyes. The man was dressed in a deep but faded purple suit. He had a green vest and smeared makeup all about his face. His eyes were swimming in black cream shadow and two scars distorted his face into a permanent smile. This was enhanced with red lipstick.
"Oh shit." I murmured a little too loudly. I'd unintentionally knocked out the ill-famed Joker.
After several seconds of shock passed, I realized I needed to figure out what I was going to do. The obvious choice would be to run away…but there was always the chance he'd come after me. That and his men were running about the place, God knows how many… I knelt down next to him and stared. I took my index and middle finger and placed it on his neck under his chin. It confirmed what it already looked like, he had a pulse. I looked around in all directions. It seemed as if all his men had scurried off somewhere. But that was only for now. They could be back any minute.
I rushed to the janitor's cart. Hoping, searching for something to subdue him with. As it turned out, it was my lucky day. There was a small rope inexplicably tucked in one of the side pockets of the cart. I quickly threw it over my shoulder and ran back to the Joker, who still lay unconscious on the ground. I figured if I stayed on the first floor, I'd be more susceptible to his men if they came rushing in. I laced my arms under his and dragged him to the elevator. When we reached the fourth floor, I lugged him out and lead him to the opposite corner. I leaned him against the metal railing and began to tie his hands. As soon as his right arm was lifted, it was revealed he was carrying several knives and gadgets in his coat. Yikes…I swiftly put his arm down and peeled off his jacket as fast as I could. After that, I tied his right arm above his head. Upon checking his vest and pulling out three more knives, I tied his left.
It suddenly dawned on me how ridiculous this was. I wasn't quite sure what I was trying to achieve. But this would at least buy me some time to get away? I leaned back and stared at him in fascination. He had quite a nice physique. His arms were very toned and muscular. His jaw was strong and his eyes were set in perfect symmetry. I couldn't tell what his natural hair color was, though I suspected it was brown…but the green dye covered up his secret. I took a knife for myself and speedily slipped it in my pocket. (One can never be too careful) I then looked down at his pants. He seemed to be hiding knives and weapons everywhere else, so it seemed likely he'd have something in pockets. I carefully reached in to search.
"Mmm, that feels nice, but this is way too kinky for a first date." He murmured. I quickly retracted my hand and placed it in my lap. I waited anxiously for him to open his eyes.
When he did, he blinked several times. His tongue fluttered about in some strange attempt to make himself more alert. He shook his head like a dog does to shake off the water and quietly chuckled.
I watched in fascination with my legs crossed, like a student sitting on the floor eagerly awaiting story time…I had no idea what I was going to do. But here I was, sitting directly across from the closest I've ever been to a celebrity.
After a few moments, the Joker looked me directly in the eyes. They studied me carefully. I found it interesting he didn't look around to examine his surroundings, he only stared towards me…but he didn't give me much time to question this further.
"Got any aspirin?" He asked casually. "I have this terrible throbbing in my pre-frontal lobes."
"Sorry," I started. "I'll bet that janitor's cart does, but I'm not keen on leaving your sight as of now."
"Got to wait till the cops arrive, guess it's best to stay vigilant…"
"I haven't called the cops." I blurted, without thinking. I probably should've told him I did.
"Reaaaallly? And, why is that?"
I had already gone this far, might as well be honest. "It hadn't crossed my mind, I guess. I haven't really planned this out."
"You had the foresight to tie me up on, what is this, the third floor?"
"The fourth. And yeah, I don't really know why I did that. I'm sorry."
"Sorry enough perhaps to let loose my little arms?"
I pursed my lips. "I don't think so, it's just a self-preservation thing, you understand?"
He swallowed as he took a deep breath through his nose. "So, we're just going to sit her and talk about the temperature in Guatemala? You're cute, but I've got places to be Lucy Librarian. Perhaps we could walk and talk?"
My eyes lit up. "Nine Inch Nails!" I spoke excitedly. I am a music fan through and through. When someone references one of my favorite songs, I can't help but to comment on it. That's when I directly realized how entirely strange this conversation was. I looked back at him to study his reaction.
He may or may not have grinned for a brief second.
"I…apologize for hitting you across the head. You took me by complete surprise. It was wholly an involuntary reaction."
"Aww, what a charming profession of guilt…but that doesn't explain why you tied me up and dragged me to the fourth floor."
"It follows a semi-logical path. My initial thought was to run away,"
"Uh-huh…" he squinted his eyes and pushed his tongue on the side of his cheek.
"But then I figured if you woke up, you might have some…problem with me hitting you. You might have come after me…and you already were coming after me, for that matter."
"You don't know that." He scolded. "I might have just wanted to know where the registrar's office was. You just didn't give a guy a chance."
"Like I said, natural reaction…and I only tied you up to reason with you. Because I don't know you, and I have trust concerns when it comes to people I don't know on a personal level."
"Oh dear, that would present a problem." He voiced softly. He seemed utterly uninterested in my clamoring.
"I don't discriminate with self-defense."
"Feel free when I leave to carry out whatever it is you're doing here." I assured him.
"You don't care if I blow your school up? This is your school? You're not just some homeless looter-girl stealing books?"
I looked at him strangely, lowering my brow.
"I saw you,"
"You were watching me?"
"I had a few minutes to spare…" He casually commented. "You were bagging the classics like they were M&M's from a candy dispenser. What were you doing that for?"
This brought me back to one of my fundamental issues with him being here.
"Please don't blow up the library!" I blurted.
"So the truth comes out. You're trying to be a hero. You don't want anything to go boom…"
I quickly shook my head. "I just don't want you to blow up the library. I like it here. Can't you just blow up the Math department?"
The Joker began to laugh uncontrollably. Though I suspect he was more amused than tickled with humor.
"Who are you?" He laughed again.
"I think it'd be better to stay anonymous, don't you?"
"Now, that's not fair. You know exactly who I am."
"Not really, you're the Joker…but, I mean I don't know who you are really."
"This is who I am. What you see is what you get."
"Somehow I feel that isn't true."
"My my, we're deep. I thought this much with your love for the written word…but I still would like a name."
"I hear you, but I'd just rather not disclose that information."
"Let's have a mini review. You hit me on the noggin, tie me up, apologize…then ask me not to blow up the library? But you won't tell me one little name?"
"That's about right. And let's clarify that I apologized for hitting you on the head. And I only tied you up to reason with you. I don't really feel like dying."
"Well uh…as stories go I'm not a very reasonable man."
About that time, two of his men busted through the doors. I nervously clamped my hand over his mouth. The thugs ran around in confusion.
"I told you he wasn't in here."
"If we do this without him, he'll…"
"Look, let's just go through with it. He'll be upset if we don't."
The other henchman ignored this. "Boss…Boss?" He called out.
-"Please don't take this the wrong way." I whispered to him. "This just doesn't look good on my part."
A smile spread on his face under my hand.
A few seconds later, the men ran out of the doors. I lowered my hand from his mouth and let out a deep sigh of relief.
"Your hand smells like coconut."
"Alright..." I lowered my brow perplexedly.
"Why is it you're more afraid of my lackeys than me? I must say that hurts the pride a bit."
"I think it has something to do with you being tied up. That and if they found us up here, you could command them, like attack dogs." I let out a sigh, I couldn't stay here forever. I had to make a decision as to what I was going to do.
He could sense my apprehension. He tilted his hand in false concern. "Goosey goosey gander where shall I wander, upstairs, downstairs and in my lady's chamber. There I met an old man who wouldn't say his prayers; I took him by the left leg and threw him down the stairs."
"Okay I get it, I'm boring you. But I'm new at this incapacitating a criminal thing, or incapacitating anyone for that matter. I do wish you'd cut me some slack."
"All right Lucy, let's make a deal. You untie me, and I won't kill you in a gruesome, atrocious kind of way. In fact, I won't kill you at all."
"That's a nice offer." I shook my head, but began to look around. "Do you really have to blow up the library?"
"I don't know what surprises me more; your complete lack of fear for your life, or the fact you're considering letting me go…."
"Just because you're a criminal doesn't mean you're not open to hearing someone out."
"Your demeanor," He paused. "…Tickles me in a curious way."
"There are plenty of other buildings at the school."
"Oh would you really miss it? Is it that big of deal? I have it rigged to set here. Changing it would be a lot of work."
"I see your point, I just feel like you could improvise. And I'm sure your henchmen would do most of the work, right?" I couldn't believe I was doing this. There was no reason except I'd spent so much time here…and it was a library. "I'm just sentimental I suppose…but it is a shame to ruin such a rich and abundant source of knowledge. What if I untied you and promised not to call the police?"
"I have a peculiar inkling you would have already called them if you really were going to strange girlie."
"You have no way of…being sure?" I spoke quite unconvincingly.
"This would be so much better if I were untied…then I'd know for sure." He spoke through grinded teeth as he shifted.
"Are you talking about torture? Because I feel like I've been completely honest with you. Torture would be kind of pointless if you ask me. Look Mr.….Joker. I guess you can do what you want. I have no right to ask you to change your plans, I guess just…don't kill me and/or hurt or torture me…and I'll untie you."
"Since you've been kind enough to elucidate this all to me, I guess I'll have to agree to your little proposal." He nodded slowly.
He looked at me as if he were sincere. But there was no way of being sure. But I was also pretty certain I didn't want to piss him off. And if I killed him, (Criminal or not) I would go to jail for murder…well, that or get killed by his men.
I took one of his knives from the floor and cut through the rope on his right hand.
"Fantastic." He grinned as he flexed his wrist.
I took the knife and cut his other hand free. All the while realizing how stupid I was. This was the most ridiculous thing I could have ever done. He was feared and hated by thousands. If I ended his life right then, I would be a hero. They would build a new library in my name, throw a parade, and give me the key to the city. What had I just done?
The Joker rubbed his wrists together and rolled his sleeves up evenly. He promptly grabbed my wrist and peered at my watch. "No, this can't be the right time."
I looked down to my green watch. "It's broke; I just can't break the habit of wearing it."
"Why don't you get yourself a new one?"
I shrugged. A little bewildered. "It's kind of a part of me. I don't want a new one. And it was only three dollars. I feel it's not worth paying to get it fixed."
With that, he slowly let go of my wrist. I retracted it carefully.
"It's a particularly odd color of green…can I have it?"
I furrowed my brow. I didn't know why I was so offended, but I was.
"You did hit me over the head and tie me up." He crossed his arms.
I let out a long sigh as I took it off. I really didn't want to give it to him, but considering who I was talking to…
He quickly took the watch and attached it to his wrist. "It's a little snug, but it goes nice with my ensemble."
Without warning, he pulled my face into his. His tongue graciously inserted itself into my mouth as he kissed me. It was entirely raw and unapologetic. He made an exaggerated smacking noise as he released the kiss. He continued to hold my face as he stared at me strangely.
"Interesting." He murmured as he continued his penetrating stare.
"What was that for?" I swallowed and continued to match his gaze.
"Something to remember my little librarian by."
"You already have my watch." I remarked slyly as I retracted from his grasp. His hands slowly slid out from under my hair. The truth was, the kiss wasn't entirely unpleasant... Just surprising and unsolicited. Well, that and he was an infamous psychopathic murderer…what was I thinking?
"Nuh ha ha ha!" he slapped his knee as he stood up. "Come one, let's go." He gathered up his jacket and various knives and weapons and grabbed my hand. He dragged me up as he rushed us down the stairs.
"Where are we going?"
"Now, I told you I wouldn't kill you. What good would that do if you were walking around this campus and one of my men did?"
"That would be unfortunate."
"Exactly, so I'm afraid you're going to have to tag along with me for a bit." He informed me as he loosened the grip on my arm a little as we reached the first floor.
"Wait the books!" I called out as I saw them still lying in disarray.
"Uh ta tat ta…We really should get going, especially since we don't have the right time." He reformed his grip on my arm and added another to my waist.
I took one last glance at the library I'd spent so much time in. I sighed longingly as I was dragged out the door.
"How did you get in the library anyway?" He asked, seeming to of gained an abundance of energy after being untied.
"It was unlocked."
"You have me to thank for that." He laughed. "So here's what's going to happen ah, what's your real name Lucy?"
"I'd rather not."
"Oh come on, I'm going to find out anyway."
I sighed at the fact. That comment was disturbing. "Jane." I voiced reluctantly.
"Jane…Jaaaannnnee." He tried it out on his tongue. "Janie Jones…"
"I'm sure. But Janie is more romanticized than Jane." He commented as we sprinted down the hall. "In a tizzy, Janie and the Joker flew through the campus, all the police unaware and uninformed of where the infamous crime genius would strike next. Janie's red locks blew in the wind as she moaned: "Oh Joker, where in the world are you taking me? And whatever could your master plan be?" He spoke in the most feminine voice he could muster.
"You have plans? I was under the impression you just blew things up and caused mayhem at random."
"Bless your heart." He replied and gave me a squeeze. "You get me."
We passed several of his men as we walked down the mall area of the campus. They all gave him strange but obedient looks. None of them even bothered to question or ask who I was. That's probably because he told them not to.
"Coming through, coming through," He announced. "There might be a pretty little something to see here but that's none of you boy's business."
By now we were on the west side of the campus. The sky was gray and threatening as I peered up at it. It was a usual day in Gotham.
The Joker let go of my arm and held his out, as if to release me officially.
"Janie my darling red-headed vixen, I want to congratulate you for surviving a plot to blow up your university. I also would like to award you for being the first woman to tie me up not per a request for kinky sex."
I nodded slowly.
"Though that might have been fun." He voiced, really to himself. He winked as he took one last look at me before zipping off back towards his men.
I was officially speechless as I walked toward the subway. Today was promised to be like any other. I took a shower, brushed my teeth and got ready. I had to refill my coffee cup twice and warm some oatmeal over the stove before leaving the apartment…after that I caught the subway on 134th and Q that connected to downtown where the college was. Never would I have expected such a madcap occurrence.
I was perplexed by my encounter; it haunted me as I rode the subway towards work. I'd be three hours early, but I had too much energy to burn. I couldn't go home. Chopping some meat with a cleaver might help quell some of that adrenaline pumping through my veins.
A huge portion of time is spent at De Luca's Butcher Shop. I know it's a strange profession for a dainty looking young woman, but I thoroughly enjoy it. And it has taken me a long time to actually become a real butcher. I started when I was eighteen, Tommy De Luca would only let me sweep the floor and greet customers the first year I worked there. Tommy is a stout, rotund man, around 50 years old. He's the quintessential Italian butcher. His hair is black and thinning. It's always slicked back with gel and he's always glancing at it in the mirror. He's a man of few words, but when he does talk, it's usually to instruct. One would be wise to listen. I went through a quite extensive four year apprenticeship before Tommy would even leave me to the store by myself. He was always afraid me being a young woman would hinder my abilities. I was happy to prove him otherwise. If it were under other circumstances, I would have bragged to him as to how easily I dragged the Joker's body to the elevator. Upper body strength is crucial for anyone that is or wants to be a butcher. Now that I was indeed one myself, De Luca had no problem with leaving the store to me. He'd grown so comfortable in fact, that he lets me practically run it. On the average week, he works only about twenty hours. The rest of the time the shop is managed by either me or Tommy's brother-in-law Sal.
Sal was who greeted me as I walked into the store. "Quitting Grad school already? Decided to work here full time?"
"The Universities and schools were closed today."
"Really? What for?"
"Some threat that there was a bomb or something." Truthfully I didn't know. This is only what I thought. I muttered as I went to the back to tie my apron.
Sal put down his butcher paper he was using and glared at me.
"Will, Sarah know about this?"
I nodded. "If that's what happened it will be on the news." Sarah was Sal's wife. They have two boys in elementary.
Sal nodded slowly. "I'm going to, call her just in case." Sal's wife and sons were in a near fatal car accident about a year ago. One of his sons was in ICU for several months before being released. Needless to say Sal is justified in getting rattled when dangerous events occur.
I shrugged. "Go home, I'll cover you."
"You weren't even supposed to work."
"I'm already here…the University's closed. What else am I going to do? Go home and feed my cat?"
"You don't have a cat."
"Exactly, I hate cats." I grinned. "Now go! Be with your family."
Sal nodded as he peeled off his apron and gathered his things. "Oh, there are two orders to Loya's to be picked up at his usual time."
"Got it." I nodded as I found my own apron and put it on.
"Thanks." Sal nodded. "I appreciate it, but maybe you should get a cat…instead of showing up at work several hours early…"
"I'm more of a dog person…"
"A dog then." He teased as he hurriedly blew out the front door.
It was about thirty minutes later when I heard it. There were several loud explosions in the direction of the University. They shook the ground violently. This happened three separate times to my account. A stampede of people swarmed the streets. Their eyes scanned the sky around them in panic. Almost all of them had pulled out their phones to take pictures and videos. I found it somewhat comical they weren't using them to actually call their loved ones…
I ran outside as well. It was utter chaos. People were screaming and grabbing each other. De Luca's wasn't close to any of the schools or universities, but the smoke billowed hundreds of feet high. I looked towards the university. I didn't particularly want to see the smoke billowing from the library…but I was pretty sure I did. I went back inside and turned on the television. Several people from the street followed me in.
All the reporters repeated were that there was an attack at Gotham U. At this time, no one was harmed because of the evacuation. It took me a moment, I wondered who had called the attack in this morning; one of the Joker's men? The Joker himself? I couldn't see how that would be advantageous to him but I couldn't say I knew anything of his motives.
About half an hour had passed; the news encouraged everyone to go back to their daily routine. The mayor insisted that no one was hurt, but they will catch the culprit responsible. As they cut away from the mayor, the reporter spoke "this comes with the news that the infamous terrorist "Joker" has escaped from Arkham."
After a few more minutes, people cleared out. It was then the panic set in. My breaths escalated, I began to set in panic. I quickly brought myself to the door, flipped it to close and locked it. I used the structures of the shop to guide my way to the bathroom. I shut the door and flipped on the light. My arms fell onto the sink. I felt as if I was hyperventilating. I ran the sink and splashed water onto my face as I stared at it. For a brief second, I was younger. I was fifteen to be exact. There was a fire and I was screaming. I quickly shook out of it. Water wasn't helping things, but it brought me back into reality. I was partially responsible. Yes, no one got hurt, but there was no way of knowing that yet for sure. I could have done something; I could have partially stopped it. I wanted to cry. I wanted to let it all out, but none would come. I closed my eyes. It was time to pull myself together. I took a gander at myself in the mirror. I was resolute to be calm. I wouldn't lose my cool like this again. I promised myself as I wiped the sweat from my brow and went back out into the shop. I unlocked the door. I took a rubber band to pull pack my hair and washed my hands. I put on my gloves and got to work.
Loya's was one of our biggest clients. They were a great Authentic Mexican Restaurant on the West side. Loya's and De Luca's have done business together for the past twenty years. The thing about having a butcher shop in the 21st century is that it's hard to compete with chain grocery stores. They have meat shipped into their stores for little to no cost. It's easier to run by the grocery store and pick up a pound or two of ground chuck. Fortunately, good restaurants wouldn't dare buy meat from somewhere like that. Restaurants are well over 80% of our business. The chefs and owners know the difference between the meats, and so do we.
Al Loya himself actually comes in weekly for a taste test. We cut a small piece of raw steak and Al tries a sample. He knows it's the best; he usually just does it to bother Tommy. The two of them are old friends.
The order is usually well over fifty pounds, so I had to get started immediately. I always like to listen to music while I work. It helps me concentrate and work much faster. Despite the weird events of the day, I was quickly able to repress my unease by thrusting my cleaver several times into the large hunk of meat. But my favorite part is the cutting. Cutting and properly sizing up such a large order takes concentration and precision. Well, not so much if you have a good set of knives… Nothing makes me happier than completing a large order. I had it all packed up and ready, along with a sample for Loya two and a half hours later.
We usually close at five. But Loya is always so busy he could only ever arrive later. But I never minded waiting around because he always arrived promptly at 5:15. It was good anyways because it gave me time to clean up and have everything done for closing.
Like clockwork, he arrived promptly at five fifteen greeting me with a smile. "Jane, how are you?"
I smiled and nodded. It was all I could do. "You?"
"Abarrotado." He spoke tirelessly as he looked at his order. "I'm so glad you weren't at the University. They say no one has been injured though."
"That's so good. I'm glad they closed the schools beforehand." I took the sample from behind the refrigerated counter and handed it to him. But he seemed to still want to talk about the events.
"I don't understand…but I guess no sane person can really understand…"
I nodded; realizing people would definitely question my sanity if they knew what I had done…because honestly, I was starting to question it myself.
"What kind of person does this?"
Al patted me on the shoulder. "I'm making you uncomfortable. This must have been hard for you, it being your school."
"It's fine." I tried to snap out of my thoughts and re-hand him his sample. "They're just buildings."
"You know I only do this for show." He laughed towards the meat sample.
I nodded. "Of course."
He took the sample and slid it down his throat. "Excellent work Jane. Tell De Luca it was acceptable." He teased as he gestured for his workers to gather up the order. "Have a great night and do be safe!"
"You too!" I felt like slapping myself as they left. Could I have been any stranger? Maybe when the Joker let me go, I should have checked myself into Arkham…I feel like my moral compass was way off. Then again, I knew that the school was evacuated… I felt this rational of mine was entirely irrational.
The commute back to my apartment was surprisingly long. That's probably because people were vigilant and as chatty as ever. Everyone was talking about the events of the morning. I couldn't make out what any of them were saying exactly, except that the Joker did indeed make things go boom.
Upon getting home, I was kind of exhausted. I plopped on my bed and let my hand dangle lifelessly on the side of it. I rolled to my side and took a deep breath. Something was jabbing in my side. I reached in my pocket and pulled out the knife I'd taken from the Joker. I'd taken it in a moment of panic and honestly forgot I even had it. It was small, sharp, and jagged. It had a green shell and a little carved inscription on it. I had to squint, but it read:
~Loathe the little sleeping slices.
I read it over and over carefully. The quote sounded familiar but I couldn't place it. I shrugged as I closed the knife and sat it on my nightstand. I quickly got up and went to the kitchen. I hadn't been shopping in a few days so my choices were quite limited. After a few seconds of not being able to decide on anything, I decided I wasn't that hungry yet. I went to the living room and plopped on the couch and flipped on the television.
The newswoman did another one of her infamous somber sighs before speaking.
"Police say the bombings went off all around eleven a.m. this morning. Bombs placed at Cytrail, Edgers, and Gotham University were all detonated simultaneously." She was about to speak, but was sidetracked by something off camera. "Ladies and Gentlemen, Channel 4 has just received a videotape proving the involvement of the Joker- I must warn you that this video is of a graphic nature, for those of you with young children you might want to turn the station."
I turned off the television as fast as I could. I stared at the blank screen in shock. I didn't want to see it. It wasn't a wise plan, but I thought it best to not pretend it had happened, at least for the rest of the night. I had to wonder though; did the Joker take my advice? Did he decide to salvage the library? It was strange, how I'd seen him just this morning. I'd had a private conversation with him in fact.
They say you never really know who you truly are until you're face to face with imminent peril. As I reflected upon my day, I began to wonder that question about me. Sure, the whole point of interacting with the Joker was my own self-preservation. I just wasn't reasonably fearful of him. Perhaps it was about control. I initially had the upper hand. His life was in my hands and I chose to spare it. Maybe I figured he'd have no choice but to return the favor. Being who he is, that was a ridiculous assumption. But I assumed it nonetheless.
My illogical path to attain a logical answer on the subject continued throughout the evening. Before I knew it, I'd been sitting in contemplation for six hours. It was time for me to go to bed. I hopped in the shower and thought on everything some more. I didn't really know what my next plan of action should be, if any. Did I call the police? I found it highly unlikely the Joker had even spent a second of his day mulling over our little meeting. Not that it mattered, but in his world of murder and mayhem, a trivial grad student wasn't that important in the scheme of things…
By the time my shower was over, I'd decided not to call the police. I wanted my experience to be private. However completely absurd it was, it was mine. But the truth of the matter was I was afraid. I could have done something but I didn't. It would have to be my secret that was in the Gotham library and met, chatted, and sort of made out with the Joker. This would be my undisclosed escapade. That way, when the University reopens and classes resume, I could reflect on this time and marvel at its pandemonium. Because nothing severely exceptional was likely to happen again anytime soon- thank God.
That was until the next morning when I heard a knock on my door. I blinked several times at the clock. It was 6:12 a.m... And I didn't have anywhere to be. The university was closed and I was off of work. This was the worst. I slept in a t-shirt and pajama pants but the apartment was quite freezing this morning. I attributed this to winter. A cold front must have blown in. I threw on a sweatshirt and approached the door. I peered through the peephole.
"Jane Archer?" A husky, Irish American accent bled through the door.
It was the police, the Commissioner of the police to be exact. He was accompanied by another officer, a male in his late thirties. I opened the door and blinked several times. The light from the hallway window was blinding.
He held up his badge and showed it to me. "I'm Commissioner Gordon with the Gotham Police Department. This is Officer Thales. Mind if we have a word with you?"
"Sure." I moved out of the way so he and the officer could come in.
"Have a seat!" I held out my arm towards the couch.
"Sorry to wake you up…"
I shook my head. "That's okay but I am curious…"
"As to what this is about? Well believe it or not Miss Archer, you were reported missing."
"Missing?" My eyes widened.
"Yes, it was called in by you Professor a Dr.," Commissioner Gordon looked down to his notepad. "Kingsley Grant."
"Dr. Grant reported me missing?"
"He said there were signs you showed up at the University yesterday morning. He went up there this morning and saw your bag."
"I'm sorry to have caused so much trouble. I left my cell phone here yesterday," I began to look around. "In fact, I don't know where it is actually. I am so sorry to have caused so much trouble."
The Commissioner smiled and shook his head. "With the day we had yesterday, it's good to see that you're alright… A bit of good news in all that chaos."
I nodded. "I can imagine. I just wish you didn't have to waste your time." Honestly it was a little strange, why would my being missing solicit a visit from the Police Commissioner?
"Officer Thales, would you go down to the car and radio the station. Inform them that Miss Archer is indeed home, and safe?"
The Officer nodded towards me and Commissioner Gordon as he left.
"So uh, where were you yesterday when you didn't go back to your Professor's office?"
Here it was. He knew something. I swallowed.
"Miss Archer. If there's something you need to tell me, there's no need to be nervous. I had Officer Thales leave so it can be just me and you."
I slowly nodded. I didn't know what he knew…I had no idea why I didn't want to tell him so much. But I knew I better not lie about it…to a point.
"Would you mind telling me what happened?"
"I'm sorry, this is…"
"I understand, take your time."
"I hadn't watched the news and…I'd forgotten my cell phone. I went to Dr. Grant's office. He wasn't there yet, but there was a list of library books. Since he wasn't there yet, I figured I'd go ahead and pick up the books for him. On the way to the library," I paused for a moment. This wasn't good. If I lied, it was called perjury. It's not like I would get in trouble telling Com. Gordon that I was taking books from the library. He wasn't here to arrest me. He wanted to know more about the Joker. But in a way I helped the Joker. I didn't report him. I could have called the police and told them where he was. I could have stopped the bombings. My only justification for it was that the schools were evacuated. No one was killed…then again someone could have just as easily been killed…"The Joker was in the library. He saw me, and…"
"It's okay Miss Archer, go on."
"I asked, begged him to let me go. I was sure he was going to…But he did let me go." I wasn't very convinced of my own story. But the Commissioner seemed okay with it. I'd have to skip the part where I tied him up. It wasn't exactly that, but the letting him go part I should have been guilty about.
"I understand this is difficult, but please if you can, continue."
"After we left the library, He dragged me down the mall area and let me go on the west side of the campus."
"Why didn't you report this?"
"To be honest," (not really) "I was terrified. I didn't want to report it because I didn't want him or his men to come after me if I did."
"If that were to happen you know we could have put protective detail to watch you."
"All due respect Commissioner, I'm not entirely sure I could trust police's protective detail."
He let out a small sigh. "Unfortunately, I can understand why you'd say that Miss Archer."
"Commissioner Gordon, I went back and forth in my mind. I wanted to call the police. I just, I'm not the kind of person that is used to…."
"Well I can certainly respect that." he straightened his coat and shoulders. "I know you've been through a great ordeal, this must have been trying for you."
I shook my head. "I was very lucky. I'm just grateful."
"Unfortunately Miss Archer, I do have a favor to ask of you."
I nodded. "Okay,"
"You are the only witness to of seen the Joker since his escape from Arkham. You know more now than any of us do about the Joker's plans or whereabouts."
"He didn't tell me anything."
"Miss Archer, understand by not calling the police, it could be seen as you were aiding…"
"No sir, that wasn't…"
He interrupted by holding up his hand. "But, I don't believe that to be true. If you will help me Miss Archer, I'm sure that will never come up as an issue."
"I understand…" I started. What he said was true, I already felt guilty about it…but that didn't matter, he kind of had me by the throat. "I'll tell you everything I know." Lie, I was such a liar though I would try to help.
"Were you able to see any of his men? If we identify them, we might get an idea as to where the Joker might be hiding."
"I feel like the Joker wouldn't stay with any of his men. Let alone let any of his men know where he is staying."
"What makes you say that?"
"Well, the way he treated them. He seemed to care nothing about them. Like, he didn't care if they lived or died. I don't think he would trust those men with information like his whereabouts."
"That's very observant."
I shook my head. "I might be wrong."
"You're probably right. It fit's his profile, makes sense. Still, if we could identify any of these men…"
"I understand. I just…"
"I promise you, just let me take you down to the station. If you could look at the footage and see if you can identify or possibly give a sketch of any of them,"
I really didn't want to do this. I had a bad omen about it. But I really had no choice. If I didn't, I was failing to cooperate…the Commissioner didn't seem like one to arrest me if I didn't. But I really would feel awful about it.
"Thank you Miss Archer. This is tremendously helpful. It might help us in catching him."
"My only request is you let me get dressed. The coffee pot should come on in a few minutes…"
"Please, I should be the one buying you the coffee."
I smiled. "Don't worry about it. Help yourself to a cup. I won't be long." I voiced as I shut the door to my bedroom behind me. I let out a huge exhale that I'd seemed to have been holding. I didn't know what I was getting into. This was already a huge mess. Later I would have to square with the fact that I was turning out not to be that good of a person. I shook my head as I quickly cleaned up and threw on some clothes. I touched my hand to my bedroom window. It was freezing. It was definitely time to pull out the heavy green pea coat and some boots. Upon brushing my teeth I took a quick glance in the mirror. I let out one more deep sigh before rejoining the Commissioner. He nodded as he opened the front door for me. We left my apartment.