Author's Notes: This came ENTIRELY out of a late night encounter with some red wine. I'm going to leave the story up, but take it for what it's worth: the product of a hazy mind.
I should have seen it coming. I should have always seen it coming. I was never known for my brains, only brawn; I guess that makes a difference.
When the Joker was finally felled by a stray bullet fired by a baby-faced, scrawny, nervous pile of shit in a guard's uniform on a hot summer's night outside of an ordinary bank, on an ordinary street, on an ordinary Wednesday night in July, my first emotion was one of relief. I had only been with the Operation – that's what us boys always called it, "Joker's Gang" always sounding a bit too 1960's camp to all of us – for about three months, but that had been plenty. I'd had enough of sleeping on newspapers or rags or whatever the hell I could throw together a bed on the rare occasion the Boss even let us sleep – depriving a man of sleep, for Chrissakes – I'd had enough of scrounging by on cold, greasy fast food pried from the grip of Boss' girl only after we'd sufficiently groveled for the privilege of being fed.
But most of all, I'd had enough of fearing for my life whenever the Boss would catch me giving his Girl the eye.
All the other guys told me it was my death warrant, that staring at Harley Quinn was as good as asking to be eviscerated with glass shards from old Coke bottles by the Boss himself, but for as many times as that clown caught me giving the ol' Girl a good eye fuck, he never came near me. Looking back on it now, I think he got some sort of kick out of it; that's right, I think he liked that guys like me – the guys who looked like they were sculpted from steel – couldn't have what he had, that as hard as I looked at her, that Girl would always end up in his bed, not mine, and there wasn't a goddamn thing I could do about it.
That all changed when that crazy son of a bitch got his brains blown out by a 21 year old rent-a-cop who'd been on the job for a week and went to church every Sunday. I watched Boss' brain leak out all over the sidewalk, saw that gray stuff leak out of a hole in his head the size of a golf ball, and I dipped a finger in it, held it up to my face, and ran it along my tongue.
Within a week I'd convinced that Girl that we could build a life somewhere and no one would be any the wiser. It was all a joke to her; when Boss died, she didn't cry. She laughed. For weeks, all she did was laugh. When we bought a perfect little two-bedroom in the suburbs, she laughed. When she became Helen, she laughed. When I became "Tony", when I became a cop, when she became a nurse, she laughed.
It only stopped when she found out about what I should have seen coming.
The boys and I had always been amazed at the Boss' insight. He could predict what anyone was going to do before they even knew they were going to do it, and so when Harley – Helen – found out she was knocked up with that freak's child a month after he died, it didn't surprise me. Hell, I wouldn't be surprised if he somehow knew he was about to scatter his brains all over the sidewalk, and did it on purpose.
I thought the kid would come out with green hair and purple eyes like the Boss. I was standing there in the delivery room, pretending to be the Girl's husband, trying to pretend to be excited about being a new father, expecting that kid to enter the world looking just like the freak his father was. The kid's hair wasn't green and his eyes weren't purple. But he was still the ugliest motherfucker I'd ever seen in my life.
Helen was fiercely protective of him, never letting him more than a few feet out of her sight. It warped him, somehow – the relationship between those two disturbed me to such an extent that by the time the kid was ten, I refused to sleep with Helen anyone. Their bond just wasn't natural. It was like one brain living in two bodies, one soul divided into two physical beings. It wasn't mother and son; it was two halves of the same whole.
Me and the kid never got along. How could we? He belonged to his mother entirely. I tried to teach him the things my father taught me – how to throw a baseball, how to pick up girls, how to shoot a gun or clean a fish. I shouldn't have bothered. All the kid wanted to do was read the goriest comic books he could find and dissect the animals he'd learned to trap in the little smattering of woods behind our bright, happy suburban home.
Helen never told him about his father. There was no reason. If reincarnation was real, then I think the Boss took up right where he left off. I'm pretty sure that the girl he took to homecoming, the one that turned up dead a couple weeks later with her entire throat removed, had something to do with him but I could never be sure. I started looking into it. By then, I was a cop. It was my job.
I never got very far.
The boys in the Operation always told me that the Boss would get me someday for looking at his Girl the way I did, and from where I am now, I think maybe they were right all those years ago. There's a pool of blood beneath me and that smile – that old fucking smile, the one that used to scare the shit out of me – is shining through on a younger face, but the intent is the same. I should have seen it coming.
I should have always seen it coming.