This is my first fan-fiction. I have no idea if I'll finish it (although I suppose I will if I get enough feedback - positive or negative, it's all constructive criticism in the end). It's set in the Christopher Nolan Films universe, and it's really more of a character study on the Joker. It's also a sad attempt at an OC. Judge me harshly.
I own none of these characters; Bob Kane and Bill Finger do. Christopher Nolan and the subsequent films, starring incredibly talented actors inspired me, and I don't own them either. Enjoy.

. . .

CHAPTER 1: ROUSING

Martha Aiken is rousing now. At first there is no sound. She is coming out of it.

If she could see herself now she would see that she is not at her best. She is not the image of a beautiful woman. Her clothes, nice blouse, nice skirt, nice necklace, are torn, broken, ripped and dirty. She is not the image of a bank teller close to a promotion. Her young face is pale and sickly. Her well groomed hair hangs in dark, matted snarls. She is not the image of a woman who handles a handful of mob-men's bank accounts. She is not the image of a woman with powerful mafia connections specifically through her job at Gotham 1st National Bank.

She is the image of a woman drugged and bound and completely out of luck.

And at first . . . there is no sound.

But then, slowly, she is able to grasp on to the faint hum of subdued electricity, the tedious echoed trickle of a leaking pipe. Mumbling voices ricochet in the distance, sounding hollow, trapped between walls, buried between tiles. Her eyes are still closed. There is no real need to open them. The urgency to peek has not yet hit her.

A kind of heavy sleepiness smothers her like a blanket.

She is dizzy. It feels like she is spinning, floating in space. There is no real thought process now. No valid memory of the events that occurred beforehand. Nor is there any kind of pondering as to what may happen next. Her system, temporarily shut down, is rebooting. Her mind sways in a strange state of limbo as she herself drifts in and out of consciousness. And the voices from the neighboring rooms are getting louder, clearer. She lets the talking bring her out of it, slowly, steadily. She clings to every fuzzy word, not quite understanding that they are inaudible only because she does not have sense enough yet to pay clearer attention. She catches the bare ends of some sentences, or the beginnings of others. Nothing makes sense yet.

She lets the talking rouse her until at last her eyelids fan apart to reveal two large, glassy black pupils—doe eyes red with veins, encircled by bags. The drugs are wearing off now.

Her vision is blurry. At first she sees the world through a drunk's perception. The room is white, that much she can tell, but it is also muddled and deformed. And the brightness of the lights makes her head cry out in agony. She flinches, dumbstruck. There is a bright, flickering florescence overhead. Through her watery eyes it makes the room shine. She forces her eyes to stay open, despite the pain. Little by little, the room morphs from something unclear and eerie to a more stable image. Gradually, she realizes she is sitting in a kind of meat locker. Muddy tiles on the floor and bloodstains on the walls. A kind of kitchen interbred with an operating room. There are knives for cutting, terrifically big butcher knives hanging above metal counters and stoves. But there are also other instruments, stranger in origin. Cow slabs, corpses as whole sides of beef are hanging on meat hooks on her far left side, out of range of her peripheral vision. The stink of rotting meat is not as pungent only because she has been breathing it in for the last however many hours. Time, at the moment, is indistinct.

The voices from next door trail away. She centers her focus on the leaky faucet—a kitchen sink with a rusty sign hanging above it. All employees must wash their hands before returning to work.

Where she is, is nowhere she has ever been.

She shifts her observations from the room and onto herself. She is becoming aware of her own body. As she regains feeling in her hands she realizes they are held tight together. Stretching her arms backward she comes to understand that they are tied behind her, tied around something hard and cold. Metallic. She is sitting in a chair. Her wrists are being squeezed together by duct tape. There's a strip over her mouth.

She is tied to a chair, and she can hear her own breathing—ragged, harsh.

There is no panic yet. Not yet. She is not fully aware enough to warrant panic. There is only a dumb curiosity, a tiny thought bubble rising slowly to the surface of her brain. A kind of What the . . . ? which will eventually mutate into panic, and from there on into full blown alarm.

But for now, she is still dizzy.

She is tied to a chair in the center of this room, which is still spinning. She feels like she's on the deck of a boat on angry waters. Bit by bit, the room stops spinning, and she is awake then, thinking almost semi-clearly.

Little thoughts, like a school of hungry fish, begin to flood her mind, swimming around in a flurry of activity. The how and why and where attack her brain. The panic arrives. She begins to breath heavily. She is tied to a chair. She is tied to a chair in this confusing room, and she is beginning to remember what happened.

Now it isn't just thoughts that flood her mind. Now the images come too. Sketchy, random, out of order. There are men, however many men, dressed in black. She is in bed. Asleep? Awake? She comes home from a late night. There are men, dressed in black, wearing clown masks. She kicks off her shoes, falls on the bed, exhausted. There are men. And they wrench her out of bed. She comes home from a late night at the bank. They had her counting bills in the vault. She cannot count how many men there are. There is not enough time before the blindfold comes over her eyes. She falls asleep in her work clothes. She cannot fight them. She is taken by surprise. She is exhausted and she falls asleep on the bed, in her work clothes, watching the news, watching some story on GCN about the infamous Batman. They are wearing clown masks, but not any kind of pleasant children's mask. She recalls a rag being hugged against her face when she starts to scream. Then some horrific stink. Like bathroom cleaner. Like the gas they used for her dental surgery last Christmas. Huge breaths of panic with this smelly rag being shoved over her nose and mouth. And then black. And then deep, dreamless sleep. And they were wearing the ugliest masks, the most grotesque masks. Things designed to frighten. Things designed to scare. Black, dreamless sleep. They were dressed as clowns.

The faucet drips distantly.

She is in this strange room, tied to a chair. She is still alive.

But for how long?

A brief silence after this final thought, and then instinct overcomes reason. A sudden urge to escape, to flee, grasps her. She begins to fidget, to twist, to pull. The panic overwhelms her until she is frantic. She is trying to break loose. She is screaming but the tape cuts her voice off completely. She is scanning the room wildly with her eyes and trying to call for help. She sees, from her vantage, that there are no doors here. Why are there no doors here! She tries to turn her head all the way around—maybe there's a door behind her—and she twists her neck too hard. Pain as she wrenches and yanks her ankles up and to the sides, trying to pull them off from where they are taped to the chair legs. It's useless. She is struggling madly, no noise, only her harsh ragged breaths and just then some abrupt sound makes her stop dead. Silence for a moment and then . . . She jumps as a door comes crashing open from behind her, followed by the sound of hastily approaching footsteps. She is breathing very fast now.

She jumps as a figure rounds her, and she emits a tiny yelp but the sound is muffled by the tape. She stares up, terrified, as a hand gloved in plum leather holding a pistol reaches out to trace the contours of her chin with the barrel. And for a moment she thinks she's looking up at one of those clown masks. One of those ugly, positively hideous clown masks. Only it isn't. It isn't a mask. It's make-up. Like for Halloween.

If you were seeing him bent over her, you would see that, from behind, he looks like an ordinary man. Gray pants, a bluish gray sweater, very bland, very blah, with semi-long hair that's matted, scraggly, tinted pickle green. But from the front, he is a freak. A monster slouched over himself, menacing, with a face covered in peeling white makeup. Somewhere in the back of her mind she recognizes that he is a man who could have at one point been considered handsome, but never now, not with the damage his face has undergone (scars at the corners of his mouth splice his face into a gaping smile), not with the way he holds himself—twisted and vulture like—over her.

She tries to swivel away from the touch of the gun. He laughs. It's the kind of high-pitched, lunatic cackle you might automatically expect from a man who looks like this one does.

She squeezes her eyes shut hard, making no noise. On the inside she's screaming, because this man in the clown make-up, with the Chelsea smile, the Glasgow Grin; his laugh is that of a deranged hyena, muzzle bloody, eyes wide and crazy. It's a mad man's laugh. And she is realizing her life is his life now. Any mercy worth asking for is beyond hope with an individual like this. She acknowledges this fact with a kind of cold irony.

Karma, she thinks. It all comes back around in the end.

This is her punishment. There are scars on her wrists the depth of a kitchen knife. She hangs her head while he laughs. She knows she is never going to leave this room. But she is not yet ready to accept it. She isn't crying yet.

She forces herself to be courageous, to look at him when she feels the barrel of the gun press into the center of her forehead. Cold sweat drips down around the metal. Her eyes center on the barrel, huge, ominous. She is close to wetting herself, but she stays strong. She is too distracted by the situation to notice he's wearing her own silver name-tag. It's pinned to his shirt, just above the right breast pocket. Martha. He does not look like a Martha.

She catches his eyes, and his gaze holds her captive in a way all the ropes and duct tape in the world never could.

Their eyes are locked and she is a mouse staring a hungry cat in the face—a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming car. And her panic inexplicably dissipates, replaced by a strange kind of calm. This man has her hypnotized. His eyes are deep, cavernous. A black hole into which she feels herself falling. The eyes of a predator.

They stay like this for a moment or so, as he studies her, as she lets him study her, and a bubble seems to separate them from the rest of reality.

And then he speaks, popping the bubble and startling her, bringing her out of whatever spell she's been put under.

"Hi . . ." He says, plain and simple, very friendly.

She blinks, dumbfounded.

His voice is not like his face. It is not like his laugh, is not like what she is expecting him to sound like. His voice is small, rodent-like, raspy. The voice of any number of meek, sneaky men she's met in the past. She thinks of names like Herman or Norman or Terrance when she hears this man's high, squeaky pitch. He talks and every so often his eye twitches, and he instinctively runs his tongue along the scar at the left side of his face. He speaks and he sounds like the quiet type, the bookish hobbyist, the kind of man who never says anything, who never speaks unless spoken to. The kind of man who sits alone in a corner, away from the other people. The kind of man you maybe snicker at, maybe make fun of behind his back—that is, until he's gunning you down disgruntled-postal-worker-style in a cubicle jungle three minutes before your lunch break.

She gulps.

"Have a good sleep, did we?" He asks her, gently running the gun along her cheek.

He sounds like the cleverly unhinged, not the scary predator. She doesn't know what to make of it.

Pulling a small cellular phone out of his pocket, he says "I'm glad you're awake. I need you to make a telephone call. Mmmkay?"

She blinks at him and he sets the phone on the ground, goes to pull the tape away.

"Scream and I'll cut your tongue out." He says, almost conversationally, and her eyes grow wide. Somewhere in the back of her mind it occurs to her that his was one of the voices she was listening to through the wall when she was first coming to.

The tape comes off, a quick stinging rip, and she's dead silent, eyes on the gun aimed at her face.

He picks up the phone, dials a number, and holds it up to her face.

"So . . . You're gonna tell them you'll be gone for the next few weeks. You're gonna tell them that, pfftt I dunno, your mother died or your dog got hit by a truck or that they found a lump during your last examination. Whatever. You're gonna tell them something and you're gonna make it sound convincing. Or else—" He giggles and clicks the hammer of the gun backward, ready, "—I'm gonna blow your head clean off your shoulders. Please and thank you." He adds with a twitch and a lick.

She nods grimly and listens to the ringing on the other end of the line until somebody picks up. It's her manager, Mr. Dominick. The man with scars has phoned the 1st National Bank of Gotham. The steadiness of her own voice surprises them both.

"Hello, Mr. Dominick." She says flatly, "I'm sorry, but I am unable to come in today. I think I've caught something. A bug. Maybe the flu. I've been . . . vomiting all morning."

Mr. Dominick mumbles his disappointment on the other end of the line.

"I know. I apologize, Mr. Dominick, for the late notice." She replies, sounding genuinely sorry. "But what can I do? I'm sick. I'm never sick, sir."

More mumbling from Mr. Dominick.

"Yes, sir. I'll see the doctor tomorrow, if I can get out of bed." She lies, all the while staring at the gun. "Yes, sir. You can send me the Smith's account information if you like, but I can't promise I'll be able to get to it this week. . . Yes, yes sir. I understand. I should be all right again by next Monday, I think." She really is unsure. "Yes, sir. I don't mind using my accumulated sick days and vacation time. It's probably nothing."

The last of Mr. Dominick's mumbling.

"Thank you, sir, I'll try. Have a good day."

The scarred man snaps the phone shut, disconnecting her from Mr. Dominick. A wide grin dawns across his chapped lips.

"And the Academy Award goes to—Martha Aiken! Fabulous, fabulous!"

She breaths a small sigh of relief when he removes the gun from her forehead and begins clapping eccentrically.

"You know you—you could be an actress, Miss Aiken. You really could be." And to her surprise he sounds authentically impressed. He stands to leave, saying "Okey dokey. That's all for now. I'll be back later, Miss Aiken. Bye . . ."

He goes to walk away, a hop and skip to his gait, and she calls after him.

"Wait."

He stops and turns back to face her, looking impatient.

"I just . . . wanted to know," She begins timidly, "I'm your, eh, hostage . . . Right?"

Sarcastically: "No, you're my goldfish. I needed a new one—the other died. Went to heaven when I flushed him down the toilet bowl."

He snickers cruelly.

She nods. "I was only wondering if . . . um, if . . ." She can't bring herself to say it. He sighs angrily while she gathers herself. "This—This isn't some money situation is it. You're not in this for a ransom, are you . . . This is like a—a Ted Bundy situation." She says, struggling to keep her eyes from watering. "Where sooner or later it'll be me swinging from one of these meat-hooks, isn't it."

He cocks his head to one side, grinning slyly. "What makes you say that, Miss Aiken—Martha?"

She gulps again. Her throat is very dry.

"Because," She says, voice on the verge of cracking. "Because I could identify you in a police line-up if you let me go. Even with the make-up, I could still give a halfway decent description of you to . . . to the police."

And because you seem like the serial-killer type, she neglects to add.

"Ah, yes, well," he shrugs, "How do you know I don't want you to tell people who I am?"

This throws her off, and for a moment she cannot think of anything more to say. The man with the cut-scar smile takes this small gap in their conversation as an opportunity to leave and does so, bowing beforehand like a merry court jester and then practically dancing out of the room—humming a little tune as he goes (very, very peculiar man). And once again she is left alone in the meat locker, pondering her fate with the lack of confirmation he left her, and eventually breaking down when she recognizes that, either way she looks at it (sensibly, insensibly), it will not end well for her.