The Ingénue

"Everything burns," he told me,
Eyes fixed forward,
Smiling like the devil he was.
"It's only a matter of time."

But is it?
Dare I take his words to heart?
Dare I trust this madman?

The purple coat swishes
As he moves;
I catch a flash of orange liner.
Who designed that tacky thing?

"And what makes you say that?"
I muse, voicing my thoughts
Unintentionally.

He turns to me and laughs,
A hollow rise and fall of noise
That threatens and enthralls me.
He always was a showman at heart.

The laughter stops too soon,
Much too soon.
It's disconcerting.

"Because," he says, sounding appalled
"This is my town now!
Whatever he says, it's mine.
My Gotham. My city."

I don't press him further.
His "he" is the Bat.
We don't speak of the Bat.

"In love with her Chaos," he mumbles,
And I wonder if maybe he's finally
Lost it, but then I realize
He's already there.

Remind me why I'm here again
Listening to a madman ramble
And risking my life?

The moonlight shines through smoggy skies
And through the window, where it hits
His face, and his face paint glows eerily
With reflected light. Deep shadows hide

His kohl-rimmed eyes; darkness pools
In his pockmarked scars and deepens them.
There's nothing funny about a clown in the moonlight.

"You wanted me here," I ask, perhaps foolishly.
"You asked for me when there's
So many others with much better
Credentials. Why?"

And his eyebrows arch comically,
Hidden in his tangled green hair,
As if I'm a fool to ask.

"You're a freak without rules," he says,
Cocking his head in amusement.
"You were the fastest, the quick-thinker,
The perfect example of working chaos.

Never seen a man use a pool cue
Like that before – but I have seen a
Pencil used that way!"

And there's that cackle again, the laugh
I hate, and I know why he's laughing.
They had to fight me. They had no choice.
I had no choice.

And I wanted it to be fast; I wanted it to be
Painless, but the way they moaned,
Agony seeping out with red liquid…

I couldn't finish them off. I couldn't!
I'm a mob treasurer, not a killer!
And so I let them suffer. I watched them die.
And I hate myself for it.

But worse yet is the fact that I can't get out.
I can't escape this madman's grasp. He has me
Trapped, cowed, captive. Hostage.

I can't run because he'll kill me, or
He'll make me an example for the rest
Of his cronies to laugh at.
A terrible, terrible joke.

I can't run because he'll find me if I do.
I'm a victim like the rest.
Damned if I do or don't.

And his maddening words still capture me,
Echoing in my head – and worst of all,
I know they're true, for above all things,
He's a man of his word:

"You're a freak without rules.
This is my town now.
And everything burns."